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Resource guarding is a common problem among many dog breeds, including the Havanese. If your Havanese is exhibiting aggressive or territorial behavior when it comes to food, toys, or other possessions, it may be resource guarding. This can be a serious issue that can lead to dangerous situations for both your dog and other pets or people in the household. Fortunately, there are ways to address and stop this behavior. In this article, we will explore some effective strategies for preventing and resolving resource guarding in Havanese dogs, without resorting to punitive or harmful methods.
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 Havanese’s Resource Guarding
The first step in addressing resource guarding is to identify the specific triggers causing your Havanese to display this behavior. Observe your Havanese 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 Havanese Against Resource Guarding
Desensitization and counter-conditioning are powerful techniques to help your Havanese 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 Havanese 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 Havanese the “Leave It” Command
Training your Havanese 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 Havanese.
- 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 Havanese the “Drop It” or “Give” Commands
Similar to the “leave it” command, teaching your Havanese 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 Havanese
The “trade-up” technique involves offering your Havanese 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 Havanese
Punishing your Havanese 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 Havanese’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 Havanese is Resource Guarding
Here are three signs that your Havanese may be resource guarding:
- Growling or snarling: Your Havanese may growl or snarl when someone approaches their food, toys, or other possessions.
- Stiff body language: Your Havanese may show signs of tension or stiffness when someone approaches their possessions, indicating that they are guarding their resources.
- Nipping or biting: In extreme cases, your Havanese may resort to nipping or biting to protect their resources, which can be dangerous for both humans and other animals in the household.
In conclusion, resource guarding can be a serious problem for Havanese dogs and their owners. The signs of resource-guarding behavior, such as growling, snapping, and biting, can be alarming and even dangerous. However, there are ways to prevent and manage resource guarding in Havanese dogs. It is important to understand the underlying causes of resource guarding and to work with a professional trainer or behaviorist to develop an individualized plan for your dog. Consistency, positive reinforcement, and effective communication are key elements of any successful approach to managing and preventing resource guarding in Havanese dogs. With patience and persistence, it is possible to address this issue and promote a safe and happy home for both you and your furry friend.
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.