Let's talk about resource guarding. Dogs of all ages can exhibit resource guarding. I worked with puppies who might resource guard a toy, bone or food to adult dogs guarding spaces or their humans.
I wanted to talk about RG when it comes to food. I've had clients ask about this in my dog training classes many times.
What is resource guarding?
A dog guards something they find of value which they don't want to lose. The dog may growl or even snap when you try to take a certain toy, bone/bully stick or food. Technically if you think about it this is a trait that would ensure survival in the wild but not a desired one in our pet dogs who are a part of our family.
What should we NOT do?
Your puppy/dog is chewing on a bone, you need to take it away and when you try to, they growl and even snap at you. Many people think, how dare they?! I will show them to never do that again by scolding them and taking it from them as punishment.
Let's break that down. Your dog had an incredibly valuable item in their possession so they wanted to make sure nobody took it from them. They were worried that you would take it so they gave several warnings but bam... you took it. That will not make them learn that resource guarding is not what you want. To your dog they were afraid they would lose that amazing bone or toy and they were correct! Taking it only reinforces the idea that they should be more worried next time and maybe even escalate their warnings.
Your dog's threshold.
Before we go over an exercise you can work on, let's talk about thresholds. The definition of a threshold is the point at which a stimulus is of sufficient intensity to begin to produce an effect.
Our dogs give us many warning signals, some of which in the beginning are so easy to miss because of how subtle they are. If we miss or ignore these warnings then they have to escalate them to communicate how they feel. Unless you're pretty well versed in dog body language you. probably will miss the subtle cues.
Here is an example. Your dog is eating and you are approaching them. When you are 4 feet from them they start to freeze, turn away from you or eat faster, right there we have already crossed the threshold. When working on this you want to make sure to stay outside of the threshold, don't cross. it.
Let's work on it!
You need to have something absolutely A+ specifically either a piece of shredded meat or some cheese. I don't care how much your dog likes their regular treats, you need to step it up when working on this RG exercise. So plan and prepare.
I would use some freshly boiled chicken. When your dog is eating you stay outside of the threshold and simply toss that chicken as you say "chicken" or "cheese" (use whatever word you want). It is ok if your dog does not immediately leave their food to get the chicken that might be a foot or two away from the bowl. I would do this several times. Make sure to praise your dog verbally when they do get that chicken you tossed. Repeat even if this means you are. working on this at every meal for several days, then we will repeat this exercise being a bit closer but still staying outside of the threshold. And repeat until you can be next to your dog putting that chicken into their bowl of food. This can take a few days or several weeks, truly depends on the individual dog.
What we are doing here is changing the way your dog FEELS about you approaching them while they have that item of high value. Instead of being worried that you will take it away, they are now anticipating your approach and are excited to have you near them and their food.
Skip asking for advice on social media. The wrong advice can make the issues much worse.
Resource guarding can be a complex behavior and it is best to seek professional help if needed.
Great resource for finding a trainer: