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,
August 30, 2010
Episode #038

Page 3 of 4

The basic idea is that you install in Baby Dogalini’s tiny little mind two great big ideas. One, food comes from you. Two, it is good news if you show up when she’s already got some food. Install two big ideas in your puppy’s mind: food comes from you, and it’s good news if you show up around her food.

Install two big ideas in your puppy’s mind: food comes from you, and it’s good news if you show up around her food.

Hand Feed Your Puppy

Teach the first lesson by hand feeding Baby Dogalini for a few weeks after you bring her home. This is one of the pleasantest puppy “chores” I can imagine. I often tell my clients to feed at least one meal a day by hand, but that’s mainly to give them a concrete and practical guideline. As far as anyone knows, there’s no magic number of hand-fed meals that will prevent resource guarding.

Use Your Puppy’s Food as Training Rewards

You should also be using some of Baby Dogalini’s food as training rewards--sure, she has a short attention span, but even at nine weeks a puppy can be learning to sit, lie down, walk next to you in the house, and come when called, not to mention any tricks you feel like teaching. Just before mealtime, set aside 10 or 15 bits of Baby Dogalini’s food and use them as rewards in a short training session. Then either hand feed her, if you have time, or ask her to sit while you set down her bowl containing the rest of her food. The delivery of that bowl is a huge reward for her self-control in holding the sit. And all the time you’re building up Baby Dogalini’s sense that food is something you provide for her and that she can earn from you.

Add a Little Something Extra to Your Puppy’s Bowl

The second lesson, that it’s a Yay! moment when people show up near her food, is just as easy to teach. Keep a stash of goodies in the fridge--bits of leftover roast chicken or fish, pinky-nail-size cubes of cheese, a piece of penne bearing traces of Alfredo sauce. Once a day, as Baby Dogalini eats, swing by and feed her one of those goodies or drop it in her bowl. Every so often, pick up her bowl, feed her the goodie directly or add it to her food, and then return the bowl. Ask guests to participate, including children. Young children, of course, should have close adult supervision--this isn’t a time to play with the puppy, but just to give her a little present. The message for Baby Dogalini: “My family, visitors, little kids--anybody coming near me while I eat is liable to make my supper even better! Yay, people!”