Resource guarding: A Dog’s Point of View

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Why does my dog resource guard?

Why do dogs resource guard? Are they being aggressive? Why do they pick to guard the ball and not the toy moose? Is there anything we can do to prevent this behavior? 

These are all common questions surrounding resource guarding. In this blog, we at Rover-Time are going to try to get into the mind of your dog to see, from their point of view, what’s going on! 

Why do dogs, as a species, resource guard?

If we look back through the history of dogs, without humans around, they would have used resource guarding for items like food that they would have needed for survival. In the modern day, those instincts are still there, they are viewing you as potential competition for their resources. The toy or treat they are guarding represents what they need to survive. Dogs aren’t being selfish – they think that they need that squeaky lobster to live! 

Why does my dog guard some things but not others?

Like us, dogs have preferences, their personality can be a big factor in what your dog chooses to value. Some dogs might be all about that PB (same with many of us!) and some might go for a tennis ball. Just like how us Chicago dog owners might value deep dish pizza over fries, we also might not like it if someone tried to take away our high value treats without asking! 

Early behavior modifications can be used

The best way to help stop a dog from forming bad resource guarding habits is to curb this behavior early by working with a professional trainer. If you are dealing with an older dog, this behavior might not be something you can curtail. Instead, you might just have to figure out a way to work around it. If you have multiple dogs and one of them resource guards, a good practice is to not introduce the high value resource item to the dogs while they are together to avoid fights. 

From the dog’s point of view, this behavior makes sense

You and your dog may be best friends, and it might lead you to believe that you understand every feeling your dog is having. But your dog is still not a human, and our cues and intentions might not always make sense to them. Even if you (or another dog) have no intention of taking a toy, a dog might not understand this. When a dog shows signs of resource guarding, they aren’t being ‘bad’. They are trying to tell you to back off. From their point of view, they are communicating clearly! 

How to tell if your dog is resource guarding: 

Whale eyes, lifting of lips, and low growls, are all behaviors associated with resource guarding. The way resource guarding looks may change from dog to dog, so be aware of your dog’s basic body language. If they seem like they are keeping you in view more aggressively, they may be resource guarding.

For more info about resource guarding: Check out this website!



Zoe Sjogerman is the North-East manager for Rover-Time and has been part of the RT team for four years. When she isn’t walking dogs she is the executive director of Avalanche Theatre and an avid book reader. She lives in the north-side of Chicago with her fiance. Although she doesn’t have a pet of her own, she loves getting to walk pups all over the Chicagoland area. 

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