Resource Guarding – What It Is, How to Prevent It

A few simple tips can help you teach your puppy or dog that there's no need to get scary around her stuff.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
6-minute read
Episode #38

Many a dog gets stiff and growly when people approach her food, toys, or whatever else she values. A few simple tips can help you teach your puppy or dog that there’s no need to get scary around her stuff. Which is great, because serious resource guarding represents a high percentage of calls to anyone who works with behavior problems.

Dogs and Resource Guarding

We call it resource guarding when a dog stares briefly at another dog who approaches while she’s on her favorite bed chewing her favorite chew. We call it resource guarding when a dog freezes, snarls, and launches himself at your torso if you approach while he’s eating. And we call it resource guarding when Dogalini gives Scooter a dirty look if Scooter approaches while you’re petting Dogalini, or if when you pet Scooter, Dogalini trots up and pushes him away.

Resource Guarding Can Be Mild or Serious

As you can see from those examples, resource guarding covers not only a variety of behaviors but also a wide spectrum of seriousness. It is normal dog social behavior to warn another dog off your goodies with a look or a lip curl; the socially appropriate response from the other dog is to abandon the attempt to get hold of those goodies. If the two dogs generally get along well and such encounters never, or only very rarely, escalate even as far as a quick scuffle, there’s no call for humans to intervene.

Resource Guarding Against People

On the other hand, most behavior specialists would prefer to prevent or undo even the mildest resource guarding against people. In this article, I’ll discuss the guarding of food, but the points I’ll make apply to anything a dog might guard.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).