Most of us would notice if our dog started growling and snapping at us over their food, but did you know that there are plenty of body language signals that dogs give BEFORE the problem gets that bad?
Resource guarding is a very common behavioural problem amongst dogs. It’s when a dog acts aggressively in order to maintain possession over something that they find valuable, like food, toys, sleeping or resting places, or even people.
Guarding is a FEAR BASED behaviour, stemming from a dog worrying that they will lose their valuable item. Be on the lookout for these early signs that your dog is becoming uncomfortable with you approaching them when they have a high value resource:
1) Weight shifting forward / lowering their chin over the resource
2) Stopping eating suddenly / freezing with stiff muscles
3) Speeding up to eat at a manic pace
4) Running away with the resource
Remember that all body language is about context; don’t stress if your dog stops eating every so often or if they’re always a fast eater. Instead look for patterns of behaviour; does your dog start to eat manically every time you walk near them when they’re eating? Does your dog freeze and watch you from the corners of their eyes every time you walk past them when they’re enjoying a chew toy?
If you have noticed the signs of an impending resource guarding problem, we recommend contacting your local positive reinforcement trainer. They will be able to help you teach your dog that having humans near their resources is good for everyone, and create a bond of mutual trust.
If your dog already has a fully-fledged guarding problem, where they are growling, snapping, muzzle punching, biting or ingesting inedible things, a good trainer will be crucial to helping you overcome the problem. Trying a DIY approach can lead to disaster without proper research and/or assistance, as there is a lot of misinformation floating around the dog owning community regarding resource guarding.