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Resource guarding is a common behavioral problem in dogs, including Newfoundlands. It can be a serious issue that leads to aggression and other unwanted behaviors. If your Newfoundland is resource guarding, it’s important to address the issue as soon as possible to prevent it from escalating. There are several strategies you can use to stop your dog from resource guarding, and in this article, we’ll explore some of the most effective ways to address this behavior in Newfoundlands. Whether your dog is guarding food, toys, or space, there are steps you can take to address the issue and promote a safe and happy environment for both you and 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 Newfoundland’s Resource Guarding
The first step in addressing resource guarding is to identify the specific triggers causing your Newfoundland to display this behavior. Observe your Newfoundland 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 Newfoundland Against Resource Guarding
Desensitization and counter-conditioning are powerful techniques to help your Newfoundland 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 Newfoundland 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 Newfoundland the “Leave It” Command
Training your Newfoundland 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 Newfoundland.
- 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 Newfoundland the “Drop It” or “Give” Commands
Similar to the “leave it” command, teaching your Newfoundland 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 Newfoundland
The “trade-up” technique involves offering your Newfoundland 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 Newfoundland
Punishing your Newfoundland 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 Newfoundland’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 Newfoundland is Resource Guarding
- Growling or Snapping: One of the most obvious signs that your Newfoundland is resource guarding is growling or snapping when approached while they are eating, chewing a bone, or playing with a toy.
- Stiff Body Language: Another sign of resource guarding is a stiff or tense body posture. Your Newfoundland may stand over their food or toy with their body rigid, their tail raised, and their ears pinned back.
- Aggression: If your Newfoundland is resource guarding, they may become aggressive if you try to take away their toy or food. This aggression could be in the form of biting, lunging, or barking.
In conclusion, resource guarding is a common issue among many dog breeds, including the Newfoundland. It’s important to understand the signs of resource guarding, which may include growling or snapping when approached while eating, chewing, or playing with a toy. There are various methods that can be employed to help prevent or stop resource-guarding behavior, but it’s essential to approach this problem with patience and positive reinforcement. Seeking the help of a professional trainer or behaviorist can be useful in addressing this issue and creating a safe and peaceful environment for both the dog and their humans.
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.