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German Shepherds are one of the most popular dog breeds in the world, known for their intelligence, loyalty, and protective nature. However, this breed is also prone to resource guarding, a behavior that can result in aggression towards other animals or people. Resource guarding occurs when a dog becomes defensive over their possessions, such as food, toys, or even their owners. This can be a challenging issue for German Shepherd owners to manage, but there are effective ways to address it. In this article, we will explore some tips and techniques for stopping resource guarding in German Shepherds and fostering a safe and happy relationship with your furry friend.
Note: Resource guarding can be a challenging problem for a dog owner. In addition to the tips below, you may want to consider consulting the help of a professional. Two excellent online courses we reviewed for resource guarding are SpiritDog and K9 Training Institute.
1. Understand What’s Triggering Your German Shepherd’s Resource Guarding
The first step in addressing resource guarding is to identify the specific triggers causing your German Shepherd to display this behavior. Observe your German Shepherd closely and take note of which resources they guard and under what circumstances. Common triggers include:
- The presence of other dogs or pets
- Approach of family members, especially children
- Sudden movements or loud noises near the guarded resource
Understanding the triggers allows you to manage the environment effectively, preventing incidents before they occur.
2. Desensitization and Counter-Conditioning Your German Shepherd Against Resource Guarding
Desensitization and counter-conditioning are powerful techniques to help your German Shepherd overcome resource guarding. Desensitization involves gradually exposing your dog to the triggering situations, starting with low-intensity encounters and gradually increasing the intensity. Counter-conditioning, on the other hand, involves teaching your dog to associate the presence of the trigger with positive experiences.
For example, if your German Shepherd guards their food bowl when approached, start by standing a considerable distance away while they eat. Gradually decrease the distance over time, rewarding your dog with praise or treats when they remain calm. This process helps your dog associate your presence near their food with positive outcomes, reducing their need to guard the resource.
3. Teach Your German Shepherd the “Leave It” Command
Training your German Shepherd to respond to the “leave it” command is essential in addressing resource guarding. This command tells your dog to release whatever they’re holding or to stop focusing on a particular item. To teach this command:
- Hold a treat in your closed hand and present it to your German Shepherd.
- When your dog sniffs or paws at your hand, say “leave it.”
- Once your dog stops trying to get the treat, praise them and reward them with a treat from your other hand.
- Gradually progress to using the command with other objects, such as toys or food bowls.
Using the “leave it” command consistently can help prevent resource guarding incidents before they escalate.
4. Teach Your German Shepherd the “Drop It” or “Give” Commands
Similar to the “leave it” command, teaching your German Shepherd to “drop it” or “give” is crucial in managing resource guarding. These commands instruct your dog to release an item from their mouth or willingly give it to you. To teach these commands:
- Start by playing with a toy your dog likes but doesn’t typically guard.
- While your dog is holding the toy, say “drop it” or “give” and offer a high-value treat.
- When your dog releases the toy, praise them and give them the treat.
- Gradually progress to using the command with more valuable items.
5. Practice the “Trade-Up” Technique with Your German Shepherd
The “trade-up” technique involves offering your German Shepherd a higher-value item in exchange for the one they’re guarding. This method teaches your dog that surrendering a resource can lead to better rewards, reducing their need to guard. Practice this technique by offering a high-value treat or a favorite toy whenever your dog is guarding a less valuable item. Over time, your dog will learn that giving up a guarded resource is a positive experience.
6. Avoid Punishing Your German Shepherd
Punishing your German Shepherd for resource guarding can exacerbate the problem and lead to increased aggression. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement and reward-based training to modify your dog’s behavior. By consistently rewarding your dog for desired behaviors, you reinforce the idea that there’s no need to guard resources, as good things happen when they share or relinquish them. Remember that patience and consistency are key when working with a dog that displays resource guarding behaviors.
7. Try an Online Training Program for Resource Guarding
If your German Shepherd’s resource guarding behavior is severe or doesn’t improve with consistent training, it’s crucial to consult a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. These experts can help identify the root cause of the issue and create a tailored training plan to address the problem effectively. In some cases, medical issues or anxiety may contribute to resource guarding, and a veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist can help diagnose and treat these underlying conditions.
Our 2 favorite online courses are:
The Stop Resource Guarding training course, attended by 243 students, consists of 42 comprehensive lessons that teach you science-based, fear-free techniques to help your dog trust you around their treasures and train a solid “Drop It” cue. With lifetime access, step-by-step instructions, and a certificate upon completion, this course will transform your relationship with your dog and eliminate resource-guarding behaviors.
More than just a resource guarding course, this more comprehensive training course tackles any behavior problem you might face with your dog.
3 Signs Your German Shepherd is Resource Guarding
- Growling or Snarling: One of the most common signs of resource guarding in German Shepherds is growling or snarling when someone or another animal approaches their food, toys, or other possessions. This behavior is often accompanied by a tense body posture and a defensive stance.
- Stiff Body Language: Another sign of resource guarding in German Shepherds is stiff body language. When approached while eating or chewing on something, a resource-guarding dog may become stiff and rigid, showing their teeth, and even lunging or biting to protect their possession.
- Possessive Behavior: German Shepherds that exhibit resource-guarding tendencies may also become possessive of their owners or other people in the household. They may become protective of their owners when other people come near or attempt to interact with them, which can lead to growling, barking, or even biting. They may also become territorial over certain areas of the house or yard.
In conclusion, resource guarding is a common issue for German Shepherd owners, but it is a behavior that can be modified and corrected with the right approach. By recognizing the signs of resource guarding and taking the necessary steps to address it, owners can ensure a safer and more harmonious relationship with their furry friends. While every dog is unique, there are effective techniques that can be used to stop resource-guarding behaviors in German Shepherds. With patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement, owners can teach their dogs that resource guarding is not acceptable behavior and help them feel secure and confident in their environment.
Note: Resource guarding can be a challenging problem for a dog owner. In addition to the tips above, you may want to consider consulting the help of a professional. Two excellent online courses we like for resource guarding are SpiritDog and K9 Training Institute.