Dogs that are aggressive when it comes to their food, is also called Resource Guarding. Resource guarding in dogs is a topic that hits close to home for me. When we took in our dog Ginger as a foster dog, we noticed her resource guarding right away. She would flip out anytime our other dog, JJ, walked by her food bowl.
By flip out, I mean she would go into a growling, lunging, attack mode. When this happens, it is loud and extremely scary. As a natural reaction, I would scream at the top of my lungs to get her to stop. She never actually would bite but certainly sounded like she was going to kill our other dog. Poor JJ was on the other end of her reaction and learned quickly to stay away from her any time she was eating.
In our case, since we wanted to continue taking in foster dogs, it was extremely important to figure this issue out quickly. Everybody’s situation is unique, but if you have kids or other dogs, you need to take your dog’s resource guarding seriously. We were lucky enough to have contact with a dog behaviorist through our foster network, and he was able to give us some great pointers to help with her resource guarding, which I talk about later in this article.
Resource guarding is when a dog displays behavior such as growling, attacking, and snapping, in order to convince people or other dogs to stay away from a resource. The resource can be food, bones, toys, bed, or any item that the dog feels belongs to her.
It is actually a natural reaction in dogs, but with the domesticating of dogs, it has subsided in many dogs today. It is also important to note that resource guarding is usually a sign of an insecure dog NOT a dominant or aggressive dog. A dog that lacks confidence feels the need to protect what is theirs.
I talk specifically about resource guarding food in this article, but the same concepts can be applied to other items such as toys and furniture. If it’s your bed or the couch your dog guards, then you should revoke his privileges to those furniture items right away.
Your dog will usually give warning signs before going into attack mode, such as a stiff body and whale eyes (large white area of eyes exposed), a low “under the breath” growl and sometimes will show teeth.
This information is helpful if you have a mildly resource aggressive dog. If you are afraid of your dog, fear that she will bite or attack you, please call a behaviorist and do not try to “fix” your dog on your own.
Now that you understand that resource guarding is usually caused by a dog that is insecure and not dominant, let’s go over the DO’s and DON’Ts of how to handle a resource guarding dog:
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This information is not intended replace professional help when dealing with dogs with potentially dangerous behavior issues. Please consult a dog behaviorist or trainer for your dog if the resource guarding makes you feel unsafe in any way.
Teach your dog that you approaching her food or taking her bone is a good thing. Scenario: Dog is eating her dinner, you walk near the dog and offer her something even better… a piece of steak or her favorite treat. Only give her the treat if she walks away from her food bowl to take the steak from your hand. Say “good” when she takes it and doesn’t growl at you. If she growls, DO NOT give her the treat. This would only reinforce the behavior.
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The behaviorist that worked with Ginger for us, suggested using the Pet Convincer. This tool has been a life-changing training tool for us. The Pet Convincer is simply a small hand-held air compressor used to stop bad behaviors in dogs.
If you’re interested in purchasing the Pet Convincer you can purchase it on Amazon.
Resource guarding can seem overwhelming for any dog owner. I know for us, even as seasoned dog owners, we struggled with how we could live with a dog like this. Ginger is our first dog that has been resource aggressive. It does create a heightened awareness on our part, we need to be prepared any time there is food in the room. But honestly, I think overall, it has made us better dog owners. The PLACE command has also helped tremendously.[Related: Learn Why You Need to Teach the PLACE Command to Your Dog and the steps on how to do teach him Place.
So hang in there, there is light at the end of the tunnel. You and your dog can overcome resource guarding. That’s not to say your dog will someday become a carefree dog and never guard again. But with the proper training, a lot of structure and patients, you and your dog can live happily ever after.P.S. Join your fellow dog lovers and get FREE access to my library of resources containing valuable downloads to help you in your dog journey.
Debi McKee is a mom of three kids, two dogs and the creator of Rescue Dogs 101... were she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She also volunteers for a local rescue and the Dane County Humane Society. Sign up for our free resource library! It is jam-packed with valuable resources that you will use throughout your journey.... all for FREE!