On Guard! Modification of Food Guarding

One of the most intractable problems for shelters putting dogs up for adoption is the behavior of food guarding. A dog that might bite any hand that comes near its food bowl is not a dog that you can safely re-home into a family setting. Unfortunately, food-related aggression is fairly prevalent among shelter dogs nationwide, and euthanasia is often the end result of this particular behavior problem.

To address this problem, Lindsay Wood, Director of Animal Training and Behavior for the Humane Society of Boulder Valley, developed a treatment plan for dogs that display food guarding behavior. The plan is aimed at reducing euthanasia due to food guarding in shelter dogs, but can be applied to pet dogs in the home as well.

This protocol applies force-free, scientific principles of desensitization and counter-conditioning to modify a dog's existing negative association to food bowl interference and removal. Current program results indicate an average treatment time of 11 days, with more than 90% of participants successfully passing re-evaluation by a novel tester (giving no evidence of guarding). The dogs tested are thus able to progress to the adoption center.

Thanks to the success and ease of use of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley's program, Lindsay Wood has taught the protocol to an increasing number of other shelters. Ongoing educational efforts may facilitate successful food-guarding behavior modification protocols nationwide, increasing the number of lives saved and advancing the welfare of shelter pets.

Attendees of this Session will learn how to use this efficient and effective method to help private clients who are dealing with resource guarding in the home.

Lindsay Wood Brown

Lindsay Wood Brown is a board-certified applied animal behaviorist (ACAAB) with a master's degree in animal behavior. Lindsay is a Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) course developer and has served as a KPA faculty member since 2012. Lindsay’s goal is to help behavior consultants and shelter professionals apply behavior-change science to their everyday professional lives. Her focus is on stripping labels, flipping prevailing ideas on their sides for a better view, and honing in on systematic ways to advance strategies.

Lindsay consults for animal shelters across the country and provides 1:1 mentorship opportunities for behavior consultants. She previously served as the Director of Operations for Lynchburg Humane Society in Virginia and as the Director of Animal Training and Behavior for the Humane Society of Boulder Valley in Boulder, Colorado.