Aggression makes up the majority of my business as a Certified Professional Dog Trainer in Palm Beach County. I constantly get calls from Clients who's dogs are aggressive with people or other dogs, for various reasons. Whether we label it as Territorial Aggression, Resource Guarding, Fear Aggression, etc., the fact remains that Clients are overwhelmed and frustrated with their dogs behavior and something needs to change.
In this post, I want to address Resource Guarding. What is it, why dogs do it and how can it be treated? Resource Guarding, simply put, means a dog that will "guard" various items or people. Whether its food, a bone, toys, or a person, it can be very dangerous for everyone involved. I've even worked with a dog that would guard its poop after he went to the bathroom!
One important thing to remember is dogs don't bite or become aggressive because they are trying to be alpha, or dominant. That's been debunked numerous times, so make sure when working with your dogs guarding behaviors, you don't do anything to try to become the alpha instead of your dog being one. Besides, your dog knows that your'e a human and not a dog!
The majority of aggression is fear based- whether its fear of people, dogs or a fear of losing something valuable to them (a caregiver, a bone, a food bowl, etc). Its important to remember that dogs don't do things because of status, spite or wanting to burden you.
The first step to treating and/or managing Resource Guarding is to identify the dogs triggers. What is it exactly that they are guarding? If it's food or a bone or a toy, management protocols should immediately go into effect. Throw bones and toys away (at least for now-its not worth getting bit over). When your dog is eating its food, try and stay far away from them and let them eat in peace. I always tell clients that if someone came up to me and was hovering over me while i was eating taco bell, they better get away fast! Taco Bell is my weakness and i absolutely do not share! It's the same for dogs- Let them eat in peace. Don't try to take their food away or stick your hand in it, or let anyone else do the same. After they have left their food bowl, if you need to remove it to clean it, toss them a yummy high value treat, like cheese or lunch meat and scoop the bowl up (make sure they are away from their bowl and no longer guarding it).
Step two is to hire a Force Free Trainer if you feel like management won't always be an option, or if your dog guards people or other things that needs more than management. If your outside of Palm Beach County, visit www.petprofessionalguild.com to find a Force Free Trainer who specializes in Resource Guarding Or contact me for a referral. Always remember that using aggression to treat aggression will at the very best, suppress the behavior but not change it, and at the worst can cause the dog to become more aggressive. Using Classical Conditioning to change behavior and emotions works, so find a Force Free Trainer to help you.