How to Use Counterconditioning to Stop a Beagle from Resource Guarding His Guardian

By: Sam Kanouse

Published Date: July 8, 2017

Barney is a three-year-old Beagle who lives in Omaha. His guardians set up this dog behavior training session to train him to stop resource guarding his owner, stop barking and stop guarding the door.

Barney started howling when I knocked on the door; communicating that this was his house. I allowed Barney to smell my leg before walking through the door to de-escalate his energy level and let him get to know me better. After going inside, Barney calmed down pretty quickly. You can watch his greeting in the video below.

After sitting down to discuss Barney’s behavioral issues, I learned that Barney started protecting his female guardian when she had surgery a couple of years ago. Dogs are very sensitive to our communication, especially our gestures and body positions. Barney picked up that his guardian was not feeling well and took on the role of protecting her.

Some of the ways Barney did this was to lay across door ways or sit near his guardian to guard her from other members of the family. This led to the family making lifestyle adjustments around Barney, such as walking around him and the husband and wife sitting apart from each other. While the human’s intentions were not to confuse Barney, these adjustments are a part of the reason that he started to see himself as the leader of the house.

We discussed escalating consequences to disagree with unwanted dog behavior and that Barney needs to move respectfully out of the way for his guardians, not the other way around. I introduced counterconditioning as a positive dog training approach to transition Barney from guarding his guardian to responding positively when people approached her.

Watch the video below to see how I used counterconditioning to stop Barney from resource guarding his guardian.

The wonderful thing about counterconditioning is that it teaches Barney to make a new, positive association between people approaching his guardian and receiving a treat reward. This positive dog training method directs Barney on what to do, rather than what not to do.

By the end of the session, Barney was calm and wagging his tail with both guardians sitting on the couch together. The guardians will need to continuously use treats with counterconditioning for the next few weeks to build up a solid foundation of positive association for Barney so he no longer thinks its his job to object or guard against people approaching his female guardian.

You can watch Barney’s Road Map to Success video below.

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This post was written by: Sam Kanouse

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