How To Stop Resource Guarding in Dogs

How To Stop Resource Guarding in Dogs

Author WDF Staff


Dogs exhibit all sorts of good and bad behavior in their life. Resource guarding is one of their strange behaviors. It is also called possessive aggression, and this behavior can be scary for some dog owners. In the wild, this dog behavior would be considered a desirable trait since it would help them survive, but for domesticated dogs, resource guarding is not as desirable. If you witness this behavior with your dog, you must take the proper steps to stop it. In this article, we will help you understand resource guarding in dogs, why it happens, and how you can prevent it from happening. Let's start.

What is resource guarding?

Resource guarding usually happens when they perceive that their resource is in danger and they react accordingly. This resource could be food, a toy, or something they consider valuable. When the dog feels like he will lose something valuable, it will react in many different ways.

Guarding is a natural dog behavior they needed in the wild to survive. In the wild, when dogs find food, they need to protect it to survive. For some dogs, this is a hereditary behavior that remains today. Although this is considered "normal" behavior, it is not desirable. This could quickly become a massive problem for you and your dog, and if your dog is exhibiting resource guarding, you need to stop it.

How to discover this behavior?

For most dogs, it is impossible to know your dog has inherited this behavior until they start to exhibit them. You must watch out for a few signs and symptoms to confirm that your dog is exhibiting this behavior.

The most usual signs are:

  • Growling
  • Lunging
  • Biting

dog guarding toy

Every dog can exhibit this behavior, although some breeds are more likely to exhibit resource guarding. Dogs can show strong or milder signs; some can be serious. Reading a dog's body language can help you a lot with this dog's behavior. Here are a few signs of this behavior:

  • Pinned ears
  • Side eye staring
  • Eating faster
  • Removing the items
  • Hard staring
  • Baring teeth

RELATED: What is Fear Aggression in Dogs & How To Resolve It?

What causes resource guarding in dogs?

Although it may seem strange why your dog is exhibiting this behavior, there are a few reasons for your dog to do it. Resource guarding should not come to you as a surprise since it is in most cases inherited, but the intensity of protecting can have a large number of reasons, and some of them include:

  • Environment
  • Growing up conditions
  • Genetics
  • Value of the item
  • Stress level
  • Medical problems

Remember that every dog can exhibit this behavior; if your dog is one of them, you must find a possible reason why your dog does it, and it will be easier for you to stop this bad dog behavior.

RELATED: What Does Dog Growling Mean?

Resource guarding in puppies

Resource guarding is most common for an adult dog but can happen at puppy age. If your puppy was in a litter where he had to "fight" for his food, this behavior could arise, and he may start guarding his food in his new home. If you walk toward his food bowl, the puppy could perceive you as a threat, and he will react accordingly.

guard dog

If you notice this behavior with your puppy, you must act quickly and stop it since it can develop into a worse version of resource guarding when your puppy grows up. If you are unsure how to approach this problem, contacting a dog trainer could be a good start.

RELATED: The 10 Best Guard Dog Breeds In The World

Things that can trigger resource guarding

Most dogs will become overly protective over their food and toys, but the item they choose to guard can be anything they consider valuable. Some of the things dogs tend to protect are:

  • Food
  • Bowls
  • Toys
  • Clothes
  • Dog bed, crate
  • In some cases, their owner

How to stop this behavior?

If you notice resource guarding in your dog, you must address this problem as soon as possible. You could take a few steps yourself and try to eliminate this dog behavior. If you are unsure if you can do it yourself, you can hire an experienced dog trainer or animal behaviorist to help you.

IMPORTANT TIP: You should never punish a dog for this behavior since it could let to more problems. You must address this dog behavior and stop it in a way that will not hurt your dog.

dog guarding

If you are experiencing resource guarding with your dog, try doing these steps:

  1. Allow your dog to eat in peace – make sure every family member knows this. You shouldn't come close to your dog while eating, so he doesn't feel threatened.
  2. Remove your dog's "valuable" items – if you remove items your dog tend to guard, his guarding behavior can also disappear. Take note that you shouldn't just take away an item but instead offer your dog something in exchange. Food treats or some other toys can be an excellent way to bargain.
  3. "Leave it" command- asking a dog to leave an item they are guarding can be a positive way of resolving this dog behavior.
  4. Change the environment – first, you must list all the items your dog tends to guard; then, you can change the environment to remove some items from the list. For example, if your dog tends to guard pillows in your bedroom, you can remove bedroom access to your dog; with that, he won't be tempted to protect pillows.

RELATED: The 5 Most Common Behavioral Problems with Solutions


Resource guarding in dogs is a serious problem that needs to be addressed immediately after you notice your dog does it. If you are unsure how to start, you can seek help from a professional. If you don't resolve this dog behavior, you could have many problems with your dog, so we advise you to take immediate action.

World Dog Finder team

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