Mixed breeds, pedigree dogs, any dog can resort to resource guarding. In fact, guarding prized possessions is a normal dog behavior. Any dog can have a bone or a toy that they cherish. It’s not unusual for dogs to guard certain items in order to keep them safe from other dogs. However, this kind of behavior can become a problem if your dog doesn’t recognise that you, the owner, need to have access to anything he or she has. If your dog growls at you or offers to snap or bite at you when you try to take something from him, you have a problem.
One way to prevent resource guarding right from the start is to teach a puppy that you will always give him something better when you take something from him. This is called “trading” or “trading up” in dog training terms. You can also teach this concept to an adult dog, though it may take a little more work if your dog has already started guarding things.
In order to make a trade with your dog, you can use a couple of objects such as wooden spoons. Keep one of them plain and load the other one up with peanut butter or something tasty that a puppy will love. Then, offer the plain object to your puppy to sniff and mouth. When your puppy is checking out the object, ask him, “Want to trade?” Switch the plain spoon for the spoon loaded with peanut butter. Your puppy should be happy to make the trade! While your puppy is licking the peanut butter off the spoon, you should load up the plain spoon with peanut butter. Once your puppy has cleaned off the peanut butter from his spoon, you should ask, “Want to trade?” and switch his licked spoon for the spoon you have just loaded up with peanut butter. Again, your puppy should be happy to make the trade. If you keep doing this a few times, your puppy should associate the phrase “Want to trade?” with getting something good. You can practice making this exchange with other items. Just be sure that you are always offering your puppy or dog something that is better than the item he is guarding.
If your puppy or dog learns that you will always give him something better than what he has, you shouldn’t have any problem with being able to take things away from him when necessary.
This lesson is based on trust. Your puppy or dog has to learn to trust that you will follow through and give him something good, so you have to live up to your part of the bargain. Don’t offer to trade with your puppy or dog unless you are really going to give him something good. If you make good trades with your puppy or dog, trading usually works very well and it’s a good way to prevent resource guarding.