RESOURCE GUARDING: Why we should be cautious of trade/swapsies.

Even ‘swapsies’ / trading has the potential to make it worse.

Amigo has suddenly taken a huge interest in toys. He will clamp and hold them, and becomes conflicted when he has them because he anticipates interest in the toy.

He even attempts to create predictability by parading the item, as if goading us to move towards it.

Now you know why some do this. Controlling a situation proactively can be less anxiety inducing than letting your guard down.

Memory recollection and associated emotions can be triggered when the resource is found and/or engaged with, creating emotional conflict (trying to enjoy the resource, but anxious about its removal).

I’m not sure what happened in Amigo’s past, but here the cue for anxiety could simply be the other dogs (or a person!) being in close proximity when he has a resource.

I’m opting to not remove the toys from the house as a primary intervention, as they are of lower value to my other dogs and thus, less of a risk of creating conflict between the dogs. So I’m aiming to put this behaviour on extinction, where Amigo learns at his own pace that there’s no threat and starts to either enjoy the toys fully or leave them alone.


A common pitfall with ‘swapsies’ /trading is often due to some nuances being over looked. Dogs can become highly suspicious of the ‘drop’ or trade process and cues associated with the originally taught sequence can further prompt anxiety in the dog.

🗣️ Tone of voice putting the dog under too much pressure. A hard tone associated with inhibitory cues like ‘drop’, or even fluffy positive cues can be perceived as pressure.
👀 Body language of human creating a sense of urgency. Rushed movements, rigid posture, tension in face can all affect our dog’s response. Loosey goosey is the way forward.
🚶‍♀️The person moving towards the dog while doing swapsies.
🕰️ Trying to hurry the process puts pressure on the dog.
⚠️ The dog is asked to surrender /trade everything, even if it is safe for them to have and not valuable to the owner. If you can ignore your dog having an item, always do that first!
🤚 Trying to snatch away that resource the moment the dog drops it. Never race your dog to a resource.
🥩 Trying to do a swapsie/trade with one small treat!
The value of the resource is not for you to decide I’m afraid. The exchange rate is down to your dog, and if you hesitate and try to barter/haggle, you can put them under more pressure.
In this video, (CLICK HERE) Amigo is emotionally conflicted about having a toy AND us all getting ready for our walks. I don’t want him to be emotionally conflicted in the car or on the walk, so would like the toy to stay home.

You can see and hear that I apply the following:

1. My tone is matter of fact.
2. I don’t move towards him.
3. I don’t move to the toy when he drops it.
4. I let him pick it back up.
5. We repeat until the value of the toy no longer outweighs the value of the treats.
6. I move him away (following a treat) before picking up the toy.

IMPORTANT: Trade does not have to be from hand to mouth.
Throwing treats away from the resource while maintaining a distance from your dog (and their resource) can put them under less pressure and is one adaptation that can be made to this protocol. This is most relevant for dogs who take the resource further away from you- indicating they need more space.

For extreme resource guarders, there’s more to it than this. For example, emergency strategies for dangerous items that avoid reinforce guarding should be on stand by. But for low- medium level guarders, this is usually enough to prevent escalation.

Don’t forget- the more interested you act in that resource – the more value you give to it and the more pressure you put your dog under.

🛑 Competing or not backing down over resource removal may stop guarding for some dogs in that moment (or results in the dog biting!). But, it does reinforce the context and usually increases the intensity and frequency of guarding in the future in the future. It’ll get to a level where your dog’s guarding is so intense you daren’t challenge them, and now you have an really dangerous level of intensity of guarding to work with.

So quite simply- avoid battling it out over a resource!

🎾 🦴 🍼 Toys, random items, food – the same principles apply.

🍲 Just an additional note that there’s rarely a valid reason to take your dog’s meal/bowl from them while they’re eating. It’s not something I advise.

You can learn more about resource guarding via my webinar- available on the online shop (shop> webinars)