How to Deal With Your Dog When They Food or Toy Guard

Some dogs have a hard time parting with what they consider valuable resources, like food or toys. There are several levels of possession problems, from taking the object away, to covering it with the body, to growling, to biting. There are also two different kinds of possession: Some dogs seem to know exactly what they’re doing when they guard objects or food, while others appear to go into a state of near hysteria. You can help most dogs learn to share over time. However, if you think your dog is going to bite someone, you should seek professional help. Some dogs are just downright dangerous, and you may not have the expertise or time to do the requisite work yourself.

Dinner Time

Behavior modification method

My favorite way to teach sharing is to help the dog learn he doesn’t have to hold onto the object. In fact, it’s in his best interest to let it go. To do that, you need to get his attention. I usually start with a bowl with a few pieces of kibble or a not particularly valuable toy. Just when he’s finishing the kibble, you should approach him with a delicious treat—something out of this world. Put your hand down near his nose and lure him up into a sit. When he is sitting, give him the treat. It’s very important for him to sit! Do that several times, and then slightly increase the value of the food (or toy). I like to go a few feet away from a dog while he’s starting to eat and approach as he’s finishing, because I want him to believe that approaching feet and legs are no threat. When he’s sitting up without any cue from you, go to the next step, which is removing the bowl (empty at first) or toy. Go back to your low-value items for this. As you approach, he should sit. Give him the treat at the same time that you pick up the item. Give the item back to him and go away. Repeat. He’s now learning several things: First, you are not a threat; second, you have good things to share; and third, he should sit when you approach him while he’s got something good.

This method isn’t just theory. My rescued Cairn Terrier, Sophie, was extremely possessive and had bitten several people, including me. I tried a variety of behavior modification techniques, and this was the only one that had any lasting effect. Most people can’t believe that she was ever possessive.

Filed Under: Pets & Animals


About the Author: Fred Goodson has a passion for pets and animals. He has 4 dogs and is planning to have another one. He is also a blogger who writes about pets and animals. Currently, he is living in New Jersey.

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