How Do I Stop My Cockapoo From Resource Guarding Food

Resource guarding in Cockapoos, often known as “possessive aggression,” can be pretty frightening for any dog owner. 

For example,  you go to get your dog’s chew to ensure it doesn’t get swallowed, and you are confronted with teeth-baring, snarling, or even lunging and biting. 

Sometimes it might even occur when you simply try to sit on the sofa next to your dog; you get a fixed stare and a growl or snarl.

It’s not just a case of dogs and humans; dogs will often resource guard around other dogs and pets in the home. Often dogs may demonstrate food aggressiveness if another pet approaches when eating. 

Sometimes your Cockapoo may even protect you from another dog in the house if food or toys are involved. 

Is your Cockapoo resource guarding their food bowl, chew toys, or living space? Typically how you react has a massive impact on your Cockapoo’s resource guarding. 

Let’s examine why Cockapoos resource guard and how you can reduce the severity if your dog exhibits this behaviour.

What Exactly Is Cockapoo Resource Guarding?

All dogs, including Cockapoos, have an innate instinct to guard food, toys, things, places, and people. 

While you cannot say this trait is breed-specific, it’s known that Cocker Spaniels tend to resource guard more than most other breeds. Because a  Cockerpoo is half Cocker, it’s not surprising that many Cockerpoos exhibit resource guarding.

Even though dog resource guarding is a normal tendency, it should not continue. There is a real danger if a dog is willing to bite or fight to protect what they perceive is a valuable item. For example, dog bites against humans or fights between your pets can come from food, toys, and space aggression. 

This scenario can quickly escalate when it involves families with young children or elderly family members, especially when there’s a high degree of unpredictability with the dog’s aggression.

Dogs never grow out of guarding behviours; the situation only gets worse.

What Items Often Trigger Resource Guarding?

While resource guarding is most commonly associated with food, it can develop with any item that a dog considers “precious.” 

Something from the laundry basket, for example, may not seem like much to us, but to your dog, it could be the most precious thing they own.  Resource guarding can sometimes take the strangest forms. For example,  it’s not unheard of for a dog to protect the washing machine and bark at the owner when they try to open the door.

Food Aggression

  • The dog’s bowl
  • Bones and other edible dog chews
  • Dog food and dog treats

Non-Food Aggression

  • Their toys
  • Household items such as socks, laundry, slippers, shoes, etc.
  • Areas within the home include a dog crate, dog bed, a region of the sofa or bed, eating (kitchen), etc.
  • Owners – guarding against other household pets, strangers, or even other family members

Resource Guarding Signs To Be Aware Of

There is a scale of guarding behaviours, from moderate to severe. Before your Cockapoo growls, snaps, or bites, it would pay you to learn to identify the warning signs.

Dogs with severe problems have been known to leave the food or object to scare someone away. 

Don’t make the assumption your dog “missed” if it snaps because the dog intended that as a warning not actually to bite you.  A dog’s mouth is an essential means of expression for them. If your dog intended to bite, it’s improbable you would have got your hand out of the way in time. 

Obvious Resource Guarding Signs

  • Growling
  • Snapping
  • Snarling
  • Bites
  • Chasing away-animal or human

More minor Signs Of Resource Guarding

Because possession aggression is just developing or the dog exhibits more subtle signs, dog owners can miss them or choose to ignore them, hoping the dog will grow out of them. So look for something similar to these:

  • Freeze rigidly
  • Averting their head but continuing to stare (whale eye or half-moon eye)
  • Rapid lip-licking and swallowing
  • The hair standing along the spine
  • Baring teeth, lip curling
  • The dog uses their body to protect the item
  • Grabbing an item and running away with it
  • Gulping food

What Causes Resource Guarding In Cockapoos?

