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Is your puppy resource guarding? Why do they do it, and how can you train them to stop?
Puppy resource guarding is a natural stage that most will go through during development. This is an instinct passed on to dogs from thousands of years ago. In a wolf pack, only the strongest and fastest will survive. Wolves devour their meal while fighting off other members of the pack – this natural instinct has been embedded in our canine companions.
Sometimes puppies will guard their belongings. The reason remains the same, as they are trying to show other members of their “pack” that the toy is theirs! Instinct kicks in, making sure others don’t take their possessions away.
A puppy who has been starved or neglected will guard their food as well. These guys might need more time to learn their manners, but they will eventually get it!
Should you allow your puppy to guard their food or toys?
A young puppy might look cute, hiding their toys and letting out little growls. It’s important to remember that puppy resource guarding can become a dangerous behaviour. In the wild, a canine will bite another, even drawing blood, and your puppy is no different. A responsible owner must take control of any guarding behaviour right away; otherwise, another pet or person could unfortunately get bitten.
Tips to stop food resource guarding in puppies?
Many trainers believe positive reward–based training is the best way to resolve puppy resource guarding.
If your puppy has begun guarding food, try these training tips to stop the behaviour quickly:
- Feed your puppy by hand to get them accustomed to another pack member being near.
- Slow-feeder bowls force them to take their time, teaching them to eat with less anxiety.
- Holding your puppy’s bowl during meals is another way you can teach them to be nice while eating.
- While your puppy is eating, throw in some high-value treats to show them they will be rewarded during meals.
- Feed your puppy on a schedule. This helps them get into a routine, knowing the food will be there.
- If your puppy has become overly aggressive, wear a protective glove when you first begin hand-feeding.
Puppy resource guarding with toys, tips to help:
- Teach your puppy to “drop.” This command lets them know you are in control of the toys, not them.
- If your puppy becomes aggressive, safely take the toy and allow them to have it once they become calm.
- As your puppy plays with their toys, periodically give them treats while removing the item.
- When returning a toy that has been taken, give them treats along with it during calm playing.
Training to stop puppy resource guarding can be time-consuming, so be prepared to commit to a schedule. Bite inhibition goes hand in hand with resource guarding, so check out our article “Developing Bite Inhibition in Puppies” to train your pup to become gentle and easy.