Dear Critter Corner: I have noticed that when I give my pup a chew stick or other high-value item, he tends to go and hide from me while chewing on it. The other night, I got close to where he was chewing on the stick and he growled at me. I am not sure what to do, can you help?
This behavior is referred to as resource guarding and you should seek professional help to address it properly so that no one gets hurt and your dog learns to share. In the meantime, here are a few tips to help if you are in that situation again.
Respect your dogs warning! Don’t escalate the situation by yelling at your dog, trying to overpower them or getting them into a corner, this is a recipe for a bite. Instead, work on trying to find something to exchange with your dog for the item they have, such as a high value treat. Work on the de-escalation, not the escalation of the situation.
Manage your dog’s environment. If there are certain items you know the dog guards, they should not have access to them until you have solid exchanges in place. Work with boring low-value items and encourage your pup to take the item and then ask for a drop or give cue and present something of higher value to your pup for the trade. Allow them to have the low-value item back again.
Teach your pup that when you come close, really good stuff happens. Give your pup a medium-value item and allow them to have it and get settled. Have a small handful of high-value items and walk toward your pup’s general area. Don’t go so close to cause a growl, just enough for them to notice you and then toss a treat at them and walk away. Repeat this several times so that your pup is leaving the item alone as they see you approach in anticipation of the treat you are going to toss them.
If you are having problems with your pup guarding objects, please reach out to schedule a 1:1 Consultation with one of our behaviorists to help you address the issue at www.phs-spca.org.