Resource guarding food, with a twist

Hi all, I've read through the resource guarding posts but I'm wondering if the same thing goes when it's his food?

Bernie just turned 8 months old and very recently started getting 'weird' about his food. Just in the last week when I walk by him eating and run my hand down his pack or give him a pat he tenses up, stops eating, and slowly looks up at me. I think he growled once, not sure.

I want to fix this YESTERDAY and want to know if there's any difference between correcting techniques with toys and with his food?

The twist I mentioned (and maybe this is actually normal) is that when we correct his resource guarding of special bones or toys he becomes a prima donna and won't even look at the bone or toy for at least a day, sometimes multiple days. And this doesn't mean he's recognizing we're in charge, because he goes right back to guarding it when he decides to show interest in it again.This is a whole other problem.

I guess with the food issue, I'm worried it will mess up his eating. I know I could take the 'tough love' approach and figure he'll eat if he's hungry enough, but I'd rather not resort to that if there's a better way.


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  • This reply was deleted.
    • Thank you Maria! He's getting better, and I think a lot of it is coming with his improvement with "give". We've been using the word a lot, and making up reasons for him to give us stuff. And we always make sure he gets it back after shaking, sitting, laying down, earning it, so we're not being bullies and making him wary of our approach when he has something.

      With the food I actually started kneeling down and holding his dish. With my thumbs in the bowl. I'll let him eat a few bites then make him sit. I'll hold onto it for another minute or so. Make him shake, lay down, etc. and then put his dish back where it belongs. He has to sit until I say "good boy, okay!". 

      And yes, I've utilized the pinning and growling method! You are so right, it gets their attention. I do it mostly when he gets feisty and wont stop jumping up an mouthing me, he gets so excited I can't shake it out of him, and at 60 lbs he's nearly as tall as I am when he jumps up.

      I appreciate your reply, I know this is a common issue and being able to read what's worked for other people is an awesome resource!

  • I swoop down and take whatever is being guarded and if it was his meal, so be it!  I made Clancy sit and wait for release before I let him eat.  At first I just kept picking up the bowl when he wanted to eat before I released him.  I didn't make him wait long when I fed him; just long enough for me to set it down and release him so that he knew I was the one in charge of it.
  • I didn't read through all the responses and honestly have not had a problem with Peri on this one.  Mainly because we have done a lot of training and I make her sit, wait, etc... for her food, treats, basically anything she wants. I literally put her food down and make he sit-stay for a few seconds. Then I say "good girl! take it!" and she knows it is her cue to eat.  I think psychologically it makes her know that it is not "hers" unless I tell her it's okay and she can have it.  Start trying that technique also...
    • That's the extra frustrating thing Allyson, he's really good with sit, stay, come, shake, etc. and getting much much better at give. And my husband and I both agree that "nothing is free". He earns pretty much everything other than rump scratches! He waits for his food, in a sit, like you mentioned, waits for the "okay dinner!" signal before eating. It's just so bizarre that out of nowhere (seemingly) he's gotten weird about his food. I just wish he could tell me why! I appreciate your input, and I think you're totally right, we're looking into some more tricks to continue challenging him in regards to what earns treats and such.
    • Is Bernie good with his commands out in public and around distractions?  That I think makes a difference.  Working the dog so he's 'good' everywhere and obeys everywhere. Then something like YOU walking by while he eats or asking him to give you something he has isn't any harder than trying to hold a down stay by the dog park fence for 5 minutes.
    • Good point Adina. He's definitely better at home. He's pretty good out in public, but I always feel I only have partial attention. For example he'll sit to let people by on our walk, we'll let them get ahead, I wait til he seems calm, but as soon as we're walking again he's at the end of his leash, desperate to catch up to them and say hi. He's good with 'come' at the dog park, excellent really, and 'sit', but we haven't worked on 'stay' - this is a good reminder. His obedience reliability could improve overall, there's definitely room for improvement in all areas. The next classes will help us get back on track and get my husband and I on the same again - which is most important.
  • Have you read the book "Mine!" by Jean Donaldson? Or "Culture Clash"? I would STRONGLY recommend you consult with a professional trainer who is trained in animal behavior. Start with this article

    The behavior you're describing (the "not interested for a day until he decides he's interested") is what's to be expected in using suppression (rather than training). "Corrections" are suppressive- they stop the behavior, but it does not train the dog what *to* do. There are behavior protocals which are used to successfully work on any form of resource guarding, whether it's food, toys, people, etc.

    While I understand what you're trying to convey when people say "the dog is showing dominance", applying labels like that to a whole range of behavior doesn't normally lead to a mindset that actually gets to why the dog is resource guarding. You may want to read some articles to help get you in the right mindset for solving the problem rather than correcting the symptom - , or


    If you talk to a trainer, or at least read "Mine!" there are some very easy to do behavior protocals that will get to the root of the problem.At the very least, starting a "Nothing In Life is Free" (NILF) program should help immediatly!


    Good luck! Feel free to ask if you need help finding resources...



    • Thanks for all the input Leann. The exchange game will be our new MO! What you describe sounds like my situation with Bernie, I'm stopping him "in the moment" but it's not producing the result I want for the long haul.

      I'll definitely check out the articles and fortunately we'll be back in obedience class within the week so I'll have access to some trainers.

    • Good luck! I know how scarry it can be!! I had a resource guarder myself. She guarded EVERYTHING, including our bed, the floor, a room, me, food- you name it. After about 2 years she bacame a therapy dog and lived out her life being sweet and kind to residents in homes- so I know it can be done! It's what caused me to study animal behavior and become a trainer...

      So just think of everything you'll get to learn from her! Congrats! :)

  • Resource guarding is a tough, confusing issue for me.  Different trainers with different philosophies approach it differently.

    On the one hand I can take anything from my dogs.  And I want it to always be that way.  I think via basic obedience training and daily interaction and setting boundaries and being consistent you can establish your right to all goods in the house. At the same time, my trainer believes that you shouldn't take stuff from dogs (like food) for the sake of taking stuff.  Or bother them excessively while they eat for the sake of 'practice'.  She compares it to how you'd feel if someone consistently came by while you were eating and picked up your plate...even if they always gave it back...eventually you'd be pretty irritated about it and want it to just STOP. 

    So my non-professional opinion is that taking an obedience approach to leadership--putting in the time in training to establish your leadership and relationship so the dog thinks you have the RIGHT to tell him what to do and take anything away is the best way to go.  And in the meantime, let him eat in peace.  But again, there are varied opinions on this.

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