Possession Prevention in Puppies
Possession behaviors, also known as “resource guarding”, is a natural survival behavior that all animals display, including humans. These behaviors can be normal and mild, but they can escalate and become quite dangerous if not addressed appropriately. To learn more about resource guarding, take a look at my blog post Don’t Steal: How to Prevent Resource Guarding
For new puppy owners, it is of utmost importance to prevent possession problems from occurring. Many owners and even some professionals are under the impression that we should show our puppy who is the boss by sticking our hands into the puppy's food bowl while they are eating or reaching over and grabbing a bone out of puppy's mouth. However, this is false. In fact, this can actually cause resource guarding behaviors to surface or get worse over time. This is because a puppy can learn that when they have an item in their possession (such as a bone or eating out of their food dish) and a person approaches them, they may feel the need to guard the item because it was taken away from them in the past. Instead, we want to teach our puppy that our appearance is not a bad thing.
Helpful Video: Here is a link to a video I created with my puppy, Journey, to help teach you how to implement a simple resource guarding prevention exercise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNcEu-SesqI
Prevention Plan Tips
Here are some things you can start doing to prevent issues from occurring. If you are currently dealing with resource guarding issues, I suggest hiring a behavior professional so that you can properly get these issues addressed.
- Do not reach over to the puppy and stick your hands in the food dish, especially while puppy is eating
- Do not pet or touch puppy while eating out of the food dish or chewing on a bone
- Do not tease or provoke puppy
- Do not grab or flip your puppy over to show that you are 'the boss'.
- If a puppy growls do not get loud or physical with a puppy as this can cause them to defend themselves, possibly making things get worse over time.
- Do not chase puppy if they have an item in their possession. Instead try trading with higher value food such as boiled chicken breast, cheese, or something of equal value.
- Understand Canine Body Language: My last piece of advice is to learn about canine body language and communication. All dog owners should learn and understand this whether or not their dog has a behavior issue. Here is a helpful article by Victoria Stilwell on Canine Body Language https://positively.com/dog-training/understanding-dogs/canine-body-language/
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