There are distinct types of possession aggression and resource guarding that we’ll cover in this article. Dogs protect the things they see as vital to them, such as their possessions, their own space, and the places they enter and leave, and of course, the dog’s owner. Below we provide some explanations and possible solutions in the following paragraphs.
We have an in-depth article covering the topic if you are more concerned with your Cockapoo food and treat guarding.
What Does Resource Guarding Mean?
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In dogs, resource guarding is a form of ownership and protection. When confronted with an approach by someone or another animal, a puppy or young dog tends to turn its head away, lay on the object, or refuse to move from a specific area.
Unfortunately, humans typically will continue to seize the space or take away the thing without considering their behaviour or having any empathy for the dog.
If this behaviour were perpetrated on another human, it would be considered bullying, aggressive, and possibly frightening behaviour.
Dogs will quickly learn that bullying, aggressiveness, and intimidation are effective means of getting what they want. Constant repetition teaches the dog that they retaliate in the same manner when they have had enough.
Do we condone this behaviour? Of course not. Is it a bad thing? The answer is yes. But what led to this behaviour?
For a moment, put yourself in your Cockapoo’s shoes. Consider how you would feel if someone walked into your personal space without your permission or if someone took your favourite food away from you as you were about to consume it.
Why do you suppose a dog should tolerate this behaviour any more than a human? Your actions will create the problem you attempted to avoid if you train a dog to associate bullying behaviour with normality.
Dogs are afraid of losing something precious, whether it’s their food or their personal space, another animal, or even a person.
The only purpose of resource guarding is to prevent someone else from stealing what belongs to them. There are several subtle behaviours that dogs display, such as turning their heads or shifting their weight.
Over time, these behaviors become more pronounced, including staring, eating faster, swallowing items more quickly, bracing their bodies over an object with their lips curled back, and even a growl or a bark. Behaviour like this will eventually escalate to lunging and snapping then biting someone, and sadly it’s very often a child. Parents cannot expect a child to understand or appreciate the nuances of a dog’s behaviour, and young children have no idea that if they get any closer, the dog will attack.
Dogs of all breeds and ages can exhibit possessive aggression.
Resource Guarding Causes
In the same way, a dog is afraid of losing their cherished possession if they are challenged; they are also fearful for their safety. It’s a common reaction in both the dog and human communities.
Why should dogs put up with our invading their personal space and taking their food and toys without even a fair exchange?
We spend so much time trying to prevent problems in our dogs that we really encourage them. Avoid taking things from your dog without offering something in return, preferably something the dog will see as of higher value (their favourite treat).
If your dog steals an item, you shouldn’t don’t chase after the dog and angrily remonstrate, be calm and once again offer something in return for them giving you the thing back.
It doesn’t matter if a dog is sleeping on their bed, under a table, or in the corner of a room; they become possessive of personal space. In the face of approaching people, they could feel confined and anxious about their lack of a way out.
There’s no specific evidence that one breed is worse than another when we talk about guarding and possessive behavior. It’s said that Cockapoos have this tendency because of the Cocker Spaniel genetics. But some Cockapoo owners will tell you their dog has no guarding traits, while others will say the opposite.
It will always come back to genetics, personality, etc.
Everyone’s dog, including your Cockapoo, has the potential to develop guarding behaviour while others are not in the least interested.
Where Does Guarding Behaviour Occur?
If you have a Cockapoo who you suspect might bite, or you’re not sure about guarding warning signs, you might need to engage a dog behaviourist. Be selective about the behaviourist you employ; it shouldn’t be one that uses intimidation on your dog.
There are several subtle symptoms of guarding that are difficult to work out until you have a reasonable amount of experience with them correctly. You might make the problem worse rather than better if you don’t know what you’re doing. Working alongside an experienced person can prevent any potential setbacks.
In addition, you must be aware that no matter how successful your training and prevention, dogs can regress to previous guarding behaviour. Rather than wait for this to happen, you should constantly practice preventative measures.
Examples Of What Dogs Will Guard
Spaces: Dogs can guard various spaces or areas they frequent, such as their bed, your bed, the sofa, a favourite armchair, your lap, under a chair or table, and it might be an area where the dog is currently lying down.
People: this can relate to one particular family member or everyone in the home, and it can be when the dog is getting attention or being ignored.
Objects: these can be anything the dog finds attractive, from its chew toys, bones, sticks, items of clothing such as socks.
Smells: some dogs will even guard a specific smell; for example, when out on a walk, a particular scent might attract your dog, and when you attempt to either go close or pull them away, they might become irritated.
Other dogs or animals: a dog might guard against another dog or animal or might be protective of that specific animal.
Food: In addition to food or chews in proximity to the dog, it can occur with food stored out of the dog’s reach. When they see another dog or a person across the room with something edible they want, dogs sometimes feel the urge to guard.
