Helping a West LA Dog Learn to Stop Resource Guarding

By: David Codr

Published Date: October 26, 2023

stop resource guarding

For this West LA dog training session, we worked with Rat Terrier mix Oliver (Pictured here on the right with his roomie Angel), going over tips to stop resource guarding in dogs.

We started off by discussing Oliver’s backstory and the problems at hand. Anytime you were going to work on a dog behavior problem it’s important to have a good understanding of what happened when the dog was young.

I showed the guardian how to introduce marker words and how to use them. Usually I go over a hand targeting exercise after that lesson to help the guardian practice the timing of using their marker words. But when the guardian started to practice, I noticed that Oliver was keeping distance away from her.

I learned that because Oliver has had to have so many medications, his guardian has had to trick or grab him a few times to give him his meds. While we have to make sure our dogs are safe, anytime that we take away their free will, it’s natural for them to become cautious.

When we trick a dog into doing somehting they dont want to do, it usually doesnt take them long to figure out what we are doing. This can cause the dog to practice keeping distance, its guard up or erode their trust and confidence in us. None of those are good obviously, but losing trust and confidence, even if only a little, can really have a negative impact on the dog human relationship.

I showed his guardian a version of the body handling exercise we go over in our puppy classes. While this helped, later on in the session I determined that was not the only issue that was causing Oliver to keep some distance.

Many people are on aware of the fact that dogs do not like it when we start by petting them on top of the head. Many dogs offer cut off signals like turning their head away or ducking to communicate they dont like something. But in Oliver’s case, his cut off signal didnt work so he elected to start staying away and not get too close to his guardian if he suspects it may be one of those times for trickery.

To help his guarian better understand her dog, we went over dog body language, consent and cut off signals. When we were going over this lesson, I learned that Oliver preferred being petted on his chest. As soon as his guardian started to pet him in the place that he preferred, I noted that he was not as cautious of approaching or being near her. It’s not that he was fearing his guardian, I think that he was just a little bit apprehensive because she was doing some thing with her hands that seemed similar in some respects to when she was giving him medication.

By breaking things down into small steps in the body handling exercise and recognizing has cut off signals, we can help Oliver feel more confident and secure with his guardian. This should help with some of his other dog behavior problems like barking at other dogs and guarding things.

We also went over a number of dog behavior tips that will help boost his confidence such as celebrating desired behaviors, how to teach dog manners, exercise tips and how to break things down into small steps when the task becomes difficult.

How to Stop Resource Guarding in Dogs

Next we headed upstairs to a room that Oliver frequently guards from his human’s mother. Of course, he decided he was not gonna guard it when I was there. Many people are disappointed when their dogs don’t offer unwanted behaviors when I am there to fix them. But fortinately, I don’t have to see a dog behavior demonstrated to treat it.

When dogs guard resources like a bone, kennel or person, they are highly likely to bite, even thier owners. This comes from a real need. In the wild, if a dog doesnt guard resources it needs like food or shelter, that may result in their death. Now that we have domesticated dogs and provide them what they need, its not unusual for dogs to start guarding things in the home.

I pulled out my camera and set it up so that I could get a good view of the room while I describe an easy way to stop resource guarding in dogs. If you have a dog that has a resource guarding problem, you’re going to definitely want to check out the free positive dog training video below.

I recommended that the guardian have a small cachet of treats nearby where she sits in the room. If your dog guards a resource, it’s important to be ready to practice this technique to stop resource guarding behavior when it happens. If the guardian has to get up and move away to get treats, it’s likely that the behavior will not continue when she returns.

Stopping resource guarding in dogs is all about changing the dog’s emotional response. Dogs that guard things are worried that people are going to take the thing away from them. The solution is to create a situation where the dog can have the resource while we approach, but set it up so we are far enough away so they are not concerned we will steal from them. Once we find that distance, we can get started; providing positive reinforcement when we approach.

Teaching a dog to not guard things is actually pretty easy with this method, you just have to be ready so you can act when it happens. Like today’s session, dogs often arent doing the action when its convenient for us. So being set up in advance is important when you want to train a dog to stop guarding things.

After we finished going over tips to stop resource guarding in dogs, we headed out for a short walk so that I can share some tips with the guardian on how to stop dogs from acting aggressive towards other dogs. We didnt see any dogs on our short walk, but we did come across some people Oliver would normally bark at so we practiced with them. Here is a video from a session with another dog where I detail this exercise to stop dogs from reacting.

That means the guardian can use this same technique for skateboards, bicycles, people and anything else that Oliver is reactive to. The key is to practice strategically, you need to create scenarios where the dog does not feel the need to bark throughout the entire encounter. You want to stack one positive experience on top of another until eventually, the dog doesn’t even remember anything to be worried about around other dogs.

We finished things up by recording a roadmap to success summary video to help the guardians remember all of the tips we shared in this in-home West LA dog training session.

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This post was written by: David Codr