What Is Resource Guarding?

Resource guarding is a behaviour challenge in which a dog guards a valued resource of their choosing against a person, dog, cat, or other. 

It is often called:

  • possession aggression
  • dominance aggression
  • space-guarding
  • “protectiveness”

The most common and accurate term is “Resource Guarding”. 

Resource guarding is a negotiation for space and/or resources.

This particular behaviour challenge is one of the most “normal” behaviours in a dog’s toolbox as they are programmed to guard valuables, naturally, in order to survive. If they did not guard their valued resources (food, water, resting areas, mates, offspring), they would not have survived as a species. Resource guarding is evolutionarily imperative.

Unfortunately, through the imperfect process of domestication over tens of thousands of years, our pet dogs have not gotten the memo that there is an abundance of most resources available to them in their lives, therefore there is no need to guard as ferociously. As a result, resource guarding is one of the most common, concerning challenges most trainers are called upon to help resolve, and one of the most common reasons for bite incidents. 

Resource guarding does not happen in ALL dogs, however, it is common in varying levels in most dogs. There is a very strong genetic component to this behaviour challenge, meaning, if your dog’s parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc.,  were “guardy dogs” then your dog has a very strong likelihood of becoming a “guardy dog” too. 

What if we see Resource Guarding in a young puppy (under 4-5 months)? 

Environment also has an equal say in this behaviour challenge! Training uses punishment and/or harsher methods, specific treatments, and chronic stress or illness can all cause a dog to start resource guarding when they did not beforehand. 

There is so much we can do to prevent resource guarding in dogs from day one! Let’s dig in.

Have you been told to pick up your dog’s food bowl while they’re eating, then return it to them so that they “get used to it” or learn that the food belongs to you, not them? 

This is the number one fastest way to CREATE a resource-guarding dog. 

Imagine if a server at a restaurant did this to you repeatedly? You would not tolerate this after the first or second try! 

Don’t do it. Let your dog eat in peace.