Did you guard or know someone who guarded their beloved things so closely that there would a big hue and cry if another got their hands on it? We certainly hope you did not snarl & bite, but we would have seen a visceral reaction from the person like a scream or running towards the object to pick it up and maybe a fight too. What would've happened next? Mom/dad would have reprimanded you for behaving so and given the object to your unknowing, but rather afraid friend!
Dogs are no different. When they feel the need to protect their precious, limitedly available resources like a toy, food, place and/or their humans, they can reach in similar manners. As humans, we would probably be embarrased by this behaviour, but rest assured that you are not alone. There are millions of pet parents who go through this behavioural issue around the world! Resource guarding can be genetic as well as environmental too. By carefully managing the environment and appropriate training we can teach dogs there is no need to guard. But remember this - please do not emulate parents by snatching whatever the dog guards, because this will only make things worse! If you are afraid of what the dog may do in such situations, please consult a trained behaviourist who is experienced handling this situation.
In this blog, we will cover some basic signs of resource guarding. There are many parents who confuse their dog's playfulness of running away with things in their mouth and performing a play bow as resource guarding, but some signs are subtle that should not be dismissed. So, here goes...a few signs of resource guarding (your dogs may show one or many, but this is a good pointer)
- Dog can bare its teeth, growl and if the person/dog continues to approach, then snap and bite.
- Dog quickly dashes away with whatever is in the mouth and hides growling perhaps or stiffening
- Dog averts eye contact and body blocks you by turning her back when approached by dog or person.
- When approached, the dog may stiffen, freeze in its tracks, lower its head, make whale eyes, ears may pull back and the mouth goes stiff.
- In some cases, the dog may appear larger than it is by standing up tall, walking on toes, covering the object entirely by standing over it, stiff upright tail, hackles may raise.
- In some cases, dogs may just gobble whatever is in the mouth or shut the mouth so it will be impossible to pry it open.
Remember to record these instances and share them with trainers if you need help. The trainer will be able to assess the body language and tell you if the reaction is indeed guarding or can simply be fear or playfulness.