Unfortunately, many people can create a resource guarding problem by frequently taking items away from their dog, whether it's food, toys, or something else. What this does is teaches your dog that people approaching their resources means they will take it away, and this encourages them to guard it.
Another common occurrence is that people will view their dog's growl as a challenge for authority and will punish their dog for this and then take the item away, in an attempt to teach them not to guard. However, again, taking the item away only reaffirms your dog's worries that you are there to take their resources from them. The other major concern with this is that if growling didn't work to warn you, your dog may feel the need to escalate to a bite. In actuality, punishing your dog for growling in any situation is a bad idea. Dog's growl to communicate. A growl is a good thing; it is your dog's way of avoiding conflict by asking you to stop what you are doing without resorting to anything physical.
So what can and should you do if your dog guards resources?
We want to teach the dog that humans approaching his resources = good stuff happens!
- Always work at a distance your dog is comfortable with. In other words, stand far enough away so that you don't elicit any response from your dog. (Responses can be freezing, stiffening, staring, growling, etc.)
- From this distance, throw your dog's favourite treats to him, one at a time and allow him to eat them.
- Walk away.
- Repeat this process several times.
- This time as you approach the distance you normally stand at, take an extra half a step closer, and then throw treats at your dog. Repeat.
- Gradually build up so that you can be closer and closer to your dog without eliciting a guarding response.
- If at any point your dog begins to guard, simply take a step back, and work at a distance your dog is comfortable with.