It’s essential to remember resource guarding can be a natural behaviour in some Cockapoos, as with all dogs. However, when this becomes out of control and even dangerous to people living with the dog, there might be other contributing factors affecting the dog:

  • The dog’s genetics
  • If the dog is adopted, they might have suffered deprivation
  • How you have previously reacted to the dog when they take things you’re unhappy about
  • A medical issue causing pain or discomfort
  • A tired, hungry, thirsty dog, etc.
  • The dog is stressed for whatever reason

Dogs can exhibit guarding behaviour whether they are a pedigree from a breeder, a rescue dog, or a cross-breed; there’s no definitive answer why.

Don’t Punish Your Cockapoo For Resource Guarding

When a dog growls, never punish. Of course, punishment can be an instant response for many dog owners. But the only thing you’ve accomplished is to increase the chances of a dog bite. 

Once your dog discovers that growling to show their discomfort at your approach will result in the punishment of being shouted at being hit or the item snatched away, they’re more likely to bite when you try to reach for the thing they were guarding the next time around.

What To Do If Your Cockapoo Resource Guards

Maybe you have a young puppy,  an adopted dog, one that hasn’t shown signs of resource guarding, or an occasional but not yet snarling and biting resource guarder. Whichever describes your situation, it’s imperative to teach your dog there’s no need to guard their food and other items, and they must give them up willingly. 

Teaching them the correct behaviour is so much better than waiting until you have a genuine problem.

How to Stop a Cockapoo Guarding His Food Bowl

Change things up instantly by giving the dog a new bowl and changing the location where your dog eats.

  • Dogs are creatures of habit, and their inner clock tells them it’s time to eat based on experience. So, change up the dog’s feeding time to a different time each day. Doing this throws the dog off-balance slightly, and they won’t know when to expect food which will prevent your dog from becoming tense at feeding times.
  • Pick up his bowl, and go through the motions of feeding him.
  • However, place an empty bowl in front of your dog. Naturally, your dog will go to the bowl expecting food in there. When there is nothing, they will look at you; when they do, fuss them and put a little food in the bowl.
  • Allow your dog to eat the small amount of food you have put in the bowl. The dog will, of course, still be hungry and look at you for more food. Add another small portion of food into the bowl.
  • After walking away from the dog a few times and then returning to add a little more food, you’re trying to educate your dog that it’s not a bad thing when you walk to the bowl because the dog receives what they want.
  • Continue with this method every feeding for several days until you see your dog is relaxed about you being near the bowl when they are eating. In stages, reduce the number of times you need to add more food by providing more significant portions. You should continue until you add all the food in one go and your dog is perfectly relaxed with you are standing next to them while they eat.

Finally, when you are positive, your dog is completely relaxed with your presence close by while eating,  drop a treat into the bowl. Your dog should not react if you followed the steps correctly and didn’t rush through them.

Alternatively, you can hand-feed your dog to establish a deep connection with people as the source of a positive experience. For new dog owners, this might be extremely useful.

How To Stop A Cockapoo Guarding Household Items

Begin by selecting a word or phrase such as “give” as a release trigger when you want your dog to give you whatever they have in their mouth. Have ready a toy or something that will entice your dog and some treats you know they love.

Offer the toy to your dog. Don’t let go of the toy when your dog gets hold of it; instead, hold one of the treats under the dog’s nose; hopefully, your dog will let go of the toy because they want the treat; give your dog the treat.

When this is working well, go a step further and introduce the trigger word “Give” when the dog smells the treat. When the dog releases the toy, please give them the treat. Once your dog eats the treat, show them the toy they gave up for the treat and say “take.” 

You’re teaching your Cockapoo that their reward is tasty and enjoyable when they give up an item. Remember your posture throughout this training should not be threatening; sit or kneel and off to one side slightly. 

Final Thoughts

Should your Cockapoo already be an aggressive resource guarder and you feel unsafe for yourself or the children in the home, you need to contact a reputable, professional dog behaviourist.

Bites often occur, especially to small children, because of resource guarding. Your best course of action is to bring in a professional.