What is “Resource Guarding” and What Can I Do About it?

My bloodhound died a few months ago, and I found a bloodhound puppy available through a local rescue group. When I applied to adopt her, they turned me down because I have young grandchildren who sleep over sometimes. They said the puppy had a problem with “resource guarding.” What is that and why is it a big deal for my grandkids’ visits? Is this something I could train out of the dog? ~ Ellie

“Resource guarding” is when a dog is willing to growl, snap, or bite to protect something she has. Some obvious possibilities are food and rawhides, but the tricky part is that the dog gets to decide what’s worth guarding. I’ve known dogs who guard Styrofoam balls, wet bathing suits, spilled cereal, food wrappers, and plastic toys.

Mild resource guarding can respond well to behavior modification in an adults-only household, but it’s a very tricky problem to manage with kids around. Kids have trouble reading a dog’s body language and usually don’t recognize some of the early warning signals, such as stiffening or curled lips. Also with kids, food and garbage are much tougher to manage. Kids frequently spill their plates when carrying them to the sink, miss the garbage can with their napkins, and carry a cookie as they walk from room to room. A resource-guarding dog could become aggressive at any of those times.

If the rescue group turned you down, they must think this dog has a serious resource-guarding problem. I’m sure you are disappointed, but I think you’d be wise to look for a different pup.

About the Author

Living with kids and dogs is a lot of work! But when things are going well, a dog can be your child's best friend. That experience is a wonderful gift for any child and well worth the effort involved. Got a question? Let's talk!

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