Resource guarding is exhibited by many canines, and is one of the most commonly reported behaviour issues to canine professionals. It is seen when a dog uses specific behaviour patterns so that they can control access to an item, and the patterns are flexible when people are around. If a canine places value on some resource (i.e. food, toys, etc.) they may attempt to guard it from other animals as well as people, which leads to behavioural problems if not treated. The guarding can show in many different ways from rapid ingestion of food to using the body to shield items. It manifests as aggressive behaviour including, but not limited to, growling, barking, or snapping. Some dogs will also resource guard their owners and can become aggressive if the behaviour is allowed to continue. Owners must learn to interpret their dog's body language in order to try to judge the dog's reaction, as visual signals are used (i.e. changes in body posture, facial expression, etc.) to communicate feeling and response. These behaviours are commonly seen in shelter animals, most likely due to insecurities caused by a poor environment. Resource guarding is a concern since it can lead to aggression, but research has found that aggression over guarding can be contained by teaching the dog to drop the item they are guarding.
Now think about it from Scout’s perspective. His Mommy wants him to leave the security of his cozy 2,500-square foot home, leave his family, toys, and blankies, and run into the downstairs bathroom or to the back door whenever he feels the urge to go. If Scout could talk, I envision him saying “Or I could make a quick stop in the guest room or behind the sofa when no one is looking.” It not only gets the job done, he doesn’t have to bother anyone, go outside, or loose more than a few seconds of his day.
If you ask around, you’ll get all kinds of advice about training your dog. Some people will tell you that the key is to use a “firm hand”-to make sure your dog doesn’t think she can get away with naughty behavior. Some people argue that you should only use rewards in dog training and avoid punishing your dog in any way. Some people insist that all you have to do is “be the alpha dog,” assert your status as the dominant leader of your “pack.” It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the glut of differing opinions out there.
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