Do you ever see your dog get upset when you approach a toy, his bed, his place, his treats, his bones, or even when someone else approaches you?
This is called resource guarding, often also called possessive aggression. Learn more about this behavior and your dog by reading the information below.
What is it about?
Possessive aggression or resource guarding is when your dog exhibits overly protective behavior (such as growling or biting) over an item (object, food or person) that he considers valuable.
This behavior can occur on many things, his favorite toy, bone, treat, bed, bowl, and on you, his human. In case of moderate aggression, this behavior can be tolerable but can become dangerous and uncomfortable in case of severe protection.
The protection of resources obviously comes from the primary instinct of the dog, which has served its evolution over time. Dogs are originally opportunistic feeders, eating as much as they can, as soon as they can. Food can become a competition, from a very young age, where the puppy that eats the most will grow faster and be stronger than the others.
However, this trait should not become negative or excessive, especially towards you or other people.
The causes are diverse, and the behavior can develop at any stage of the dog's life. Some will learn it at the puppy stage, others will develop it during their life, especially if they are abandoned or mistreated, or if they must compete with other dogs.
In older dogs, you may see an increase in aggressive behavior that may be due to illness or stress.
The hallmarks of this behavioral disorder are obviously growling, teeth chattering, and also biting, but your dog will sometimes show you less obvious signs, such as:
- A stiff or rigid posture
- A lowered head with the body above the object
- A fixed gaze
- A position between the object and the person/dog
- Keeping the object in its mouth and not letting go
- Eating quickly
How to stop this behavior?
- Desensitize: let them know that you are not a threat. Present yourself at the edge of their reaction zone. The goal is to prove to them that you are not there to take the object away from them, but rather to reinforce the fact that you are friends.
- Give him high quality treats: the goal here is to link your presence to something positive.
- Approach the critical zone, slowly but surely. Repeat as long as possible until your dog accepts your approach and doesn't react at all.
- Prevention is better than cure, so implement exercises at an early age to prevent your dog from developing this behavior in the future.
- Instead of taking away an object completely, exchange it with something else
- Teach him to "let go". Once the command has been completed, the reward can be a treat or simply giving him his object back.
Special care should be taken when children are around dogs that are used to protecting their resources, and also when you have more than one dog in your family (don't leave them alone when they eat).
In summary, resource guarding is a perfectly normal behavior for dogs, and one can decide to live with it or correct the most excessive behaviors.
In case of aggravated aggression, do not hesitate to consult a behavioral professional.
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