It can be very surprising (and even scary) if your dog growls at you over something like food, a bone or chew, or a toy. Rest assured, there is help! As a dog trainer along the CT shoreline, I love to address this topic in our puppy classes, because at that age, we are generally working to PREVENT resource guarding! As they say – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! So… let’s get started with three things NOT to do with your puppy (or dog):
- DON’T chase a dog who just stole something. At best, you are teaching your dog that stealing is a fun way to get your attention (you may not be having fun, but your dog sure is). At worst, chasing a dog who has taken something can lead to aggression to protect the stolen object. We see this most often when a child is going after the dog.
- DON’T stick your hand in your dog’s food bowl while he’s eating. At best, this practice does nothing other than teach your dog that you can be really annoying around their food bowl. This is true for dogs who have no tendency towards resource guarding anyway. At worst, this can teach your dog that when you come around, he may lose his food bowl or be messed with, so better to start growling from a distance. It can actually increase aggression! Yikes!
- DON’T leave it up to your dog to teach your kids the rules. Dogs teach with their mouths. Instead, teach your kids two VERY important rule to reduce the chance of them ever getting bitten by a dog. (See rules below)
Okay, so now you know what NOT to do, let’s talk about what TO do.
- Teach your dog that taking an item that is not a toy makes you walk away. Within minutes (or immediately), your dog will lose interest and come try to get your attention in a different way! Success! Also, manage the items in your house to prevent your dog from having access to items you don’t want him to have (think covering electrical outlets for babies), WHILE teaching your dog what items are fair game to play with, and a good DROP IT! (stay tuned for our next blog post on teaching drop it).
- Start teaching your dog that when you approach, it means something good is coming! While your dog is eating dinner, walk on by and drop a yummy treat or two near your dog each time you walk by. I always like to say “Hey… [dog’s name]” before dropping the treats, just to be sure I don’t startle the dog. Repeat this a few times at each meal. You should find that your puppy or dog starts to lift their head in anticipation of you approaching (because yay! you might have a yummy treat). This is the OPPOSITE of resource guarding 🙂
- Teach your kids these VITAL rules around dogs (even if your dog “would never bite”, your neighbor’s or friend’s dog may, so keep your kids safe by teaching these rules: Rule #1: If a dog is eating, walk away and come back later to see if they want to play. Rule #2: Only grown ups should take something away from a dog – NOT a kid. This applies to toddlers – elementary aged kids.
As you can see, preventing resource guarding in your puppy/young dog is FUN and EFFECTIVE. It is also very important. Practice these tips every single day with your dog, to set yourselves up for a lifetime of good manners. A well behaved and happy dog means more fun for the whole family!
*Note: if your dog is already growling or stiffening around food, toys, or bones/chews – reach out to us today. We serve clients on the CT shoreline, in the towns of Madison, Guilford, Branford and Clinton and will set up a personalized training plan for you and your dog to remedy these guarding behaviors!