Dog holding a bone

Don’t Steal: How to Prevent Resource Guarding

That’s Mine!

Resource Guarding Prevention

Puppies and newly adopted dogs enjoy exploring and investigating around their home. While exploring, they may stumble upon something they find interesting. For example, Ugg Boots, socks, napkins, a pen or maybe even smelly underwear! ☺

Typically, most people start chasing the dog to get these items back. With success, you might even catch your dog and grab the item out of their mouth! Yippy, you win!!!! Or did you?

Don’t Chase

My advice is typically not to chase your dog. A couple of things can be going on here.

As your dog chases, they can learn that the “chase me” game is fun, fun, fun. Now they are learning this is a great way to get your attention. You are now reinforcing this behavior to become a regular activity!

In addition, your dog may start to learn that, when you approach, you will be stealing any item they have. This can become a big problem.

First, they may learn to run from you. This is because they learn that when you approach, you will take the item. When running doesn’t work, they may choose to hide. When that doesn’t work, they may try to keep the item by displaying “aggressive” behaviors to keep the item. This is known as “Resource Guarding”.

What is Resource Guarding?

To take a deep dive into resource guarding, check out my blog called Resource Guarding In Dogs. Resource guarding, also known as “possession aggression” is a behavior a dog displays to control access to a valued resource.  What is a valued resource? It is something of value to that particular dog. Just as people value different things, so do dogs. A dog may feel the need to guard food, a bone, a toy, space, another dog or even a human. When a dog is resource guarding, he might display defensive behavior to keep another dog, person or animal away from his valued resource. Some dogs may also display overt aggressive behavior, which is aggressive behavior with intent to cause harm.

Resource guarding is a normal, natural survival behavior that all animals, including people, will display. However, the severity of the guarding behavior will determine how normal, or abnormal and even how dangerous this behavior can be.

Humans resource guard all the time! We lock our cars and our homes. That’s also resource guarding, my friends!

Another example of resource guarding can be seen on a night out. Someone may walk up to your significant other and strike up a conversation. This may cause you to feel a little on edge and protective, right? This is resource guarding too!

Some dogs may resource guard, but don’t escalate. Others may escalate behavior by displaying aggressive warning signs such as growling or air snapping. Others dogs might actually bite!

Side Note: Some dogs that are soft, may give up and let go of the item right away when you approach them. They may be nervous and may even feel that they will get hurt. Reprimanding your dog can cause this behavior. This could also be because you are approaching your dog in a way that appears threatening. Remember, dogs are body language communicators. This means they communicate with their body and also read your body language. If you are approaching quickly in a forward and stiff manner, this may come across as scary and threatening to your dog. Some dogs will choose to give up the item, not because they know the word “drop it”, but because they may actually feel afraid and threatened. This is important to realize because, when threatened, a dog may display aggressive behavior. Even a dog who has never displayed aggressive behavior before may feel threatened and decide to protect themselves. Even against their owners!

Puppy keeping his ball close to him.

Don’t Steal

First and foremost, don’t steal from your dog.

“But Anthony, they stole those slippers from me. They’re mine!”

I have heard this many times before! And I totally agree with you! BUT, trying to take your slippers, or whatever item, back could start teaching your dog bad behaviors. They may learn to run, hide, play keep away or chase. Stealing may even teach your dog to start displaying resource guarding behavior. If your dog starts to learn these behaviors work to keep you, your family or the other dogs away, they will continue. Dogs are great at learning what works.

Instead, we need to avoid this by teaching our dogs to drop it, trade, leave it, impulse control exercises and even implement prevention exercises. If your puppy or dog is a resource guarder, then you will need to hire a positive reinforcement trainer and behavior professional. They can help you properly implement management strategies and protocols to help address these behaviors. If you have children in the home, contact a professional ASAP! Address these issues now, not later to keep your children safe!

Puppy playing with a rope toy.

Prevention

Prevention is key! Below are some tips on how to prevent your puppy or adult dog from stealing and/or resource guarding items.

  • Hire a positive reinforcement trainer or behavior professional to help you get started and prevent issues. For those of you that are already having issues, again contact a professional to help you! If you need to find a professional near you, then visit the following websites. Simply insert your zip code in the search area.
  • Whether you have a new puppy or have adopted a dog (especially young, active rescue dogs) you need to puppy proof your house. Anything you do not want your puppy or adult dog to have needs to be out of sight and out of reach!
  • Don’t chase your dog. Instead start teaching them skills like drop it, leave it, trade. Your trainer can help you with this.
  • Your Body Language: Dogs communicate through body language with each other. This means our dogs learn to read our body language. Chasing your dog, standing a certain way or coming across in a particularly forceful manner with your body sends a clear message. Your dog may learn to run and hide with the item, give up or display aggressive behavior. This is especially true when this becomes a normal routine.
  • Make sure your dog is not bored! Provide them with enough exercise. This can include a long walk, hiking, playing fetch, playing with other dog friends and eating meals out of a food dispensing toy. Boredom can cause your dog to constantly take things and play the “chase me” game with you to get your attention.

Understand Canine Body Language and Communication

My last piece of advice is to learn about canine body language and communication. All dog owners should learn and understand this regardless if their dog has a behavior issue or not. Here are some helpful links:

 

Resource Guarding Prevention For Puppies

For those of you who are trying to prevent issues from occurring with puppies, here is the link to my blog post on Possession Prevention for puppies. Included in the blog is a video of a helpful exercise I demonstrate with my puppy who was having some possession issues.

 

About Anthony De Marinis, CDBC, CBATI, VSPDT, TTWC, VSA-DT

Anthony De Marinis is the owner of De Marinis Dog Training & Behavior on Long Island, NY. He provides private in-home training and behavior modification solutions using positive reinforcement-based methods. He also provides video consultations remotely as he has many clients across the United States. Anthony has 6 professional certifications which include: Certified Dog Behavior Consultant from the International Association for Animal Behavior Consultants, Certified Graduate of distinction from the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training & Behavior, Certified Behavior Adjustment Trainer, Certified Victoria Stilwell Licensed Positively Dog Trainer, The Third Way Certified Trainer and is a Fear Free Certified Animal Trainer. Currently, Anthony has a young Australian Kelpie named Journey. They are learning about agility and nose work together. You can visit Anthony’s website and learn more about him and his services at: www.demarinisdogtraining.com