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Resource Guarding - Am I handling it correctly

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Hi all

I am hoping you can help me with my Lilli's (2yo female) resource guarding.


A short time ago I was outside and her leash had fallen off the table on to the ground (probably thanks to our chickens), anyhow I went over to pick it up and she went straight into her guarding mode. She will do this when my "outside - walking the dog jacket" is hanging over a chair as I generally have treats in one of the pockets.


Anyhow, I could see that she had tensed up ready to guard her leash so I distracted her brought her inside and gave her a treat. Whilst she was eating her treat I went outside quickly and removed her leash from the ground. She then ran straight outside and when she saw that it wasn't there, she didn't seem too fussed about it.


What I want to know is did I do the right thing or did I reinforce her guarding by secretly taking her leash away?


Your thoughts would be appreciated.


I should add that when she is guarding my "outside-dog walking jacket" I remove it in front of her and hang it up on the door and she seems fine.



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You did right to spot the trigger and to avoid confrontation with your dog before the guarding escalated. Silly to let the dog fail and then correct if you can prevent it happening.


Far better to teach your dog to realise that there is no need to guard things from you than that it will be punished if you fail in your understanding of her behaviour.


If it's a one off out of the blue and not preventable then I have no objection to reading the riot act to the dog though. My pup growled at me once when I got near his bowl - just the once. I didn't need to do any more than let him know he'd overstepped the mark, but if he'd done it again I would have rethought how to deal with it.

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Ditto, ditto.


It has rarely happened that one of our dogs will try to 'guard' something from us. 'Try' to. Not tolerated. If they do, they get a sharp response (verbal usually enough) and the item quickly but openly removed. Message: if you even slightly guard or growl at me, you lose the 'precious' till another time. My wife taught Golan not to do it with her by being nice. She would reprimand him, take the item (usually a bully stick), and give him a treat in trade. I'm not so nice. I reprimand him, take the bully stick, and we're done till later.


The dogs may guard and growl with each other; but never with one of us humans. Although, as noted above, we are sometimes judicious in our choosing not to respond. But that means we turn a blind eye and don't provoke the response. If we do get the response for any reason - dog loses the item for the moment. Just not tolerated. At this point, because this new generation knows that; if the dog insisted I might look for a reason. If the circumstances are normal - zero tolerance.

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I don't tolerate guarding from each other amongst the dogs either. It's a slippery slope.


If a dog has reason to guard from another I deal with it, not the dog.


I don't take things from my dogs whether they have attempted to warn me off or not. I don't want to give them any reason to think that they were right to protect their possession because they might lose it. It's always worked with mine who will give up anything I need from them without protest since I don't abuse my ability to steal things from them.

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I do agree that it's my goal to never put the dog in a situation where it feels it *needs* to guard something. And that I will make changes if they seem necessary to avoid the response in the future.


But sometimes dogs just try stuff to see if it works. So a sharp " what the heck do you think you're doing?!?" And a quick removal of said object has worked well for me really well for me in making them realize that guarding from me just doesn't work.

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I've only had a couple incidents of guarding against humans. The one that comes to mind is Lyka once stole a hamburger pattie off the counter and I hadn't seen her take it I just noticed her eating something suspiciously in a corner. When I went to investigate she snarled at me, so I told her to 'drop it' in a very stern voice (which was usually just a command reserved for fetch toys, but it worked for this too.) reluctantly and slowly she dropped the hamburger and let me take it. I then rewarded her with another hamburger and she didn't repeat the behavior.


I also start at a very young age showing them that we can take anything from them, but that doesn't mean I'm going to keep it. 99% of the time I give it back and praise them after they let me have it with no guarding. The other 1% of the time it's something they shouldn't have, so they don't get it back.


When they guard against each other or the cats (who are usually just walking by) I usually take the item let the other animal smell it then give it back that usually shows them the other animal wasn't trying to take it, so they stop guarding. With things like raw bones I will have them take it to their kennel if there is a continued issue, because none of the other animals will follow them into the kennel. That seems to be teaching them the better response is to go chew on their 'prize' somewhere else instead of guarding.


On a note related to guarding does anyone else have a dog who will beg, roll over, and whine at another dog who is guarding to get the other dog's chew or toy? My mom has one German shepherd does this and it is the strangest thing to watch. The guarding dog usually just ignores them after a while, so is that the begging dog trying to smooth things over with the guarding dog?

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Thanks everyone.


Some excellent advice here (as always). I notice that most of you don't have any issues with a stern reprimand and your dog giving up whatever it is guarding. Lilli is a stubborn little bugger. I need to be more stubborn myself. Just last night I had a breakthrough. I am sleeping on the sofa at the moment because I have a coughing bug that is keeping my husband awake. Anyway I went to go to sleep on the sofa and little miss decided that was her spot. I told her down, she looked at me then the little ratbag just laid down as if to say screw you! I stood my ground thought and eventually she got the message and moved. She's a little bugger (aussie slang for ratbag). I will need to be a little more forceful with the guarding.


Thanks again.

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I've gotten all my dogs as puppies, and raised them from day one to never resource guard anything from humans. They are allowed to guard from other dogs though they can't go over the top.

