7 Strategies to Stop Your Cavalier’s Resource Guarding

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Resource guarding is a behavior that can be seen in any breed of dog, including the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. This is when a dog aggressively protects a valued item, such as food, toys, or even a human. While some level of guarding behavior may be normal, it can become problematic if it escalates to aggression towards other animals or people. In this article, we will explore some ways to prevent and stop resource guarding in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. It is important to note that all training methods should be based on positive reinforcement and never involve punishment or physical force.

Note: Resource guarding can be a challenging problem for a dog owner. In addition to the tip below, you may want to consider consulting the help of a professional. Two excellent online courses we reviewed for resource guarding are SpiritDog and K9 Training Institute.
1. Understand What’s Triggering Your Cavalier’s Resource Guarding
The first step in addressing resource guarding is to identify the specific triggers causing your Cavalier to display this behavior. Observe your Cavalier closely and take note of which resources they guard and under what circumstances. Common triggers include:

The presence of other dogs or pets
Approach of family members, especially children
Sudden movements or loud noises near the guarded resource

Understanding the triggers allows you to manage the environment effectively, preventing incidents before they occur.
2. Desensitization and Counter-Conditioning Your Cavalier Against Resource Guarding
Desensitization and counter-conditioning are powerful techniques to help your Cavalier overcome resource guarding. Desensitization involves gradually exposing your dog to the triggering situations, starting with low-intensity encounters and gradually increasing the intensity. Counter-conditioning, on the other hand, involves teaching your dog to associate the presence of the trigger with positive experiences.
For example, if your Cavalier guards their food bowl when approached, start by standing a considerable distance away while they eat. Gradually decrease the distance over time, rewarding your dog with praise or treats when they remain calm. This process helps your dog associate your presence near their food with positive outcomes, reducing their need to guard the resource.
3. Teach Your Cavalier the “Leave It” Command
Training your Cavalier to respond to the “leave it” command is essential in addressing resource guarding. This command tells your dog to release whatever they’re holding or to stop focusing on a particular item. To teach this command:

Hold a treat in your closed hand and present it to your Cavalier.
When your dog sniffs or paws at your hand, say “leave it.”
Once your dog stops trying to get the treat, praise them and reward them with a treat from your other hand.
Gradually progress to using the command with other objects, such as toys or food bowls.

Using the “leave it” command consistently can help prevent resource-guarding incidents before they escalate.
4. Teach Your Cavalier the “Drop It” or “Give” Commands
Similar to the “leave it” command, teaching your Cavalier to “drop it” or “give” is crucial in managing resource guarding. These commands instruct your dog to release an item from their mouth or willingly give it to you. To teach these commands:

Start by playing with a toy your dog likes but doesn’t typically guard.
While your dog is holding the toy, say “drop it” or “give” and offer a high-value treat.
When your dog releases the toy, praise them and give them the treat.
Gradually progress to using the command with more valuable items.

5. Practice the “Trade-Up” Technique with Your Cavalier

The “trade-up” technique involves offering your Cavalier a higher-value item in exchange for the one they’re guarding. This method teaches your dog that surrendering a resource can lead to better rewards, reducing their need to guard. Practice this technique by offering a high-value treat or a favorite toy whenever your dog is guarding a less valuable item. Over time, your dog will learn that giving up a guarded resource is a positive experience.
6. Avoid Punishing Your Cavalier
Punishing your Cavalier for resource guarding can exacerbate the problem and lead to increased aggression. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement and reward-based training to modify your dog’s behavior. By consistently rewarding your dog for desired behaviors, you reinforce the idea that there’s no need to guard resources, as good things happen when they share or relinquish them. Remember that patience and consistency are key when working with a dog that displays resource-guarding behaviors.
7. Try an Online Training Program for Resource Guarding
If your Cavalier’s resource guarding behavior is severe or doesn’t improve with consistent training, it’s crucial to consult a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. These experts can help identify the root cause of the issue and create a tailored training plan to address the problem effectively. In some cases, medical issues or anxiety may contribute to resource guarding, and a veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist can help diagnose and treat these underlying conditions.
Our 2 favorite online courses are:
1. SpiritDog’s “Stop Resource Guarding” Course
The Stop Resource Guarding training course, attended by 243 students, consists of 42 comprehensive lessons that teach you science-based, fear-free techniques to help your dog trust you around their treasures and train a solid “Drop It” cue. With lifetime access, step-by-step instructions, and a certificate upon completion, this course will transform your relationship with your dog and eliminate resource guarding behaviors.

2. K9 Training Institute’s “Dog Masterclass”
More than just a resource guarding course, this more comprehensive training course tackles any behavior problem you might face with your dog.

3 Signs Your Cavalier is Resource Guarding

Growling or snapping when approached while eating or with a favorite toy: If your Cavalier becomes defensive or aggressive when someone tries to take away their food or toy, it could be a sign of resource guarding.
Refusal to share space or objects: If your Cavalier refuses to move away from a certain area or toy and growls or snaps if someone approaches, it could be a sign that they are guarding that resource.
Stiff body language: If your Cavalier’s body becomes stiff and tense when someone approaches them while they have a resource, it could be a sign of guarding behavior. They may also hold their ears back or show other signs of discomfort or fear.

In conclusion, resource guarding is a common problem among many dog breeds, including the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. It’s important for dog owners to recognize the signs of resource guarding, such as growling, snapping, and becoming aggressive when someone tries to take away their possessions. It’s also important for dog owners to address this behavior as soon as possible to prevent it from escalating. While there are no specific ways to stop resource guarding in a Cavalier, there are general techniques that can be effective in managing this behavior, such as positive reinforcement training, desensitization, and counterconditioning. With patience, consistency, and appropriate training, resource guarding can be successfully managed in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

Note: Resource guarding can be a challenging problem for a dog owner. In addition to the tips above, you may want to consider consulting the help of a professional. Two excellent online courses we like for resource guarding are SpiritDog and K9 Training Institute.
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