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Q&A: Why Is My Dog Guarding My New Kitten From My Other Dog?

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Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

Overprotectiveness of a new kitten is likely a sign of resource guarding. Here's what you can do to help.

Overprotectiveness of a new kitten is likely a sign of resource guarding. Here's what you can do to help.

Why Is My Dog Fixated on My New Kitten?

"I got a new kitten and I've slowly introduced him to my two dogs. One dog has been passive, but the other is very obsessed with getting close to the kitten. My passive dog has been pushing the other dog away from the baby gate blocking the doorway where the kitten is, even low growling at her. It's like she's protecting the kitten.

Is there a way to stop that behavior? I'm afraid once the kitten is released into the family home, my dogs will fight." —Sarah

Resource Guarding in Dogs

This sounds very much like resource guarding—the passive dog is guarding the kitten as her own possession and does not want the other dog to get close. Dogs will often guard food but will sometimes even guard a toy or something that does not appear to have value. (I have an older dog that resource guards newborn lambs when the other dogs come close, although she loses interest when the lambs are a few days old. Resource guarding food is much more common.)

How to Stop Resource Guarding

Do not scold your dog or punish her for growling. Resource guarding can be stopped but requires some positive steps. If your passive dog is hanging around the kitten's cage, call her to you and distract her with a treat or call her into another room and praise her there.

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When you are ready to start letting your kitten wander around the house, call the obsessed dog over to you and have her lie down. (If she is not well trained for obedience, you may need to have her on a collar.)

Release the kitten and the passive dog will see that the obsessed dog is not a threat. You should, however, be present when the cat is let out for several days to watch the dogs and make sure they do not start fighting.

There is a lot of good information out there about resource guarding, but this link may be helpful to you as it provides information about the problem and some steps to stop it.

If All Else Fails, Consult a Behaviorist

If this continues despite all of your efforts, you will need to consult a behaviorist. You can call your regular veterinarian to ask for the best resource in your area.

This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Dr Mark

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