How to Train your Dog to Share

Ask any parent what his or her toddler’s favorite word is, and he or she will likely say that it’s “mine,” quickly followed by the word “no.” After a few months of this, parents have a few more gray hairs as they gamely try to teach their two-year-old the concept of sharing. Sharing does not come naturally to anyone—least of all a toddler or a puppy. It’s not so common in the adult world either. Just ask a grown-up to lend you his or her car! When Mary tries to take a toy from Johnny, Johnny is likely to respond quite violently—hanging onto the toy, screaming, yelling, and sometimes hitting or biting. Once again, children can’t really do a whole lot of damage, and because childhood lasts a long time, babies can learn about sharing over a period of several months or years. Puppies can’t.

Dog trainers call the desire to hold onto valuable resources as “guarding” or “possession.” It’s very natural, but it’s also something we try to teach dogs not to do, especially with humans but even with other dogs. They should learn while the teaching window is open (if possible, before the pup is three months old); otherwise the task becomes much more difficult. As with kids, one of the best ways to approach this is the trade-off routine. You offer the child a better toy, or a cracker or cookie, to replace the one he or she is holding. With a pup, you can offer a treat or a different chew toy, praise him for trading, or start to play a game that will entice him. You can also lure him to another area to play. If you must take the toy from his mouth, do it quickly and decisively. Put your hand over his muzzle, and press on the gum above his upper teeth. This will cause him to loosen his grip. Now take the item and praise him for giving it to you. I know he didn’t really give it to you, but hey, you got it! This technique is particularly useful when the item is dangerous or extremely valuable. What you shouldn’t do is play tug-of-war in order to get the object from the pup. He’ll see this as a game and one that he can win. This will teach him that he’s stronger and smarter than you are—not what you had in mind. He could also become truly possessive-aggressive as he matures.

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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