Dogs are possessive of their toys because they like it so much that they don’t want to share! We often make it worse by ignoring when they growl and take their valued possession (or at least what they think is theirs) away anyway.
This is a good way of getting bitten. If you are worried that your dog might bite, get in contact with a good trainer in your area. Check for example the trainer directory of the Pet Professional Guild Australia www.ppgaustralia.net.au.
We need to understand that if a dog growls at us this is a warning. If we do not heed the warning, they might escalate and bite. NO, we do not want our dogs to growl at us, but we also don’t want our children getting bitten. Dogs really don’t write letters to the editor. Growling is their way of communicating. So, don’t punish the growl, teach them to exchange and a solid ‘leave-it’ cue.
As with most things, prevention is better than cure. Don’t take things away from your dog just because you can. Yes, there are emergencies, but we are not talking about those.
We need to do three things:
- Teach ‘drop it’
- Teach ‘leave it’
If you need to take something away from your dog – exchange! This means offer them something better. You can set this up by playing with his least favourite toy for a little while, then show him a toy he likes better, he will drop the other toy and you give him the better one as a reinforcer.
Once he understands the game, add a cue like ‘drop it’. Then make it gradually more difficult. In time, your dog will happily give up his toys when you ask because you have taught him that there is something in it for him.
Teach ‘leave it’. My aim for the ‘leave-it’ is that they turn their head away from what they are looking at or are about to pick up. We teach our dogs a head- turn first. We lure their head to one side and reinforce, once they understand the visual cue, we add a verbal cue. We then add a distraction like a toy and make it gradually more difficult until the dog can leave anything that we ask them to.
The head turn also works for dogs who get excited by passing cars, bikes or dogs.
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