Recently I’ve written about resource guarding prevention, especially in puppies, and what not to do to teach your dog not to guard. Today’s post is for those of you who already have a guarder and some things we can do to keep everyone safe and still keep your dog enriched and happy.
I’ve had a lot of new resource guarding clients and many of them get (understandably) frightened when their dogs start growling or lunging at them. So often as a solution, they just stop giving their dog access to whatever the dog is guarding. While this is a solution and will prevent guarding in the moment, deprivation doesn’t remove the dog’s desire to have those items, and in fact can increase their desire to get access to them. If we deprive dogs of things like bully sticks or they’re a once a month novelty, they become an especially valuable item. I encourage you to find solutions that still allow access to items your dog enjoys, in a safe way. So let’s look at some management solutions for food or object guarders (those who guard chews like bully sticks, pig ears or toys).
- Use an x-pen area to feed or give your dog special treats. Wait until the dog finishes before opening it to let him out (use a food toss away from the pen to get him out without you needing to enter the pen). Be sure to prevent other animals or kids from approaching or sticking hands/noses/paws through the pen. Consider a double pen system with an “airlock” between the two if you’ve got other animals or kids.
- Use a baby gate to contain your dog in a room with their food or chews. Same as with the x-pen, wait until he finishes before letting him out and if needed, use a food toss to get the dog out of the room before entering.
- Use a crate for meals and chews. No only is this a great management option, it can help create positive associations for crate time.
- Use your fenced yard for mealtime and chews. This is great management but also an opportunity for added enrichment, maybe doing a food scavenge in the grass with kibble for mealtime. And outside gives an opportunity to give some messier chews and enrichment like raw marrow bones or stuffed tracheas that are maybe a little too messy (or gross) for indoor feeding.
Of course there’s training we can do to help dogs learn to be comfortable with us approaching when they have something valuable or to train them to drop of leave items so if you have a guarder, whether it’s food, toys, location, favorite person or high value chews, reach out to me for help. You may also be interested in my other blog posts How To Help A Dog Who Guards Bully Sticks and How To Help A Dog Who Food Guards. Resource guarding sessions are easily done via remote video sessions so it doesn’t matter where you are in world – I can help you!