Are You Making Resource Guarding Worse?

Having a dog can make you a curious person.  As you watch your dog eating her dinner, you might feel like Jane Goodall embedded with the chimpanzees in Africa. You quietly observe your dog as you wipe off the kitchen counters. As you gaze down at your dog, you may start to wonder, “What is she thinking? What does she think of me? What would happen if I put my hand in her bowl while she’s eating?” And so with the same curiosity your cat has when he knocks a glass off the counter, you stick your hand in your dog's bowl while she eats.

We’ve had many an 11th hour phone call this past year from desperate people, referred to us, who thought they were preventing and reacting to resource guarding properly.  Unfortunately, their actions led to dangerous outcomes involving bites to their children, themselves, and adult family members. Some of these bites were so severe they required 30 facial sutures. We wish these folks would have called us earlier, because we may have been able to prevent these tragedies with education and behavior modification.

If you believe that you need to put your hand into your dog’s bowl while she’s eating, remove her food bowl before she’s finished eating, give her a bone and immediately take it away, slap your dog with your shoe for growling when you take something away, and/or push her off the sofa when you sit down next to her, please stop! If this rings true for you, why are you making your home such an unforgiving place for your dog? These are all examples disclosed during those tearful 11th hour phone calls.

All of these things are highly likely to make resource guarding worse and endanger yourself and your family.

When I was growing up, we were told to leave the dog alone when he had a bone and when he was eating. The same advice goes for today as well! Most dogs want to avoid conflict, eat their meals and enjoy their resources in peace. Your dog is likely to show you signs if he’s uncomfortable with your proximity or actions while he’s eating.  However, these signs may be subtle and go unheeded. Next, your dog may ratchet up his response to growling. Remember, a growl is a gift because after growling comes biting! To recognize a dog’s subtle signs of avoiding conflict, please refer to this ladder of aggression infographic.

Now, consider how you would feel. I love blueberry pancakes. If someone took my blueberry pancakes away as I was eating, I might look at them quizzically and ask them why they did that.  If this person continued to take away my pancakes as I was eating them, I would warn them to stop. I might eventually become so upset that I toss my morning coffee onto them and stab their hand with my fork. Violence often begets violence.  So what do you do?

Continue to embrace your inner field scientist. Feed your curiosity with knowledge based on best practices. To learn how to prevent or treat resource guarding, contact a force-free professional dog trainer today! We’d love to share ways to prevent and treat resource guarding that sets everyone up for success. Reach out to us at