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Yorkshire Terriers, or Yorkies, are adorable and affectionate dogs that make great companions. However, like all dogs, they may develop resource-guarding tendencies, becoming possessive or protective over their food, toys, or other possessions. Resource guarding can lead to aggression, conflicts with other animals or people, and a decrease in the quality of life for both you and your furry friend. In this article, we will explore effective ways to stop a Yorkie from resource-guarding and provide tips on how to prevent this behavior from developing in the first place.
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 Yorkie’s Resource Guarding
The first step in addressing resource guarding is to identify the specific triggers causing your Yorkie to display this behavior. Observe your Yorkie 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 Yorkie Against Resource Guarding
Desensitization and counter-conditioning are powerful techniques to help your Yorkie 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 Yorkie 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 Yorkie the “Leave It” Command
Training your Yorkie 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 Yorkie.
- 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 Yorkie the “Drop It” or “Give” Commands
Similar to the “leave it” command, teaching your Yorkie 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 Yorkie
The “trade-up” technique involves offering your Yorkie 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 Yorkie
Punishing your Yorkie 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 Yorkie’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 Yorkie is Resource Guarding
- Growling or Snapping: One of the most common signs of resource guarding in Yorkies is growling or snapping when someone tries to approach them while they are eating or playing with a toy.
- Possessive Behaviors: Another sign of resource guarding in Yorkies is possessive behavior over their possessions, such as food bowls, toys, or beds. They may become aggressive or anxious when someone tries to take their possessions away from them.
- Guarding Behavior: Yorkies that are resource guarding may exhibit guarding behaviors, such as standing in front of their possessions, staring or lunging at people or animals that come too close to them, or barking or growling to defend their possessions.
In conclusion, resource guarding is a common behavior in Yorkies, but it’s essential to address it to avoid any unwanted aggression or conflict. Understanding the signs of resource guarding in Yorkies is the first step towards managing the behavior. With proper training, consistent positive reinforcement, and patience, you can teach your Yorkie to be comfortable and secure around their possessions, reducing the likelihood of resource guarding behaviors. It’s important to note that every Yorkie is unique, and different techniques may work better for different dogs. By working with your Yorkie and seeking professional help if necessary, you can create 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 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.