How to Stop Your Dog From Guarding Food & Toys

Many dogs exhibit aggressive behavior, such as growling or barking, when someone approaches an item that they treasure. This is known as resource guarding or possessive aggression. Resource guarding in a dog typically stems from anxiety or fear that it will lose its stuff.

Resource guarding is a common behavioral issue in dogs. However, it can escalate quickly to more aggressive behavior. Here are some ways to stop your dog from guarding its resources and becoming aggressive.

De-sensitize Your Dog

De-sensitize your pooch so that it understands that you are not a threat. Start by standing outside your furry friend’s reaction zone – this is the area around the food whilst they are eating or the toy whilst they play. After a few sessions, your pooch will get used to you standing near the item it guards. Once your furry friend stops seeing you as a threat, gradually decrease the distance between you and the item until you can stand so close to your pooch that you can pet it.

Do Not Punish Your Dog

Many dog parents think that taking away the item that their dog is guarding will make the animal recognize the unwanted behavior. This method can be counterproductive. A dog that guards things is already stressed, so removing the item is likely to only make it worse. Instead of punishing your pooch when it displays aggressive behavior, go to another room and let it calm down.

Give it Treats

Give your dog high-quality treats when you are near the item that it is protecting. This shows that you are not a threat. As your pooch is eating, drop some treats near its food bowl and calmly move away. Allow your dog to enjoy the treats and then finish its meal. Repeat the process a couple of times for a few days. Over time, you may notice that as you approach your canine friend, it looks up, anticipating a treat. This is a positive sign that your pooch associates you approaching its food bowl with a rewarding experience.

If your pooch guards a toy, place a few treats on the floor while it is playing with it. Allow your dog to leave the toy in order to enjoy the treats. Move away and then approach your pooch again to place more treats on the floor. Once your dog is comfortable with you around the resource, put down a few treats and pick up the toy.

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Bridewell Hilltop Boarding Kennels & Cattery is dedicated exclusively to the care of dogs, cats, and small animals other than reptiles. Bridewell specializes in dog boarding, cat boarding, pet grooming and more for the areas of Novato, San Rafael and Marin County.