IMPORTANT NOTE: If your dog is growling and snapping when you approach them and you don't feel safe to put your hand anywhere near the item that they are guarding, PLEASE get in touch with a qualified behaviourist for more detailed help. The APBC is a good place to find one.
This question is often asked regarding favourite toys or special chew bones too.
It used to be classified as a 'dominant' behaviour that meant you weren't asserting your authority as pack leader. To find out more about old-fashioned dominance theories, have a read of one of my recent blog posts by clicking here.
"Resource guarding is a natural, normal behavior in many species. How many of you lock your house before you leave home? We all do it. We have to protect our resources to survive. However, canine resource guarding often causes significant inappropriate overreaction by humans." - Pat Miller
These days we understand a little more about why our dogs behave in the way that they do. So when our dogs grumble or grouch when they are approached and they have some special treasure, it is now classified as 'Resource Guarding'.
The resource tag can be used to describe pretty much anything your dog deems to be valuable. Their food bowl, their Stagbar/ Kong or something stolen from the bin. Perhaps you can think of others that your dog would class as a precious resource.
Now mostly guarding begins when puppies or dogs believe that good things are going to be taken away from them and their fun stops.
Not so very long ago, I remember being taught that I should make sure my puppy would allow me to put my hands in their food bowl and take their food bowl away from them - just to make the point to my dog that I could if I so chose.
Can you imagine if a waiter at a restaurant tried to do this to you? Instead of leaving you to enjoy your dinner in peace, they kept coming and trying to move food around your plate and taking it away? I fancy you might start to snarl and bark a bit when they approached you, don't you think?!
The best way to avoid, or overcome resource guarding is to be a bountiful provider rather than a scrooge who takes goodies away. Let's not give our dogs any reason to fear us coming close to them.
Today I'm grateful that my dogs have never felt the need to guard their treasures from me, even if there were times in the past where they might have run off with something they shouldn't instead ;)