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) and a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner (KPA CTP) with a master's degree in psychology and a concentration in animal behavior from Hunter College. Lindsay works at Karen Pryor Academy  as a Course Developer and has been a member of the  KPA faculty member since 2012. She specializes in resolving behavior conditions and consults for animal shelters on the design and implementation of behavior programs, effective modification methods for a range of behavior conditions, and development of robust operational strategies to achieve behavioral health within the shelter.

Lindsay served as the Director of Operations for Lynchburg Humane Society (LHS), an open-admissions animal shelter located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Her role at Lynchburg Humane included the oversight of all shelter operations, with a strong focus on behavior and behavior modification to increase the number of animal lives saved and rehomed successfully.

Prior to her role as Director of Operations in Virginia, Lindsay served as the Director of Animal Training and Behavior for the Humane Society of Boulder Valley in Boulder, Colorado. She developed Boulder Humane's Training and Behavior Department, including the curriculum for a wide array of positive reinforcement, clicker training classes for community members. Lindsay also developed the organization's comprehensive behavior modification program, which focuses on rehabilitating dogs with specific concerns, including food-guarding, fearful behavior, body-handling sensitivities, separation anxiety, and dog-dog aggression.