The persistence of intraguild predation (IGP), the prey–predator interaction between competing species, is puzzling because simple IGP models readily predict species extinction. In this study, we explored a mathematical model incorporating predator-specific defense adaptation of basal prey against intraguild prey and intraguild predator. The model explicitly described the dynamics of the defense effort against each predator under the assumption that anti-predator defense was associated with reducing effort allocated to reproduction. The model predicted that defense adaptation (i.e. the ability to reallocate defense effort) would facilitate coexistence, particularly when system productivity is high; at low productivity, coexistence would be facilitated or inhibited depending on initial effort allocation prior to defense adaptation. In addition, we found that three-species dynamics became more stable at higher adaptation rates. The results suggest that common behavioral changes, such as predator-specific defense adaptation, have significant implications for the community structure and dynamics of IGP systems.