Evaluating, Managing and Modifying Resource Guarding

Guest CAAB Chatters:

Amy Marder, VMD, CAAB and Ms. Lindsay Wood, M.A., ACAAB

Dog, Irish Terrier, Domestic Animal, Animal PortraitDogs are known to sometimes protect, or guard, items they want sole, or at least priority access to. The behaviors may include threats – showing teeth, growling; aggression – biting; or “keep-away” behaviors in which the dog runs from anyone trying to take the item away.

A variety of labels have been applied to these behaviors, including protective behavior/aggression (if what is being guarded is a member of the dog’s social group), possessive behavior/aggression (usually invoked if inanimate objects are involved), or food guarding (if the behavior applies only to edible items).  Whether these labels can or should be used interchangeably, and whether each is due to a distinct motivation, or just different sides of the same coin, is the subject of much debate.

Evaluation procedures for the presence of resource or food guarding are part of most shelter assessments currently in use.  How a dog responds to these evaluation procedures can literally mean life or death for the dog.  An attendee at one of our recent conference presentations related that in his facility, if the dog did not lift his head from the food bowl when a plastic hand was inserted, it meant the dog would be deemed unsuitable for adoption and would be euthanized.

In this CAAB Chat we bring you a CAAB and ACAAB who have extensive research and practical experience on this topic in shelter and in-home settings.  Dr. Amy Marder from the Center for Shelter Dogs at the Animal Rescue League of Boston, and Ms. Lindsay Wood from the Humane Society of Boulder Valley have been assessing these behaviors in their shelters, and both have data about the success of behavior modification in the shelter and success of adoptions of dogs showing some of these behaviors.

During this Chat Amy and Lindsay will tell you of their experiences and the results of their research, but to also Chat about related questions including:
•    How should “resource guarding” be defined?
•    Is “resource guarding” just another label for the ethological terminology of possessive behavior / aggression or do you think these refer to motivationally different behaviors?  Or does terminology even matter?
•    What factors do you think contribute to the development of these behaviors?
•    Do you think dogs who have no history of “resource guarding” in the home may show the behavior in a shelter simply because of the nature of the shelter environment?
•    What are the crucial elements in a successful behavior modification protocol whether implemented in a shelter or home setting?

  • What make a dog a good candidate for a shelter behavior modifcation resource guarding protocol?
  • What’s the best way to efficiently move through a behavior modification plan?
  • At what point in the plan do we tend to see dogs get “stuck” and why?

•    What is an ideal resource/food guarding evaluation procedure?  What should be avoided in any evaluation procedure and what should be included?
•    What should shelters consider when creating policies and procedures based on dogs’ responses to food or resource guarding evaluations?
•    And MUCH More!  The direction of our discussion will be determined LIVE – that’s what a Chat is all about – it’s where the discussion takes us!

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