Dog advice

What is Guarding Behaviour in Dogs?

Guarding behaviour in dogs is a natural instinct that manifests in various ways. Often perceived as a display of possession, aggression, or loyalty, this complex trait can be both beneficial and problematic, depending on the context. In this article, we will explore what guarding behaviour is, its different types, causes, and how to manage it.

Definition of Guarding Behaviour

Guarding behaviour is the protective instinct displayed by a dog to keep something it values, such as food, toys, or territory, away from others. It can manifest as growling, barking, or even biting, aiming to warn others to keep their distance. There are a few notable types of guarding behaviour that dogs exhibit, including:

Food Guarding

This is one of the most common forms of guarding behaviour in dogs. When a dog perceives a threat to its food, it may become defensive and exhibit signs such as growling or snapping.

Resource Guarding

Beyond food, dogs can also guard other valuable resources like toys, beds, or specific family members. This type of guarding is also related to a dog’s perception of its social hierarchy within the family or pack.

Territorial Guarding

Dogs may also guard their territory, including the home and yard. This is often seen as a positive trait, especially for guard dogs, but it can become problematic if the dog becomes overly aggressive.

Causes of Guarding Behaviour

There are several factors that cause guarding behaviour in dogs, such as:

Genetic Predisposition

Some breeds are more prone to guarding behaviour due to their breeding history. For example, livestock guardian breeds are more likely to display territorial guarding.

Environmental Factors

The environment and upbringing play a crucial role in shaping this behaviour. A lack of socialisation, negative experiences, or reinforcement of guarding behaviours can contribute to its development.


A dog might develop guarding behaviour if it feels insecure or threatened. The feeling that resources are scarce or could be taken away can lead to a heightened protective response.

Know the Signs of Guarding Behaviour

Guarding behaviour in dogs is a multifaceted and natural instinct that can serve both beneficial and detrimental roles. Understanding the types, causes, and ways to manage this behaviour can foster a harmonious relationship between dogs and their human companions. Careful observation, patience, and professional guidance can help in nurturing a well-adjusted dog that does not feel the need to guard excessively.