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Resource guarding is common for pets, dangerous for owners

Posted July 16, 2014

Dog

— Does your dog growl when you approach its food bowl? Are they possessive of toys and treats? 

Resource guarding is commonplace for many dogs, but when it becomes more severe, the activity can become dangerous for dog owners.

Different dogs have different tendencies, according to the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association. Some dogs guard only from certain people, while other dogs guard their resources from all people. 

Some dogs may guard only chew bones or toys, but many guard food because that is what they know. Puppies compete with their litter mates for limited amounts of food, and breeders often feed puppies from one large communal pan, meaning the biggest puppies get the most food. 

A good way to prevent resource guarding is to be around pets during mealtime at an early age. This helps pets realize that they don't need to compete with humans for food.

"Resource guarding can be a serious issue for many pet owners," Dr. Shannon Foy, president-elect of the Veterinary Medical Association, said in a statement. "If your pet is showing signs of extreme aggression, be sure to alert your veterinarian and seek consultation from a behavioral specialist. You need to be especially cautious if your aggressive pet interacts with small children on a regular basis."

Common examples of resource guarding include the following:

  • Running away with a coveted item
  • Growling at an approaching person
  • Barking
  • Stiffening of the body
  • Biting
  • Chasing a person away
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