If your new dog has a history of guarding food or other resources in the home, this means she may have frozen up, growled, or even bitten! There is no guarantee that your dog will never guard again, but there are ways you can reduce the chances of it occurring. Clicker training, for instance, is a good way to reduce any stress your new dog may be feeling. For more information, see the “Clicker Training” drop down tab under The Dog Handbook.
Causes of Resource Guarding
Food and other resource guarding can be the result of stress and limited resources. It can also be a behavior that she learned in a previous home.
What to Do
Resource guarding may not go away on its own, and if not managed well, may get worse. Some guarding, when worked with, can decrease in intensity but may not disappear entirely. To work with resource guarding, you can follow these steps:
Take responsibility for items that your dog may find high-value (and is likely to guard) by picking them up and keeping them our of reach.
Always trade up when you need to retrieve something from your dog. IF she has a toy or item she is not supposed to have, bring a few extra-tasty treats to toss to the side so she drops the time to eat the treats. This creates an association with your dog that you are not there to take things away from her, but to bring her extra good things.
If you have seen your dog guard in specific situations, you can then manage those situations - such as confining your dog when giving her a bone, or feeding her and then not disturbing her until the food is gone.
If your dog is showing resource aggression towards other dogs, this is a normal behavior and something that can’t be trained out and is best managed. Separate the dogs at feeding time or when giving treats/bones/toys; otherwise, avoid giving out these items if that is not possible.
Some of the things that cause dogs to guard can be difficult to stop or control. For example, if your dog guards his good bowl, he still needs to be fed daily, so feeding her in another area is a great way to mange this.
What Not to Do
Do not punish your dog for guarding during or after the incident. Punishment will only make her more likely to guard that item again. Dogs do not understand punishment even after the fact, and it can make things worse, potentially leading to aggression.