The Weekly Q&A: Ask Way of Life™ Dog Training
Resource Guarding Cockapoo

Resource Guarding Cockapoo

Q: Hi, I have a 3-year-old male Cockapoo who resource guards his food, bones, or items he steals. He will growl if you try to pet him while he’s on the couch. I just really want to put an end to resource guarding and to have him obedient where I can trust him. Let me know if you are able to successfully get rid of these issues with us! 

A: Thank you for contacting me about the resource guarding issues you’ve been experiencing with your cockapoo. I welcome the opportunity to talk this common issue, which tends to be misunderstood and applied to behaviors that may or may not constitute resource guarding.

Guarding and owning things that dogs consider valuable – food, toys, comfortable spots, and even people – is normal behavior in dogs, a primal and instinctual behavior that is part of their canine identity. At the same time, getting into fits and fights over valuables with their guardians is not natural for a dog, a creature wired to love, respect, and obey us. 

Here’s the thing though: We need to be worthy of that love, respect, and obedience but too often we compromise our dogs’ natural tendencies and turn them against us. 

The Way of Life Method does not consider behavioral issues inherent in dogs. In other words, your cockapoo does not want to be rude to you, guard his possessions against you, or growl at you. Rather, we consider these issues as sourcing in the ways of life we choose for our dogs. 

There are four aspects to way of life that we work with when dealing with behavior problems. Let’s look at each one and ask whether improvements can be made:

  1. Managing Space and Boundaries: Consciously regulating our dogs’ access to places, people, other animals, and resources is part of our job as guardians. To what extent is your cockapoo regulated at home? Does he have unfettered admission to all corners of your place? Is unconditional access to the couch helpful when we have a dog exhibiting problems? Something to think about.
  1. Socialization: The Way of Life Method understands socialization as exposure to the world that progresses along levels. This is contrary to the mainstream thinking on socialization which would have us blast our dogs with social experiences, overwhelming them, and ultimately confusing them about who’s really in charge here. Have you considered how you went about socializing your dog?
  1. Drive Development: Raising sound dogs that don’t have behavioral issues requires that we develop and harness their natural drives through exercise, training, and sport. I have found that many owners of cockapoos and other designer breeds underestimate their dogs’ level of intelligence, energy, and desire to work. Is your cockapoo challenged physically and stimulated mentally? Does he have outlets for his natural talents and tendencies, or is he finding in resource-guarding a form of entertainment?
  1. Attitude and Mindset: The last but most important element of the Way of Life Method is the attitude and mindset of the owners. Too often, people don’t see the relationship between the affection they shower on their dogs and their dogs’ behavior, the inclusion and freedoms they give their dogs and their dogs’ issues. They would like to continue treating the dog as they always have but still want the dog to change. That’s just not possible! 

While I know that dogs can and do change, often the only thing standing between them and that change is the owners’ willingness to reconsider how they live with and relate to their dogs. Therefore, I encourage you to think critically about the four pillars of the Way of Life Method. Only when these are designed according to where we’re at with our dog will we see real change. Let me know when you’re ready to take that leap!

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