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Resource Guarding / Showing Aggression Over Resources

Resource Guarding
Dogs who growl, snap or charge when they are approached while chewing a toy, eating or lying on a favorite spot are referred to as "resource guarders". These dogs are guarding what they consider to be a valuable resource. 

Some dogs do this because of temperament tendencies. Others have learned to be this way from humans. An example of this may be; Your dog has been verbally or physically "attacked" by a human after he picks up something and then wouldn't give it up. (a shoe, dropped food, a kids toy or something else he should not be allowed to have). At some point simply dropping it didn't work, (he didnít get rewarded for that), so the dog chose aggression in an attempt to back the human (or another animal) off. 

To remove the tendency to guard the resource,
start by removing anything he may be protecting. If itís an item like a bed, sofa or an area of the house, and you can't remove the item, you can block access to it by closing a door or putting up a baby gate. While working to remove this guarding issue, you may want to keep him on lead so you can more easily control him.

Begin the training by teaching him the ďDrop ItĒ or "Leave It" command. If he has the item in his mouth use "Drop It" or the "Leave It" command. The same can be done if he is standing over the item. Remember to do this in a positive way. Do NOT make this into a battle of wills. Make him realize that these commands are part of a game that is an opportunity for him to get a reward or treat. 

Always start the teaching with low value objects so that the praise or treats will be the obvious choice. Donít use his favorite toy at first. Work up to it slowly. Wait until he is 100% responsive with low and medium value items first. Mark sure to reward him immediately for releasing the item to you when you give the command.

Remember that most dog aggression is man made. This is because a lot of people get angry when their dog takes something they shouldn't have. Then they scream and yell at the dog (Bad Dog, or worse). They fail to give the dog a way to please them. They create a situation where, once something is in their dog's mouth, there is no way for the dog to win. This can force the dog to start defending himself. If they will just turn it into a "Leave It" type of game the guarding aggression would not even happen.

The one big thing to remember is this: Once something is in your dog's mouth, it is TOO LATE to teach him not to pick it up. The only thing you can teach him at this point is to spit it out on command. This is why it is SO important for you to reward him for spitting it out when you ask for it. 

If you don't want your dog to pick something up, you must stop him before he even touches it. This means you have to have great timing and you must be closely watching him.

Training is the best and most effective way to remove resource guarding. Here are some other ways to lessen aggression in dogs.

Practice Take and Give.
Early on, practice "Drop It" with your dog. Walk up when he is chewing a toy. Say "Drop It" and take the toy. Praise him for doing what you ask with a different toy , a treat or lavish praise.  Return the toy and leave him alone. After a few weeks of this training, done two or three times a day, and your dog will want you to come and take his toys away. 

Neuter him!
The most serious bites come from intact male dogs. Neutering will remove a lot of testosterone. This will make your dog much more mellow and less confrontational. It will also make him easier to train.

Teach him to move out of your way.
This will help him understanding that you lead and he follows. Walk toward him slowly until he moves out of your path. Then praising him. With the lead on him, you can guide him out of the way, then praise him.

He owns nothing!
Everything in the house is yours, not his. If he is protective over anything, a bowl or a toy, remove it until he returns to a passive state of mind. Then return it to him as a reward.

Set clear rules and boundaries.
If heís not allowed to be on the couch, or in the kidís room, be in the dining room during meals or whatever, make sure that everyone in the house abides by the rules. If one of you allows the dog to be on the couch, he will think itís OK all of the time.

Always praise him cheerfully for obeying!
This is self-explanatory.

Increase his structured exercise.
Exercise will help relieve stress and release excess energy. Be sure to play games that promote cooperation and control. You may want to skip tug-of-war, wrestling or chasing games for a while if he is very aggressive as these games can promote more aggression.

Remember, when a dog shows that he is ready to do battle, he is confused, feels threatened or is under stress. If you ďattackĒ him for threatening to attack you, you will only escalate the aggression. Even if you "win" the first time, he may decide to fight sooner and harder the next time. What he needs is education, not dominance or anger from you.

ANYTIME your dog threatens you, if you are not 100% sure what to do, hands-on help from a qualified professional is the best next step. Aggression is complicated. If it is left unchecked or not dealt with quickly and correctly, it can get worse. It can even lead to the death of your dog if he happens to bite a child or a friend or a neighbor.

If your dog show ANY signs of aggression never assume that he won't bite. Do not avoid the problem - deal with it. Do not allow him to be around children. If he has access to items that you know he is protective of he may try to bite someone. Do not think that this behavior will get better with time.

Lastly, seek out any and all help you can get, including from your veterinarian.

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