Resource Guarding Blueprint

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  3. K9-1 Reference Material
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  6. Resource Guarding Blueprint

This plan does not explain the behavior of resource guarding or how to teach the training exercises necessary to execute the plan. 

Please refer to the latest Foundation Style Dog Training Course before attempting a blueprint.


  1. Ethology – Review resource guarding and especially what is NOT resource guarding.  You may need to make plans that address other aggression types as well (reference aggression types here).
  2. Health
    1. Be sure the dog is on a quality diet.  It may make subtle differences.
    2. Be sure the dog is eating enough calories to sustain weight.  Hungrier dogs will be more motivated to resource guard food.
    3. Consider any evidence that the aggression may be related to pain or discomfort.
    4. Consider neutering male dogs in extreme cases.  Testosterone can exasperate the intensity of any type of aggression and is reported as a risk factor in most dog bite studies.
  3. Diagnosis – After considering ethology and health, if the dog is not your own, be sure to communicate to the owner a clear diagnosis of what the behavior is, what is triggering it, and what may be exasperating it.
  4. Attitude – Recognize if there are any poor attitudes that have been formed before understanding the behavior (the dog is a jerk, trying to be the boss, etc..) and attempt to change the attitude based off the true etiology of the behavior before working on a plan with the owner.  Any plans or behavior that are influenced by a poor or incorrect attitude will likely have side effects.
  5. Manage – Without much formal training resource guarding is usually easily managed to prepare for further training or to reduce incidents in the cases where no further training is feasible.
    1. Dogs are kept separated during feeding times.
    2. All objects (human items and dog toys) are carefully managed so that the dog can only access them during planned times.
    3. Do not reach for anything in the dog’s ownership zone.
    4. The play is done with two equal value toys (two balls, two tugs, etc..) to avoid the need for contests over one toy.
    5. Use distraction or trade tactics if the dog accidentally has an object it is not supposed to have.
    6. Do not leave items that the dog associates with valuable resources accessible to people, especially children (empty bowls, open crates, dog beds).
    7. Use extreme supervision around children or anyone not familiar with the dog’s triggers.
  6. Leadership – Strict leadership exercises reinforce the management and further prepare the dog for more formal training:  Refresher here
  7. Habitation – Strict housebreaking that involves environmental punishment for taking possession of any object that is not given to the dog by the handler can eliminate most situations where there would otherwise be a conflict between the dog and humans.  Also, a dog that is properly habituated to the home, in general, has its needs better attended to and managed by the owner which further eliminates the potential motivation for conflict. Habitation is best reviewed here.
  8. Training – Minimal training recommended for managing resource guarding (phase 3 level)
    1. Out – drop the object from the mouth
    2. Leave it – disengage focus from an object
    3. Place, climb, mat, post, or similar command to send to an area.
    4. Come
    5. Sit or down
    6. Off
  9. Advanced – Use the training to do these exercises.  Be sure to use the dog training trinity as much as possible during the process.
    1. Go to a “place” to eat, as a command, BEFORE counter-conditioning. Great for dogs that skip steps in the aggression cycle.
    2. Obedience which removes the dog from the food/object (take the dog away from the object, NOT the object away from the dog): come, place, off, leave it, out, etc..
    3. Extra focus on randomly dropped objects and the command “leave it”.
    4. If involving inter-dog aggression:
      1. The focus is mostly on the dogs that instigate the resource guarder.  Use “leave it” and other commands to disengage and direct the instigator to another activity.  Remember, resource guarding is normal between dogs but can be a problem if one dog does not respond to the guarding behavior of the dog in possession of a resource or the resource guarder skips normal warnings causing harm to other dogs for otherwise minor infractions.
      2. If the resource guarder skips steps in the aggression cycle consider a “place” to eat command or physical separation during feeding times.
    5. Most exercises involving human-directed aggression should include desensitizing of the humans’ presence around resources and counter-conditioning of the direct approach.  Dogs should always feel as if it is in their best interest to drop a resource or leave a resource on command.  The use of Premack principal and high-value rewards are a necessity for the best results.
    6. Punishment is best used in severe cases where dogs skip steps in the aggression cycle and leave the resource to bite a human, but this should be a rare need and limited to extreme cases where desensitizing and counter-conditioning cannot be accomplished safely within a reasonable amount of time.  In these cases, the punishment should be applied at earliest attempt to bite a human and NOT when there is contact. This is why eating at a “place” is a good exercise.  The dogs can be punished for leaving the place instead of for the aggression itself.  This allows for better timing of punishment and safer training.

Things to consider:

  • Some dogs, through classical conditioning, will guard areas associated with resources.  For example, a dog may act as if guarding a bone while inside his/her crate even though there are no bones present.  Or may guard a bowl, even when it is empty. If this occurs you may do the same exercises with the area as you would a food bowl.   You may also eliminate access to the area or attempt to weaken the association (don’t feed bones in the crate) if it is convenient for the situation.
  • Safety precautioned should always be exercised with dogs that are capable of inflicting serious injury.  Be extra cautious with dogs that have a known history of skipping steps in the aggression cycle and/or are powerful enough to overpower a person.  Layered clothing with Cordura or leather on the outer layer, protective gloves, and/or other clothing specifically manufactured to protect against dog bites should be used when there is not a physical barrier, restraint, and/or help of a second person between you and a dog that is in early stages of training.  The use of back-ties can also be useful to give teh dog freedom of movement while keeping a trainer out of range of a bite.


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