Puppies are adorable, snuggly, chubby little bundles of love… most of the time. Some puppies develop a bad habit called resource guarding that’s usually accompanied by aggression toward people and/or other pets. If you’re a new dog owner, resource guarding can be very discouraging. Fortunately, you can get things back on the right track with a little time and patience.
What is Resource Guarding?
Resource guarding happens when a puppy becomes possessive of his bed, a toy, or most often, treat or food. Some puppies can become alarmingly aggressive, and a new dog owner may be unsure how to handle the situation. Here are some steps you can take to resolve the problem.
How to Break Your Puppy’s Resource Guarding Habit
Breaking your puppy’s resource guarding habit will take some dedication and time, but it is worth the effort.
Start by sitting on the floor next to the puppy’s empty food dish. Using a spoon, feed the puppy one mouthful of food at a time. This is called installment feeding. It may take a couple of meals, but eventually you will notice that the puppy is happy to see the spoon after each swallow.
Now you’re going to transition from giving the food directly to the puppy and start putting each spoonful of food directly into his bowl, one bite at a time. Do this for a few meals, until you see no evidence that she is guarding the food or the bowl.
Now, stand next to the bowl, spoon a few bites of food into the dish, and step back. When you step forward to put the next few bites of food in the dish, the puppy should still be finishing the food you gave him previously. Continue this process until the puppy looks up and wags his tail when you approach. Now, you can slowly increase the withdrawal distance and increase the amount of food you place in the bowl each time.
Now, you’re going to put her entire meal in the bowl and step back a few feet. After he eats a few bites, step forward and put one of his favorite treats in the bowl. Continue the process every few bites until the puppy begins to look up and wage his tail as you approach the bowl.
Now that you’ve gotten to this point, cut back to offering just one special treat per meal. Approach at random times and from different directions. By now, the puppy shouldn’t be guarding his bowl at all. He should get excited and happy when he sees you coming.
Now that the puppy is comfortable with you approaching his bowl, have other family members offer the puppy treats in his bowl as he eats. Continue this process until he gets happy and excited to see every member of the household approaching the bowl while he eats. Slowly, add in some petting when you give the treat, but don’t try removing his bowl while he’s eating until he is there are no signs of unease when you handle him while he’s eating.
This process will take time, and you should continue to approach his bowl and offer a treat and some pets throughout his lifetime to ensure that the bad habit doesn’t return. You can use similar processes for puppy’s who guard their bed or toys, too.