Factors associated with canine resource guarding behaviour in the presence of people: A cross-sectional survey of dog owners

Prev Vet Med. 2018 Dec 1:161:143-153. doi: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2017.02.005. Epub 2017 Feb 17.


Resource guarding (RG) involves the use of specific behaviour patterns to control access to an item of potential "value" to the dog. Of particular concern are patterns involving aggression, due to safety concerns, but other patterns of RG behaviour are prevalent and include avoidance (i.e., positioning of the head or body to maintain item control, or location change with the item) and rapid ingestion (i.e., rapid ingestion of a consumable item). Current research has not investigated the etiology of RG aggression in depth, nor have the additional patterns of resource guarding been considered. Dog owners (n=3068) were recruited through social media to answer questions regarding dog- and household-related factors, as well as their dog's current and past behaviour around resources in the presence of people. Participants were screened for their ability to identify different forms of resource guarding from video, and were removed from the study if they incorrectly identified any of the videos provided. This resulted in a final sample of 2207 participants representing information for 3589 dogs. Multiple multi-level logistic regression models were developed to determine the association between independent variables of interest and each pattern of resource guarding. Dogs with higher levels of impulsivity were more likely to display avoidance, rapid ingestion and aggressive RG (p<0.001), and dogs with higher levels of fearfulness were also more likely to display RG aggression (p<0.001). Neutered males (p<0.01) and mixed breeds (p<0.05) were more likely to be RG aggressive compared to dogs of other sexes, neuter statuses, and breeds. Teaching dogs to reliably "drop" items when requested was associated with a reduced likelihood of RG aggression (p<0.01) and avoidance (p<0.001). Furthermore, the addition of palatable bits of food during mealtime was associated with an increased likelihood of less severe RG behaviour (p<0.01), whereas removal of the food dish during mealtime was associated with an increased likelihood of expressing more severe or frequent RG behaviours (p<0.05). Relationships between the three types of RG patterns were varied, suggesting that RG behaviour patterns are flexible when humans are involved. The results highlight various factors that might predispose dogs to RG behaviour and potential methods for prevention of RG aggression, and can serve as a basis for future longitudinal RG research to establish causation.

Keywords: Behaviour; Canine; Possessive aggression; Resource guarding; Risk factors.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dogs / psychology*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Human-Animal Bond
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Ontario
  • Sterilization, Reproductive / veterinary
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Video Recording