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Resource guarding is a common behavioral issue that many dog owners face, regardless of the breed. Shelties, also known as Shetland Sheepdogs, are known for their loyalty and affectionate nature. However, some Shelties may exhibit resource guarding behavior, which can be concerning and potentially dangerous. It’s important to recognize the signs of resource guarding and take steps to address the behavior before it becomes a serious issue. In this article, we’ll discuss ways to prevent and stop resource guarding in Shelties, allowing for a happier and healthier 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 Sheltie’s Resource Guarding
The first step in addressing resource guarding is to identify the specific triggers causing your Sheltie to display this behavior. Observe your Sheltie 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 Sheltie Against Resource Guarding
Desensitization and counter-conditioning are powerful techniques to help your Sheltie 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 Sheltie 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 Sheltie the “Leave It” Command
Training your Sheltie 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 Sheltie.
- 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 Sheltie the “Drop It” or “Give” Commands
Similar to the “leave it” command, teaching your Sheltie 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 Sheltie
The “trade-up” technique involves offering your Sheltie 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 Sheltie
Punishing your Sheltie 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 Sheltie’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 Sheltie is Resource Guarding
Here are three signs that your Sheltie is resource guarding:
- Growling or snapping when approached: If your Sheltie growls or snaps when someone comes near their food bowl, toys, or any other objects they consider valuable, it could be a sign of resource guarding.
- Tense body language: A Sheltie that is resource guarding may display tense body language, such as stiffening up, freezing, or even lunging forward to protect their possessions.
- Possessive behavior: Resource guarding often leads to possessive behavior, where a Sheltie may become overly possessive of their toys, food, or other objects, guarding them even when they are not using them.
In conclusion, resource guarding is a common behavior issue that can be exhibited by dogs of any breed, including Shelties. It can be a serious problem that can result in aggression, injuries, and even legal issues. Recognizing the signs of resource guarding is the first step in addressing the issue, and early intervention can prevent the behavior from becoming more ingrained. While there are no one-size-fits-all solutions for stopping resource guarding in Shelties, there are a variety of techniques and training methods that can be employed to help modify the behavior. Consultation with a professional trainer or behaviorist is often recommended to address this issue effectively.
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.