My Smart Puppy

with Dog Expert, Sarah Wilson

Preventing Possessive Aggression of Toys


Possessiveness is one of the more common types of canine aggression. In most cases it can be lessened or altogether avoided, if you know what to do. If you want to create a relaxed dog around toys, try this:

Skip the Anger
Possessive aggression can be manmade. If we get angry when our dog takes things, and stay angry, even after the dog drops the item, then your dog has no way to “win.” Once he has something in his mouth, he has no way to stop your anger; this can force the dog to start defending himself.

Reward the Release
Once something is in your dog’s mouth, it is too late to teach him not to take it. The only thing you can teach him now is to drop the item promptly. Therefore, reward him for releasing it – even if you are REALLY annoyed he took it!

Make Walk Bys Wonderful
Whenever you walk by your dog when he is chewing on something appropriate like a dog toy, smile and toss a treat in his direction then keep on walking. The goal? For him to think, “OH BOY! Here comes someone – that always means something good!”

Take then Give
Practice ‘Out’ with your pup. Approach him when he has a toy he is not tense around and practice this: Say, “Out” and take the toy. Praise him for his brilliance. Give him a treat. Return the toy and leave him alone. A few weeks of this once or twice a day and your dog will hope you take his toys.

Doing these things can help you teach your dog to relax when people come by his toys. Well worth a few minutes a day, don’t you think?

Word of Advice: Careful with Trading!
A common bit of advice given out these days is to trade your dog for whatever he has. This advice can lead to trouble. First, it teaches the dog to give up what he has when he likes what you have better. When that isn’t the case, when he has half a dead rabbit and you have a biscuit, you are likely to have no “out” at all.

Next, whenever the dog does not spit something out, most people immediately get a better treat or more treats. This actually rewards the dog for holding on and that can get him clamping down when you try to take the toy. Not what we want!

Note: Please seek immediate professional help if you feel threatened by your dog at any time for any reason. Aggression is not a do-it-yourself project to resolve. The purpose of this article is to help you prevent aggression, not to direct you on how to deal with it.

by Sarah Wilson

Author of handbooks: My Smart Puppy (book with DVD) and Childproofing Your Dog
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