There is a lot of misinformation floating around the dog owning community regarding resource guarding. You’ve probably heard one or both of the following:
“If your puppy growls at you over a bone, you can’t let them “win” and must take it off them”
“Dogs that guard things are trying to be dominant – you must show them who’s boss”
Both of these statements are incorrect!
Resource guarding is actually a FEAR BASED BEHAVIOUR – it’s caused by an anxious dog believing that humans will steal things from them. Trying to “show them who’s boss” by using harsh punishments or taking the possession so that they don’t “win” will only increase their anxiety, and make the resource guarding problem worse.
There is a big difference between a dog tolerating something, and a dog that is genuinely relaxed and happy with something. One of the scariest boasts that trainers often hear from uneducated owners is “I can take a bone off my dog!” More often than not, the owner in this scenario is using intimidation to force the dog to surrender the bone, either accidentally or on purpose. The result is a dog with a growing resentment towards the owner, and it’s likely that one day the dog will become fed up and fight back.
Instead, trainers much prefer to hear owners say, “My dog will happily give up a bone when I ask them to.” This statement speaks to a mutually beneficial relationship between dog and owner, and is much safer long term.
If your dog is a resource guarder, a good positive reinforcement trainer will be able to show you how to teach them to be relaxed and happy when humans are around their things.