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English Springer Spaniels are known for their friendly and outgoing personalities, but like any other dog breed, they may exhibit resource guarding behavior. Resource guarding can be dangerous if not addressed properly, and can potentially lead to aggression towards people or other pets. As a responsible pet owner, it’s important to be able to recognize the signs of resource guarding and know how to prevent or address it. In this article, we will explore some general tips and strategies to help stop your English Springer Spaniel from resource guarding.
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 English Springer Spaniel’s Resource Guarding
The first step in addressing resource guarding is to identify the specific triggers causing your English Springer Spaniel to display this behavior. Observe your English Springer Spaniel 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 English Springer Spaniel Against Resource Guarding
Desensitization and counter-conditioning are powerful techniques to help your English Springer Spaniel 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 English Springer Spaniel 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 English Springer Spaniel the “Leave It” Command
Training your English Springer Spaniel 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 English Springer Spaniel.
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 English Springer Spaniel the “Drop It” or “Give” Commands
Similar to the “leave it” command, teaching your English Springer Spaniel 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 English Springer Spaniel
The “trade-up” technique involves offering your English Springer Spaniel 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 English Springer Spaniel
Punishing your English Springer Spaniel 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 English Springer Spaniel’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 English Springer Spaniel is Resource Guarding
Growling or snarling: Your English Springer Spaniel may growl or snarl when you approach their food bowl, treats, or toys.
Stiff body language: When your English Springer Spaniel is guarding a resource, they may display stiff body language, including a rigid posture, tense muscles, and a fixed gaze.
Aggressive behavior: In some cases, resource guarding can escalate to aggressive behavior. If your English Springer Spaniel is biting or snapping when you approach their resources, this is a clear sign that they are guarding them.
Resource guarding is a natural behavior in dogs, but it can become a problem if it turns aggressive or interferes with their daily life. As a pet owner, it’s important to be aware of the signs of resource guarding in your English Springer Spaniel, such as growling, biting, or stiff body language. While there are no guaranteed ways to stop resource guarding, there are many effective techniques and approaches that can help you address and manage this behavior. Whether it’s through positive reinforcement, training, or seeking the help of a professional, there are ways to ensure that your English Springer Spaniel can live a happy and healthy life without feeling the need to guard their resources.
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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