Did you know that resource guarding is responsible for over 40% of dog bites in kids below 6 years? This shows just how serious this behavior can get when not managed properly. If you feel uncomfortable with the way your dog guards his food or growls whenever you approach his food bowl, seek the help of a professional behaviorist or trainer who has experience in managing resource guarding. He or she can help you manage the behavior better under a controlled environment.
Other than seeking professional help, it’s very important that every dog owner also knows how to manage the behavior at home. The following tips can help you but note that they only apply to milder cases of the behavior:
Know Your Pet’s Threshold
Before applying any of the tips below, you should first know your dog’s threshold. This is the invisible line/boundary where they start getting uncomfortable when you approach their food. In order to make progress with your dog, you need to ensure that you’re not crossing that invisible line too fast.
Manage How Environment
A big part of modifying your dog’s food guarding is through prevention and consistency. Keep his environment predictable during training to prevent him from losing focus. If another dog or family member unexpectedly approaches his food while you’re trying to manage the behavior, it will stress him out even further making him lose momentum.
Therefore, your goal here should be to change his attitude towards anyone who approaches his food, toys etc. Your dog’s guarding is reinforced each time he exhibits the behavior and nothing positive happens. So keep his environment as controlled and predictable as possible. If it can be just you, your dog and his bowl in a room, the better. Remove anything else that might interrupt the process.
Desensitize Him With Treats
Desensitization is very important in managing food guarding in dogs. Instead of punishing him for his guarding behavior, why not try something different – change how he feels about people who approach his food. Make the experience a positive one for him.
This is how to desensitize your dog. Have some yummy treats in your hand as you approach him while eating. Be sure to approach him slowly. Stop as soon as you notice him getting defensive or showing distress signs and give him a treat. While his attention is still on you, give him more treats and walk away.
Be sure to repeat this several times in the coming days while he’s eating. When done properly and regularly, this method will help your dog start associating you approaching his food with a positive experience. You can also try playing different games while approaching his food bowl instead of giving him treats.
Gradually Decrease The Distance Between Your Dog’s Food and You
When you’re confident that he doesn’t get stressed out when you’re at a certain distance from his food, try moving closer slowly. Do the same thing as above, but this time; ensure you move one step closer to him. Give him treats from the new spot and walk away.
Repeat the process severally, each time reducing the distance between you two. As long as you don’t go too first, you’ll eventually get closer to his food bowl while he remains calm and relaxed.
Reducing resource guarding in your dog is going to take a long time. So, you need to be very patient, understanding and consistent to see results. Note that resource guarding usually comes back without consistency, so you have to continue practicing the above tips even after seeing positive results.