A family that got a puppy from me last summer contacted me and said their puppy was guarding things and growling at them if they tried to take it away. They asked for my advice and I have to admit, the answer I gave them wasn’t very good.
It has been bothering me ever since and I have been giving this a lot of thought. This behavior is called resource guarding and it is fairly common. I see it every day. Directed at other dogs. Never at me. I have to say, I can’t ever remember a dog growling at me or threating me in any way.
I just assumed it was like that for everyone and it is hard for me to accept that one of my puppies would act that way toward a person. What is the difference? I don’t know. I do know that dogs are very good at reading your body language and facial expressions. I have never been afraid of any dog. People, yes but not dogs. I have been bitten, hard enough to leave bruises and scars. But that never bothered me or made me frightened. Maybe dogs can sense that? Maybe other people have more sense than me? I don’t know.
But resource guarding at some level is in most dogs and mine are no different. I even know where it comes from, an outcross we made several years ago, and have been trying to breed it out, with some success. But I know it will never go away completely and some dogs will have it much more so than others. At a low level it usually isn’t a problem. At a higher level it starts to become trouble and when it is directed at a person it definitely needs attention.
I can’t tell you how to train it out of your dog because I have never tried. But there are several good trainers that do this on a daily basis and are very good at it. One very good one is Patricia McConnell, I would highly recommend you listen to anything she has to say about dogs.