Resource guarding is something that some dogs do. They can guard things such as sofas, beds, toys, people, cars, chews and more commonly food.
I am going to use food as an example however the same protocol would be used for all resource guarding.
Some call resource guarding “food aggression” however I strongly believe that aggression is not the intent behind this. How could a normally happy-go-lucky dog become aggressive over just one item? Your dog quite simply doesn’t lose what belongs to him. This is why I say it’s better to view it as guarding an item.
So let’s say that your dog growls when you approach his food bowl -I am only using “his” as a general term dogs & bitches are both capable of RG. If you continue approaching or even attempt to remove the bowl then they may increase the intensity of growling and even snap or bite.
Before we go into what to do can we just take a minute to stop and think about this. Although you should be able to safely remove items from your dog I am a firm believer in if they are eating their dinner they should be left in peace to finish their meal without a great big human hand popping in and out their food. I would hate to go to a restaurant and order a lovely meal to have it delivered, pick up my knife and fork, at the ready to savour every mouthful and have the waiter run past and whip the plate away from me! So just to clarify you should be able to safely remove any object from your dog in case they get a hold of something they shouldn’t but I don’t believe daily practices is necessary unless you are experiencing RG.
So let’s begin. Your dog tenses up at the very presence of a person when his face is planked in his meal, you move one step closer the growling starts, what do you do? You blooming well stop right there that’s what!!! You need to change how your dog views your presence during these times. There is no need to guard if you are no threat! So back up and start on a sound program of your company at the bowl is a signal that something better is about to happen. So when he is due his meal put a little of his food in his bowl then casually walk by and drop something better in; chicken, hotdog sausage, cheese (I find gorgonzola works a treat here) whatever floats his boat. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount just something tastier than what he has. Keep repeating by putting more of his usual meal in and then dropping the higher value in. Now at first the reason why I say only give him a little of his food is you want to be dropping the higher value food in when he has just finished. Doing this sets him up for success and it is after all only early days. If however you cannot get close enough to drop food into the bowl then drop the item a few feet away and build up to getting closer and closer; remember you really don’t want to push him as this only ever makes matters worse. Once you have done this for a period time you can start to have more of his main meal in the bowl and go up when he is actively eating and drop higher value items into his bowl. What you are looking for here is as you approach he stops eating and looks at you expectantly. If he does this he gets the jackpot. Once at this stage don’t take your foot off the gas but you have definitely made progress. At this point carry on with the program at the same stage for a period of several days to ensure consistency in his response. Once you are happy with consistency you now have to aim for removing the bowl. So just to recap what you have done is changed the perception of you approaching during eating.
Now let’s go for actually lifting the bowl up. Go back to only putting a little of his meal in the bowl, as he finishes approach him and lift the bowl, put some more of his food in and add some higher value then put it down again, wait until he finishes lift the bowl and repeat. Just check that he is comfortable; there’s no tensing of the body, whale eye, growling or quick lip licking; if he’s cool then carry on. As the days go on, up what goes into the bowl and start lifting it when he has just a little left, then a little more and a little more. Once you are at this stage then brilliant you’ve done it!
If you have multiple people in your family each stage would be better repeated by each family member to ensure that he generalizes this new protocol to everyone in the house. However please note young children should not get involved and if your dog is a resource guarder the kids should be kept away when the dog is eating, they can always get involved once they are a little older.
If you are at any point unsure best to get a professional to work with you rather than soldier on. Check The Pet Professional Guild for force free trainers in your area. http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/
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