Understanding And Addressing Resource Guarding In Dogs

Understanding and Addressing Resource Guarding in Dogs

Resource guarding is a common issue that pet owners face with their dogs. Resource guarding is defined as the behavior of dogs in which they protect their possessions, such as toys, food, or even humans, from other dogs or people. This behavior is a natural and instinctive response that dogs have developed over time for their survival. However, this behavior can become problematic when it becomes excessive, leading to aggression and other negative behavioral outcomes. Understanding and addressing resource guarding in dogs is essential to ensure the safety and well-being of the pet and the people around them.

Preventing Resource Guarding
Preventing Resource Guarding

What Causes Resource Guarding?

Resource guarding is a natural behavior that dogs exhibit to protect their resources from potential threats. In the wild, dogs had to compete for resources such as food, shelter, and mates. They learned to guard their possessions to ensure their survival. However, domesticated dogs often do not have to worry about resources as they have a steady supply of food and other necessities provided by their owners.

Resource guarding can be caused by various factors such as a dog’s genetics, past experiences, and learned behavior. Dogs with a history of abuse or neglect may develop resource guarding as a defense mechanism. In some cases, dogs may have experienced competition for resources during their early development, which can exacerbate their guarding behavior. Additionally, some breeds are more prone to guard resources than others, such as the Mastiff, Rottweiler, and Pitbull.

Understanding Resource Guarding Behaviors

Resource guarding behaviors can range from mild to severe. Mild behaviors include growling, stiffening, and avoidance. Severe behaviors include biting, lunging, and snarling. It’s important to understand these behaviors to address them appropriately and prevent them from escalating.

Some common signs of resource guarding include:

– Growling, snarling, or snapping when someone approaches their food bowl or toy
– Stiffening and standing over the resource
– Possessing the resource and refusing to give it up
– Lunging or biting when someone tries to take the resource away

Addressing Resource Guarding

Addressing resource guarding in dogs requires patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement. Here are some tips to help address resource guarding in dogs:

1. Teach Drop It and Leave It commands

Teaching your dog to drop or leave something on command can help prevent resource guarding behaviors. Start by teaching your dog these commands with toys and treats. Gradually, increase the difficulty by using items that your dog values more, such as bones and food bowls.

2. Practice Desensitization

Gradual exposure to the resource can help desensitize your dog to the trigger. Start by approaching the resource from a distance and rewarding your dog for remaining calm. Gradually decrease the distance until you can approach the resource without eliciting a guarding response.

3. Manage the Environment

Managing the environment is essential to prevent resource guarding behaviors. Keep high-value items out of reach of your dog, or trade them for something less valuable. Additionally, supervise your dog during meal times and remove any uneaten food to prevent guarding behaviors.

4. Seek Professional Help

Addressing severe cases of resource guarding may require professional help from a certified dog trainer or behaviorist. These professionals can help create a personalized behavior modification plan to address the issue.


Understanding and addressing resource guarding in dogs is essential to ensure their safety and well-being. Resource guarding is a natural behavior that dogs exhibit to protect their resources, but it can become problematic when it becomes excessive. Managing the environment, desensitization, and teaching drop it and leave it commands are some ways to address resource guarding behaviors. If the behavior is severe, seeking professional help is recommended. With patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement, resource guarding behaviors can be addressed, leading to a happy and healthy dog.