Many people will watch this GIF and think it’s funny/cute how the dog seems to be protecting this baby. We like to think of dogs as our loyal companions and guardians and they definitely can be, but THIS image should strike fear in you. This is not cute or funny behavior, this dog is not protecting it’s baby, it sees this baby as a resource and this is a potentially very dangerous situation. Both the adult and baby could be seriously injured in this situation.
Dogs can be possessive over many things, most commonly food, which is why children are taught not to bother a dog while they are eating, but a dog could start becoming possessive over any item they find high value. Common things are food, toys, sometimes owner’s clothing, or even people themselves.
If your dog does not become possessive over items, this is wonderful. It still doesn’t hurt to try to prevent them from becoming possessive as they move on in life.
Resource guarding is hard and can take a long time to work out with a dog, please do not get discouraged. It is also something that may require you to go back and “maintain” or work on through out the years. Every thing recommended can work with any item they are guarding. Many dogs are born with this problem, unfortunately in these dogs it is a matter of management over training, although training is important to help with management.
One simple way of starting is teaching your dog “Sit” and “Wait” Do this at every meal time, but start slowly. This teaches your dog that you are in control of the food, making you the leader (I do not like the term “alpha” because I prefer to see my relationship with animals as more of a family unit and not a pack). Have your dog sit, then say the command wait, once they wait a second release them with your release word I typically use “Ok”. Slowly extend the time your dog needs to wait. If you need to, you can start practicing this technique with treats and then work it up to meal time.
Teaching your dog “place”. Either in their kennel, a matt, or, a bed. Make sure you use the same place each time. Qwerty learned the command “park it” when we ask him to “park it” he is expected to go lay on his bed. Make sure you use this as a positive place for your dog to go.
Teach your dog “out” Make sure your dog knows a command to leave a room. When they enter a room, tell them out and praise them when they leave that room. Again, make this a positive experience to leave the room.
Avoid situations that cause them to become reactive. If your dog is protective over food, feed them separately from other animals and people. NEVER punish them around food or what they are reacting to, 2 negatives do not equal positive.
Praise, praise, praise. If your dog does not react in certain situations, make it happy! Teach them is a GOOD thing to not react, they get happy things when they are calm.
As with any behavioral issue I will always recommend physical and mental activities. Keep their mind and body busy, this helps relieve stress in many dogs. Although not a cure a tired dog (both physically and mentally) is typically a happier dog.
My biggest recommendation if you have a dog that is a known resource guarder, is to find a reputable trainer who has experience with this, or consult with a Veterinarian who specializes in Behavior. They can be an invaluable resource to help you work through how to have a happy house hold!