Ever had a dog who won't give you his bone or chew toy if you try to take it from him? Or one who gets uncomfortable or growls if you get close to him when he's eating his dog food? Or snaps at you if he's on the sofa and you want him off? Or lifts his lip in a snarl if your friend tries to get close to you?
Answer yes to any of the above, and you've successfully diagnosed your dog as having a guarding issue. The catchall, technical term is "resource-guarding," and can include guarding of dog food bowls (or food), place (dog crate, dog bed, sofa, etc.) items (rawhide, bones, balls, tissues, etc.) and less commonly, people.
Resource-guarding simply means that a dog gets uncomfortable when we (or other animals) are around him when he has "his stuff." He's nervous that we're going to take it away, so he tries to warn us off in a variety of ways, ranging from simply consuming his food faster, to an all-out bite. Trainers often hear the cry, "he bit without warning!" More often than not, there was a warning, somewhere, sometime - we just missed it.
During resource-guarding, dogs exhibit components of ritualized aggression. That is, they have a fairly explicit hierarchy of warnings - accelerated eating, cessation of eating or "freezing up," glassy/hard eyes, growling, lip lifting, snapping, biting - that they'll run through to get a competitor (YOU!) to back away from what they have. They're nervous that you're there and don't want to share.
If you see any of these signs, please feel free to give the PawsCienda Pet Resort a call and we will be glad to help out.