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Resource guarding is a behavior exhibited by some Westies that can be problematic for their owners. This behavior can manifest as an aggressive behavior when the dog feels like their possessions, food, or personal space are threatened. Resource guarding can be a serious issue that can put both the dog and its owners at risk. Fortunately, there are ways to manage this behavior and prevent it from becoming a problem. In this article, we will explore some ways to stop resource guarding in Westies and help owners maintain a healthy and safe relationship with their furry friends.
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 Westie’s Resource Guarding
The first step in addressing resource guarding is to identify the specific triggers causing your Westieto display this behavior. Observe your Westie 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 Westie Against Resource Guarding
Desensitization and counter-conditioning are powerful techniques to help your Westie 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 Westie 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 Westie the “Leave It” Command
Training your Westie 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 Westie.
- 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 Westie the “Drop It” or “Give” Commands
Similar to the “leave it” command, teaching your Westie 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 Westie
The “trade-up” technique involves offering your Westie 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 Westie
Punishing your Westie 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 Westie’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 Westie is Resource Guarding
Here are three signs that your Westie may be resource guarding:
- Growling or Snapping: One of the most obvious signs of resource guarding is growling or snapping at anyone who comes too close to their food, toys, or other possessions.
- Possessiveness: If your Westie is constantly hovering over their toys or food, or even hiding them away, it could be a sign that they are resource-guarding.
- Aggression: Resource guarding can escalate to full-blown aggression if not addressed. If your Westie has become more aggressive in general or seems to become aggressive when their resources are threatened, it’s important to address the issue.
In conclusion, resource guarding is a common behavior problem in many dog breeds, including Westies. Recognizing the signs of resource guarding and addressing the behavior early on can help prevent more serious issues down the line. It’s important to remember that resource guarding is a natural instinct in dogs, and punishing them for the behavior may only exacerbate the problem. Instead, positive reinforcement techniques and gradual desensitization can be effective ways to modify this behavior. With patience and consistency, it is possible to help your Westie feel more comfortable and secure around their possessions and create a more harmonious household.
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.