The kitchen or an empty dog bowl are good examples of places where food has been served previously. It’s not uncommon for dogs to protect their water bowls. We cover food guarding in more detail here.
Guarding Factors For Dogs
Time: dogs tend to guard more when they spend time in a specific location.
Excitement: can encourage guarding behaviour. For example, when people call at the house, playing fetch can incite some dogs to defend items rather than release them and sometimes after exercise.
Distance: in many cases, dogs will protect items that are only accessible to themselves. Other dogs will guard things that they aren’t even anywhere near or that another animal or person already has in their possession.
Specific Situations: dogs can be prone to guarding at particular times or situations. For example, they exhibit guarding behaviour after a long walk, when the owner is cooking, or the family is consuming food.
Gender: a dog’s guarding instincts may be stronger toward another dog than toward the owner. Some dogs may be more protective of a specific person than others.
Age-Related Guarding: dogs can also be picky about who or what they guard against. For example, they might protect things from other adult dogs and not puppies. If you bring a new puppy home, they might be okay initially, but things can change as the puppy grows.
Some dogs can behave exactly the opposite way and guard things against puppies, not adults. If you have young children or toddlers, you should be vigilant around dogs because some might not protect against adults but will often guard aggressively around children.
Species Guarding: Interestingly, some dogs have guarding issues against other dogs, dogs that only guard things against people, and dogs that guard similarly against both dogs and people. Children fall somewhere in-between because dogs that only guard against other dogs possibly view children in the same way as other dogs.
Location: while some dogs only show guarding behaviour in the home, others show extreme behavior outside or elsewhere.
Lap Guarding: depending on the dog’s temperament, they may become more protective of a lap when being stroked. Also, it’s possible that the dog wants to be on your lap or close to you without being touched, the dog doesn’t appreciate being stroked, and it’s not a good idea to continue.
Age and Hormonal Changes: Dogs may become more protective as they get older, but this behavior can persist throughout maturity without getting worse.
Some females become more territorial when they’re in heat. Sometimes if another dog is in heat, other dogs living in the home may become more protective.
Sickness, pain, and tiredness: similar to humans, when they don’t feel well or are in pain, their patience wears thin, and they can be snappy and moody.
Guarding Warning Signs To Watch For
There’s a massive language barrier between dogs and humans, even though dogs are excellent communicators. The result is that a dog’s early attempts to express his anxiety about a scenario are disregarded or misunderstood by their human owners.
If an owner truly understands what signs to look for when it comes to a dog’s actions and body language, spotting problems before they become more profound will be much easier.
Some dogs’ eating habits are hard-wired into their personality, never changing. When a human approaches a dog’s bowl, the dog will eat even quicker because he feels intimidated.
“It’s mine, and it belongs to me!” Some dogs will also try to put themselves in the way of their owner’s access to the bowl by positioning themselves between them and the bowl.
Behaviour such as repositioning their body extends beyond food to any item they possess that you are attempting to retrieve.
Typically, a dog will alter its strategy if the threat persists; it frequently freezes and becomes motionless.
From the dog’s perspective, they are not happy with what’s going on, and they are trying to figure out what to do about it.
A “hard eye” is a common side effect of the freeze. It’s an unpleasant look that has profound meaning. If the dog could speak, they would be saying,” this is mine; you will not take it away. You might also substitute food with any item the dog doesn’t want you to take away.
Growl and Lip Curl
When dogs continue to feel threatened, they may decide it’s time to elevate their behavior to include violent threats.
Lip-curling and growling are common. However, it’s unusual for a well-adjusted dog to engage in violent behavior when threats of violence are sufficient.
Aggression has a price to pay. It necessitates an enormous amount of effort, and the dog puts itself in danger as a result. Keep in mind that a dog’s lip curl or snarl is an attempt to avoid escalating the situation.
Snapping And Biting
If an owner ignores the dog’s initial warnings and the dog still feels threatened, the next step in the communication process is a snap (air bite) or actual bite. It’s easy to overlook the preceding three strategies since they happen quickly.
As a result, owners tend to think the snap or bite occurred “out of the blue.” For this reason, learning to interpret dog body language is an essential skill for all dog owners.
The more time we have to figure out what a dog is telling us, the higher our chances of successfully avoiding hazardous situations.
Sadly, while punishing a dog can stop it from growling, it doesn’t address the dog’s emotional state.
Now you have a dog afraid to give warning growls because they fear punishment; these dogs are now more likely to attack without warning. Behaviour modification is now far more complicated and challenging.
Mike is the proud owner of a 7-year-old Cockapoo named Luna. He loves to share stories, tips and information about owning a Cockapoo. With over7 years of experience as an owner, Mike is passionate about helping others own and care for their dog.