All dogs resource guard if we find something they designate as a resource. Dogs will protect their resources, it is a natural behavior. To better understand this please read parts 1 and 2 of this blog:
For this part 3 we will discuss specifically dogs who resource guard their owners. This can be very challenging because it manifests in many ways. Perhaps your dog becomes upset or aggressive when another dog comes towards you in the dog run, and this has kept you from going to to dog run all together. Maybe your dog barks and makes a big fuss when anything he perceives as a threat comes near you. This could be disruptive in your neighborhood and cause you to become an outcast. Whatever the specifics are, you can handle this in similar ways.
First it is best to have another person who can help with the training, or a Treat & Train. This person should be someone the dog is familiar and comfortable with who has plenty of high value treats available. If you are using a Treat & Train then be sure the dog is tethered, with enough room that there is slack in the leash, and the dog is conditioned to understand the Treat & Train and has used it prior to this training session.
Next you want to have one or both of the of the owners, seated about 5 to 10 feet away from the dog. The last piece of this equation is a helper dog, one who doesn’t mind if he is barked at or lunged at, but pretty much just keeps on going about his business. Have the helper dog begin to approach the seated owner, the resource, and as soon as the helper dog begins approaching, the Treat & Train, or the person handling the dog, will begin feeding high value treats. Next the helper dog will retreat away from the owner, and the treats will stop to the working dog, showing that when dogs approach his owner he receives treats while when they move away from his owner, the treats stop. This will help to build a positive association with other dogs approaching his owner.
You will want to continue this process until the dog sees the helper dog approach and immediately looks to the Treat & Train or the other person for the treats. This response will show that the dog is understanding the association between the approach of other dogs and the reward of high value treats. This is counter conditioning at work, before the high value rewards the dog viewed people approaching his owner as a bad thing, now he views it as a time that he gets good treats, and good things happen to him!
If your dog barks when he perceives a threat coming near his owner or resource it can sometimes be helpful to try some abandonment training. We will of course only do this to the lowest extent that we would need to, but if your dog barks when a car, stroller or other perceived threat approaches, then this may be the best way to handle this. Work with a professional, and have her holding your dog on a long leash. Then walk your dog on your normal leash with them following behind. As soon as your dog begins to react, drop the leash and walk in the opposite direction as him. If he calms quickly and stops barking and reacting, then you can rejoin him and pick up your leash and continue your walk. As I always say, there is no reason to stay mad at your dog, as soon as they have moved onto good behavior, forgive them, and move on too! (perhaps this is good advice for other relationships…)
The other good way to deal with this, if your neighbors can deal with it, is simply to ignore your dog if he begins barking at his triggers, wait for him to stop, and praise and reward him when he does. Dogs repeat their successes so ignore the bad, and reward and reinforce the good. This can also be good to do using a clicker. For more on clicker training check out my blog: http://pawsibilitiesny.com/blog/obedience-training-a-tricks/7-what-is-clicker-training.html
You want to change your dog’s mind about other dogs’, or things, approaching you, because your dog views you as a resource, and these triggers as a threat to his resource. This is not uncommon, and perhaps you even don’t think it is such a big deal, but again resource guarding of any kind is an anxiety based reflex, so if we can cure our dogs of anxieties, why wouldn’t we? Work slowly with the above methods until your dog views the approach of another dog towards you as good thing. As soon as he is turning to the person or Treat & Train to say: “I know that dog’s approach means that I am going to get something good!” We have begun to change his mind and make him realize that what he once resource guarded, is something well worth sharing!