Beginning the day they come to my farm, I practice taking away their food when they are eating and giving a piece of something a lot better. Or I may just give the food back as a reward. None of my dogs have ever guarded anything from me beyond, when they were just starting as puppies, to crouch low over the bowl and scarf down the food. That is gone now too.

If they ever did, I would give them a very stern correction. Very probably physical punishment. However, if an adult dog ever came to reside in my house, and on day one decided to resource guard, I would not do that. It'd probably either bite me, or become very fearful. I'd probably use the cookie method.

Walk by the dog, and drop a very tasty cookie on the ground and keep walking. When they stop reacting to that, go closer, eventually (maybe several days later) picking up the object they are gaurding. That's one the methods can find online though I've never actually heard of anyone using it.

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Riika's right. It's not necessarily wise to start teaching a dog not to guard resources with any form of correction or punishment.


For one thing, it's just not fair. It's normal for dogs and even puppies to guard valuable resources. Fairness dictates we teach them acceptable behavior before correcting or punishing what we don't want.


And punishing without having taught alternatives, especially in a more mature dog, can lead to the exact opposite of what you're trying to achieve. Give the dog a reason to think he needs to guard what he values and he's likely to step it up, not dial it back.


Once you've shown the dog through positive examples like trading up and/or giving whatever it is the dog values back after she's willingly given it up to you, then you can use a mild correction if she doesn't comply.


It would be a very rare and dire situation before I'd use real physical punishment. Most of the time all that's going to accomplish is to give your dog a reason to fear you, which can lead to even more guarding and quite possibly aggression from the dog. More dogs bite out of fear than they do out of genuine aggression.

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Dear Doggers,


Roxanne and I look at the same dog and see different things. That's pretty common and it doesn't mean she's wrong and I'm right, nor t'other way around. In dog theology it doesn't matter how you pray, just so you pray frequently and consistently.


She writes: "It's not necessarily wise to start teaching a dog not to guard resources with any form of correction or punishment.


For one thing, it's just not fair. It's normal for dogs and even puppies to guard valuable resources."


And it's normal for pups and dogs to defer to the pack leader because he/she controls all resources. I don't argue or correct or punish my dogs for resource guarding, I simply remove any resource I don't think they should have and they don't object because. er. they have no right to object.


Roxanne also writes: ". . .punishing without having taught alternatives, especially in a more mature dog, can lead to the exact opposite of what you're trying to achieve.'


If the dog - visitor or rescue dog - hasn't accepted his place in the pack, that's true. And - as I noted jokingly - I wouldn't expect the guard dog who'd just killed a groundhog to drop it - although I would expect the Border Collies to drop it after pretending not to hear and a grumble or two.


For items like the OP named that don't awaken the dog's most primitive instincts (blood and killing) one can diminish resource guarding by training as Roxanne and others have urged - or one can be the leader the dog needs and problems like this simply won't arise.



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I don't think there is an issue with a sharp correction for a one-off situation.


However, the OP suggests this dog has a few issues already (guarding the jacket).


Resource guarding is actually a normal thing for a dog, its just not compatible with living in a human home. If it escalates, it can be a real issue. I think that in many cases a correction can work, but if this is an issue for this dog there's also other things that can and should be done. The book Mine! was mentioned and its a good resource. You need more than just correcting a dog who is regularly deciding that some things are his.


I think I shared how my MIL's doxie attacked her when guarding a dead squirrel she did not know he had, and left some serious bites on her thigh through a pair of jeans. He then was so amped he redirected on their other dog and sent her to the vet for stitches and drains. My in laws are sweet and lovely, but very country and have never used a cookie to train a dog ever. Rufus was only scolded or smacked for guarding up to that point. He was PTS that day and was nearly PTS my my FIL with a rifle instead.


Fix it, asap.

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I agree with Rikka and Gentle heart...first teach without punishment so that your dog doesn't feel the need to guard her things. My dog loves to play keep away which is a definite precursor to resource guarding, IMO. She thinks its a game...and I don't play it with her. If she wants to play she has to put the toy in my hand.


There are a ton of great veterinary behavior videos out there about it. Sophia Yin is among my favorites...

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I think if you are fairly teaching expectations, then a quick correction fits into that and gets the point across. If the majority of the training the dog is getting is "don't do that" (or none at all) then you end up with issues.


With resource guarding, I use corrections as just one momentary aspect of training. I also actively teach what I want and am proactive about eliminating /preventing guarding situations in the first place.


I agree that it isn't as simple as just correcting. But in light of all the other training I'm doing with my dogs that "what the heck do you think you're doing" correction at the moment the behavior happens seems to get the point across really well.

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Once the dog has the idea that there are alternatives to guarding that are preferred (i.e. rewarded) by me, I don't have a problem telling a dog to knock it off if they offer to guard. But it's pretty easy going on my part and if that doesn't work I'd go back to the drawing board with trading up before I'd escalate the corrections.


For me, a large part of my approach to training, managing, etc. reflects the kind of relationship I want to have with my dogs, which is mutual respect. I'm not a pushover with my dogs and I expect them to listen to me when I tell them something, but I'll always start with the least confrontational and most positive methods and work up to what's necessary for the dog and the situation, but I'll never start out with a heavy handed approach.


ETA: Sophia Yin rocked! What a great loss . . .

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