Resource guarding and how to avoid it
What is resource guarding and why is it bad for you and your dog?
Well actually resource guarding is a very natural behaviour, if you think about it, we are resource guarders.
No one invites a stranger to come into their home and help themselves to all their belongings.
So, when we think about it as a ‘negative’ behaviour for our dogs we need to think about the fact that it is just a behaviour, nothing more.
When we get a puppy, like children they tend to put everything they come across into their mouth, and for us depending on what they have picked up, it can be a very stressful. Are they going to swallow that stone? They have got my mobile phone! Whatever it is that they have we don’t want them to have it - but it can be hard to not grab it and pull it out of their mouth.
Now, I want you to imagine that you are sitting in a restaurant and you have just ordered your favourite meal when suddenly some crazy person comes over and grabs the food off your plate and runs off with it. You would be very cross if that happened.
Now imagine that has happened five times in a row. Not only are you angry but you are getting a bit nervous as your food approaches the table, you are watching over your shoulder to check there is no one going to run up and take your food.
Now, think about how many times you have grabbed something out of your puppy’s mouth, what does that puppy now associate with human hands?
This is such an easy routine to fall into. Puppy has something inappropriate; we take it off them, we are doing it for their safety after all.
For some puppies this is a negative experience, they feel like everything that they perceive to have value is taken away from them. The sheer fact you want it for some puppies adds value to that item, making it more valuable to them, so they don’t want you to have it.
With these puppies what you now have is a dog that associates negative experiences with human hands taking things away from them.
In the good old days people were told to take the food bowl away from the puppy, you need to be able to take their food off them whenever you want.
You should be able to put your hand in their food bowl and they should be fine with it, after all we need to show them who’s boss, right?
Wrong! This is going to lead to possibly building a resource guarder who now must guard their valued possessions because you keep stealing them.
What if we did it the other way round?
What if we added food to the bowl from a human hand, what if we swapped items so the puppy got something either super yummy or a better game as you played with them instead of chasing them around the house and then removing their prize from them?? How does that look to a puppy?
Next time you go to take something out of your dog’s mouth that they have taken, think about that restaurant and how it feels to have things taken away.
Seeing things from our dog’s perspective can really change how we view our own behaviour.
To help our puppies we need to ensure that we do not allow ‘illegal chews’ to be available for our puppy to make the wrong choice, remember, to a puppy these are just things, the reaction you give them can reinforce the wrong behaviour in our dog without us even being aware of it.