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Rhodesian Ridgebacks are known for their loyalty and protective nature, but sometimes this can manifest as resource guarding behavior. Resource guarding occurs when a dog becomes possessive of items such as food, toys, or even people. This can lead to aggressive behavior, putting both the dog and those around them at risk. It’s important to address resource guarding as soon as it becomes apparent, in order to prevent the behavior from escalating. In this article, we’ll discuss some general strategies and techniques for stopping resource guarding in Rhodesian Ridgebacks, so you can enjoy a happy and safe relationship with your canine companion.
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 Rhodesian Ridgeback’s Resource Guarding
The first step in addressing resource guarding is to identify the specific triggers causing your Rhodesian Ridgeback to display this behavior. Observe your Rhodesian Ridgeback 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 Rhodesian Ridgeback Against Resource Guarding
Desensitization and counter-conditioning are powerful techniques to help your Rhodesian Ridgeback 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 Rhodesian Ridgeback 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 Rhodesian Ridgeback the “Leave It” Command
Training your Rhodesian Ridgeback 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 Rhodesian Ridgeback.
- 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 Rhodesian Ridgeback the “Drop It” or “Give” Commands
Similar to the “leave it” command, teaching your Rhodesian Ridgeback 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 Rhodesian Ridgeback
The “trade-up” technique involves offering your Rhodesian Ridgeback 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 Rhodesian Ridgeback
Punishing your Rhodesian Ridgeback 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 Rhodesian Ridgeback’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 Rhodesian Ridgeback is Resource Guarding
Here are three signs that your Rhodesian Ridgeback is resource guarding:
- Growling or snarling: When your Rhodesian Ridgeback is resource guarding, it may growl or snarl at you or other pets in the house.
- Aggression: A resource guarding Rhodesian Ridgeback may become aggressive and attempt to bite you or others when they approach its food, toys or other valuable items.
- Refusing to share: If your Rhodesian Ridgeback refuses to share its toys, food or other items with you or other pets in the house, it could be a sign of resource guarding. It may hold onto its possessions tightly or move them away from others.
In conclusion, resource guarding can be a challenging behavior to deal with in Rhodesian Ridgebacks, as it is in many breeds. It is important to recognize the signs of resource guarding early on to prevent the behavior from becoming a more significant problem. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to stopping resource guarding, several effective strategies can help manage the behavior. Some methods include proper socialization, obedience training, and positive reinforcement training. With patience, consistency, and a willingness to work with your Rhodesian Ridgeback, you can help curb resource guarding behavior and maintain a happy, healthy relationship with your dog.
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.