What is resource guarding? Resource guarding is when a dog acts aggressively to guard any high value items like food, water or toys. This behavior could be growling, barking, bearing their teeth, or even nipping and biting. Some dogs resource guard only with other dogs, and some dogs guard their resources against people, including their owners.
Akitas are a breed that you will often hear of resource guarding. Akitas are independent dogs, and were specifically bred for hunting and protection. They used to be the favorite dog of the revered Samurai in feudal Japan! Because of their distrust of strangers, and their natural instinct to protect anything they perceive as their property, Akitas can often be a dog that tends to resource guard.
In this article we’re going to go over tips on how to stop your Akita from resource guarding, but remember: It’s always a good idea to seek professional guidance when it comes to training your dog.
Before we begin though, let’s briefly discuss why resource guarding happens.
It’s easy to forget that dogs were once wild animals, and of course, they are still to do this day born into litters. In nature, and even now, puppies often have to fight over their mother. If you’ve ever seen a litter of puppies struggling to find space among their litter makes while they get a snack, you’ll understand.
When adult dogs in the wild would take down prey, there would only be so much to go around, and again, there might not be enough for everyone. So while modern day dogs may have it easy, these survival instincts are hard to break, especially in a breed like an Akita, which are considered to be a very primitive breed that rely heavily on natural instinct and prey drive.
1. Hand Feed Your Akita
When you think of feeding your dog, most people think about pouring their kibble or wet food into a bowl and letting their pup chow down. When you first get your Akita puppy, this style of feeding may be tempting, as you’ll be absolutely exhausted from all the time, attention, and energy your puppy will demand from you. The few moments while they’re enjoying their meal may be the only time you have to relax! But I’ve got some bad news for you…feeding time with your puppy should be another opportunity to practice their training, and one of the best ways you can do that is through hand feeding.
Hand feeding is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of pouring your Akita’s food into a bowl, you hand feed them their kibble in little bits at a time. While many people buy “training treats” for their dogs, we don’t use training treats, because they devalue your dog’s normal kibble. If you use your Akita’s normal food as the reward for training, it will make their normal food seem extra valuable to them!
The reason why hand feeding works so well to stop resource guarding, is because the food is given to your pup in small bits, they don’t have a large quantity of “resources” to guard over. Furthermore, ideally your training sessions include a lot of movement. Moving from place to place while you train your Akita will help them finding one single spot that they claim ownership of, which will decrease their need to feel like they have to “guard” their territory.
We like to work on just one or two different things during each training session. So for example, if our Akita is struggling with recall, we may work just on that during the training/feeding session. If you think of your dog’s kibble like dollars, a couple pieces of kibble is a small reward, and a whole handful of kibble is a big reward. We tend to give just 1-2 pieces of kibble for something simple and basic like a “sit” or a “paw” and give really big handfuls of kibble for doing a harder command like down or “here”.
There is a bonus to this tip as well, which is this can be easier on your Akita’s stomach and possible reduce the risk of them suffering from bloat, which is a life threatening condition.
2. Practice Interrupting Your Akita’s Feeding
Unlike the first tip, which can work for any age dog, this one you’ll have to start when your puppy is young. If you try this with an adult Akita and they are seriously aggressive when they are eating, you run the risk of getting bit. But if your Akita is still a puppy, this is pretty straightforward, if you do want to just put your Akita’s food in a bowl, simply interrupt them while they are eating. This could be by taking the bowl away momentarily, or distracting them with something else like a toy or a treat.
This habit of interrupting their feeding time helps them to get used to other people coming in and touching them or their food while eating. This is also a method that works best BEFORE resource guarding starts, so this is a great tip for anyone just getting an Akita puppy.
These same rules apply to toys. Get in the habit of taking your puppy’s toys away, and/or swapping out for another toy.
3. Make Your Akita Wait to Eat
One of the best skills our Akita has is waiting patiently for us to give him the “break” command to eat his food. While we do think hand feeding is the absolute best way to feed your Akita, it’s not always realistic. Sometimes you’re in a rush, or it’s late and everyone, including your puppy, is tired.
To develop this skill is simple, but not always easy, and it will require a lot of patience on your part. Start by putting your Akita’s food in a bowl, somewhere out of their reach, and then making them sit. As you begin to put the bowl down on the floor, they will likely begin to move toward the bowl. As soon as they move from their sit position, start to pull the bowl back up out of their reach and say “uh uh uh!” and make them sit again.
Do this repeatedly until they finally remain seated as you put the bowl on the floor, but be warned, it could take 20-30 times or even more for them to get it. Once they finally seated, give them an excited and enthusiastic “break!” command, and they’ll get the hint.
In order for this habit to stay engrained, you’ll have to practice it literally every time you feed your Akita, but the good news is, it will eventually go from 20+ tries, to 10, to 5, and then your dog will simply begin to understand that if they want to get their food, they’ll have to wait until you tell them it’s okay.
As they get better at this skill, you can really begin to challenge them by turning your back to them and seeing if they wait, or even walking into another room. If you can walk off and come back and your Akita hasn’t moved, you and your pup have definitely mastered this skill!
Staying Ahead of the Curve
The best way to stop this behavior is to get ahead of it before it starts, but if you got here because you searched “how to stop my dog from resource guarding?” it’s probably already an issue for you and your Akita. With that in mind, I’d heavily recommend the hand feeding method, as that will be your best bet to break the habit.
If that doesn’t work, it may be time to call a professional. Remember it’s not a sign of failure to hire a professional dog trainer, and in many instances, it can give you a great foundation to build off of. People call a mechanic when they need their car fixed, and a lawyer when they have a legal matter to handle, a dog trainer is no different!
Thank you so much for reading, we hope this article was helpful with your Akita or other dog! For more awesome Akita content, check out our YouTube channel!