Ask a Dog Trainer: Why Do Some Dogs Guard?

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Resource guarding is one of the most talked about topics by trainers, but many dog owners are still in the dark when it comes to knowing what exactly it is and why dogs do it. In fact, many owners living with a resource guarder do not really understand what that means when it comes to interacting with the dog. So, something happens, dog bites, dog gets put down.

The behavior stems from an easy idea: “It’s mine and you can’t have it.” Just like a child on the playground that won’t share her candy, your dog doesn’t want to share or give up whatever they have in their possession.

Aside from the definition, however, resource guarding is actually a bit of an enigma.

For starters, what do dogs guard? Well, anything they find valuable says Robin Bennett, CPDT-KA. Bennett is author of All About Dog Daycare and co-author of Off Leash Dog Play and Knowing Dogs Staff Training. She is an expert at dog body language and has a lot of experience with resource guarders.

“It’s hard to say why dogs guard other than the fact that they find something valuable,” she says.  “WHY they find it valuable is a matter of interpretation. Some things taste good (food, treats, etc), some dogs like privacy and space and will guard locations (doors, beds, furniture), and some dogs like attention and will prevent others from coming near their favorite person.”

The common items dog guard, of course, are things like food, toys, bed and people. But Bennett says dogs can guard anything they see as valuable and to that end, she has seen dogs that guarded Christmas ornaments, DVD cases, and even vomit.

Watch For Signs

Wondering what a dog that guards looks like? This video is an EXCELLENT example of what NOT to do and What TO DO if you need to get something away from a dog that guards.