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Sharing is Caring: Understanding and Managing Resource Guarding

managing resource guarding
2 May 2023

Resource guarding is a prevalent behaviour observed in dogs and other animals, characterised by the aggressive protection of objects or spaces they consider valuable. This behaviour can encompass guarding food, toys, sleeping areas, or even people, and may extend to seemingly insignificant items such as plastic bags or dropped tools. If left unaddressed, resource guarding can present considerable challenges for pet owners and lead to hazardous situations for both animals and humans.

The primary reason for resource guarding is rooted in survival instincts. In the wild, animals compete for resources such as food and shelter, with successful defenders enjoying better chances of survival. However, in a domestic environment, resource guarding can become a nuisance or even a threat to other household members. Consequently, it is crucial to address resource guarding behaviours as soon as they emerge.

The first step in managing resource guarding is identifying the triggers prompting the behaviour. Some dogs may guard food bowls or bones, while others may protect sleeping areas. After pinpointing the triggers, pet owners can implement a behaviour modification programme designed to help dogs anticipate non-aversive outcomes when people or other dogs are near their resources, as well as establish boundaries concerning resources not explicitly given to them, such as dropped food or furniture.

This process should involve a balanced training approach that combines both positive reinforcement techniques and clear, consistent boundaries. For example, teaching the animal to associate the presence of other household members with positive experiences like treats or playtime, while also setting limits on their access to certain resources. In some cases, consultation with a professional dog trainer or animal behaviourist may be necessary to develop a tailored training plan.

It is crucial to note that addressing resource guarding requires a careful balance between reinforcing desired behaviours and discouraging undesirable ones. The key lies in fostering trust, clear communication, and appropriate boundaries. This approach demands time, patience, and consistency, but the results are undoubtedly worthwhile. By instructing dogs to share resources and engage positively with others, pet owners can cultivate a safer, more harmonious home environment.

In conclusion, although resource guarding is a common behaviour among dogs and other animals, appropriate training and management can modify this behaviour, fostering a safer and more positive home environment. Employ a balanced training approach that combines positive reinforcement techniques with clear boundaries and consult with professionals when necessary. By working collaboratively, dogs and their human companions can enjoy a happy and healthy relationship.

If you need any assistance with this, our team at Canine Evolution can help. Contact us today and enquire about our Private Lessons or Stay and Train courses.

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