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Resource Guarding in Dogs

Posted on 12th February 2024

Jack Russel with a yellow tennis ball in hand, the owner is also holding the ball

Puppies can learn to resource guard from as early as 4 weeks old when they are weaning and fully mobile. 

We know that puppies raised in poor conditions such as puppy farms or dirty environments are more likely to develop resource guarding behaviours. 

Poor conditions make infections more likely. Infections and parasitic infestations literally starve the growing puppy of nutrients and make guarding of food more likely. 

As well as raising puppies in a healthy, clean environment, there is more that breeders can do to prevent resource guarding occurring in young puppies.


Feed the puppies from separate bowls

It is traditional for pups to be fed from one large bowl. This can mean some pups eat more and push other pups aside. The under fed pups can develop resource guarding in their new homes when food is now plentiful. 

Your breeder should know how much each puppy is eating as well as being aware of what is coming out of the back end of each pup. 

Free for all feeding can cause problems. There are enough teats when mum is feeding so there should be enough bowls once weaning is taking pace. 


Ensure weaning is natural

Puppies who do not go through a normal weaning process where mum gradually withdraws herself and moves away when the pups try to suckle, develop less frustration tolerance and can be more prone to resource guarding. 

If the mum is removed to early or weaning is too quick, such as if mum is sick, hand feeding must include some frustration tolerance training. 

Ask your breeder how the puppies were weaned. 



An addition is when a person approaches and adds something such as small treats instead of taking something away 

When the pups settle to chew something, the breeder can start additions. Approach, wait for the look up and add treats from a distance. They can get closer when the puppy is happy about the approaches. 

After time, the puppy will welcome the person close to them even if the resource is really valuable 



Orientation is the desire of the pup to want to come closer to a person when they have something valuable. 

This is of particular importance with our retrieving breeds. 

Once the puppy is comfortable with additions, they can be encouraged to bring an object to the person to swap it for something good. 

This is also known as a “give”, “fetch” or “show me”


Provide lots of environmental stimulation

Puppies need to be raised in environments that contain lots of safe things for them to explore. This can be things to climb on, into, go under, chew, chase and more 

An environment which is rich in resources will produce a puppy who understands that there is always something else available so no need to hold onto things they have 

Avoid buying a puppy from a barren environment. 


Breeders play a vital role in the prevention of resource guarding.

Don’t be afraid to ask for the best for your puppy even before you bring them home.

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