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7 Strategies to Stop Your Pit Bull’s Resource Guarding

Written by: Arlene D.
| Published on April 27, 2023
iHeartDogs is reader supported. Some of the links below may be paid affiliate links, where we receive a small commission on a product at no additional cost to you. 

Pit bulls are known for their loyalty and protective nature, making them a popular choice for households seeking a reliable and affectionate companion. However, resource guarding can become a challenging issue for pit bull owners to manage. Resource guarding occurs when a dog becomes aggressive or defensive over their possessions, such as food, toys, or even their owners. This behavior can lead to serious consequences, including injury to other animals or people. In this article, we will explore some effective ways to address resource guarding in pit bulls and provide tips to ensure a safe and harmonious relationship between 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 Pit Bull’s Resource Guarding

The first step in addressing resource guarding is to identify the specific triggers causing your Pit Bull to display this behavior. Observe your Pit Bull 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 Pit Bull Against Resource Guarding

Desensitization and counter-conditioning are powerful techniques to help your Pit Bull 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 Pit Bull 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 Pit Bull the “Leave It” Command

Training your Pit Bull 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 Pit Bull.
  • 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 Pit Bull the “Drop It” or “Give” Commands

Similar to the “leave it” command, teaching your Pit Bull 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 Pit Bull

    The “trade-up” technique involves offering your Pit Bull 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 Pit Bull

    Punishing your Pit Bull 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 Pit bull’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:

    1. SpiritDog’s “Stop Resource Guarding” Course

    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.

    2. K9 Training Institute’s “Dog Masterclass”

    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 Pit Bull is Resource Guarding

    1. Growling or Snarling: One of the most obvious signs of resource guarding in pit bulls is growling or snarling when someone or another animal approaches their food, toys, or other possessions. This is often accompanied by a tense body posture and a defensive stance.
    2. Stiffness and Aggression: Another sign that your pit bull may be resource guarding is if they become stiff and aggressive when approached while they are eating or chewing on something. This can manifest in a variety of ways, including showing teeth, lunging, and even biting.
    3. Possessive Behavior: Pit bulls with resource-guarding tendencies may also exhibit possessive behavior over 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 can be a challenging issue for pit bull owners, but it is not impossible to overcome. By being aware of the signs of resource guarding and taking the appropriate steps to address it, you can ensure a safe and harmonious relationship between you and your furry friend. Remember, every dog is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this issue. With patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement, you can teach your pit bull 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.

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