When we welcome a dog into our homes, we envision a harmonious life filled with tail-wagging, playful antics, and warm cuddles. However, like any relationship, the bond between dogs and their humans can face challenges. One such challenge is 'resource guarding', a behaviour I frequently encounter in my work with dogs.
What is Resource Guarding?
‘Resource guarding’ is the most common reason the dogs I work with may show aggression towards their human family. At its core, resource guarding is a dog's instinctual behaviour to protect valuable resources. These resources can range from tangible items such as bones, toys, and beds, to intangible ones like human attention or their personal space.
Why Do Dogs Resource Guard?
While resource guarding is a natural behaviour in dogs, some manifest it more intensely than others. There can be a myriad of reasons for this heightened response. Some dogs may have had negative experiences in the past, where their resources were taken away from them. Others might be particularly anxious or have health issues making them more protective of what they consider theirs.
However, the root of extreme or unwanted levels of resource guarding can be multifaceted. Factors such as the dog's environment, physical health, emotional well-being, and past traumas can all play a part. It's essential to understand that resource guarding isn't about dominance or defiance; it's about insecurity and the instinct to survive.
Addressing the Behaviour
Before embarking on any behaviour modification journey, it's crucial to have a holistic understanding of your animal’s wellbeing. Through behavioural assessment, we can delve deep into the reasons behind your dog's actions.
In the assessment, we consider every facet of your dog's life:
Is their living environment conducive to their well-being?
Are they physically healthy?
Are there emotional triggers causing them stress or anxiety?
With a comprehensive understanding of the underlying factors, we can then create a tailored approach to modify the behaviour. This will often include providing the dog with space and privacy to enjoy items, building their confidence that people will not remove things from them, and teaching them cues to ask them to relinquish items when needed.
Resource guarding is a natural dog behaviour, but that doesn’t mean we have to live with its extreme manifestations. With empathy, understanding, and informed strategies, we can create a safer and more harmonious living environment for all the family.