The Reading Corner

Resource Guarding Prevention


Each of these steps is done for a minimum of two weeks:

  • Do not “free feed” a dog that guards. That just makes the dog think he owns the bowl.
  • For a period of time, eliminate the food bowl, and hand feed the dog (feeding two meals per day), a few kibbles at a time. Use “take it” as you feed. This conditions the dog to understand that you own the food and are allowing him to share.
  • Buy a new food bowl, and put it in a new location every day (another way to convince Fido that you control the bowl and the food in it – leaders control resources). To feed, put the bowl on the floor, and drop kibbles into it, a few at a time. After those are eaten, drop a few more in, until the dog has had its meal.
  • Next, put the bowl down, half filled with kibble. Drop a few treats into the bowl (this should be something more appetizing than kibble – for example, cheese, turkey, roast beef). Then, add the rest of the kibble.
  • Teach the dog to sit and wait for the bowl to be lowered. Lower it as you give a hand signal and say “wait”, but if he comes toward it, take it away until he sits still. Then, when he waits, quickly get the bowl to the floor and let him have the food.
  • Once your dog knows “come”, you can call him away from his food bowl every few days, and reward him with something better than kibble when he gets to you.

The dog that guards food may escalate to guarding other things as his possessions – the bed, toys, rawhides, even people. These are dogs that can benefit greatly from positive obedience classes. IMPORTANT – Correction or taking things out of their mouths tends to make them more aggressive!

Often, they are dogs that have learned that growling/snapping gets the human to back off. Sometimes, the humans have accidentally taught the dog that they want all his stuff when they grabbed at the shoe he stole as a puppy, or ran after him while he was shredding a sock, instead of teaching him the “trade” game. The “trade” exercise teaches the dog to relinquish a prize – something better than kibble, perhaps a rawhide or a bone. The human retains possession of one end of the object, and offers the other end to the dog. The dog begins to chew on the “human’s rawhide” (ownership is important, remember?). Then, the human offers a piece of liverwurst, tripe, turkey or steak and says “trade?” Rover should spit out the rawhide to accept the treat, and the human says “good trade”. Repeat often. If you have any problems, consult your trainer.

NILIF – Nothing in Life is Free, Resource guarders are good candidates for this way of life. They must learn to earn their “pay”, just as we do. Fido, wanna go out? Fine, but “sit” first – only then will the almighty being with the opposable thumbs will grant your wish.