How to Break a Dog’s Possessiveness

Possessiveness in dogs is a common problem.

This post includes tips on how to prevent a dog’s possessiveness to begin with, as well as how to prevent a dog’s existing possessiveness.

Dogs can be possessive of pretty much anything, causing them to guard food, toys, bones, sticks, a dog bed or even another dog or a person!

Every dog and situation is unique, but my goal is to help you brainstorm ideas to help your own dog overcome possessiveness (or resource guarding).
How to break a dog's possessiveness

How to break a dog’s possessiveness

1. Start the “nothing is free” program.

I prefer to use this method even when the dog is not possessive. It’s a good habit. Simply, the dog earns food, treats, toys, attention, etc.

Yes, I give my dog plenty of affection when he doesn’t do anything first. However, we should try to make our dogs earn their food, toys and yes – our affection – at least some of the time. It’s a way to reinforce good manners and teaches the dog self-control.

A lot of dogs that show possessiveness of food or toys do not have a high level of self control in general. They believe it is OK to take what they want. It’s our job to teach them patience will bring them lots of good things!

You sit, you get a treat! You lie down and wait, you get food. You make eye contact, OK, we can head out for a walk!

A lot of dogs that show possessiveness of food or toys do not have a high level of self control in general.

2. Don’t allow possessiveness of items that “belong” to the dog.

Be careful not to make excuses for your dog and allow possessiveness of objects that “belong” to him.

For example, just because the tennis ball “belongs” to the dog, that doesn’t give the dog permission to snap at someone who tries to take it. The humans should always be allowed to take anything from the dog.

I’ve had some readers tell me their dogs were possessive of stuffed animals because the dogs thought the toys were their babies. While that may be true on occasion, it’s still not OK for the dog to show aggression over a toy.

This post has been expanded into a FREE ebook on how to break a dog’s possessiveness. Click Here

3. Help the dog achieve a high level of obedience.

My dog Ace with his ballThis goes along with self control and the “nothing is free” idea.

Dogs that come when called, stay when told and walk nicely on a leash have a higher level of self control than other dogs. This means they also have a higher level of respect for their owners, and they (generally) have better manners overall.

If your dog has a problem with possessiveness, one of the first things you should consider is his level of obedience. Does he stay when told 99 percent of the time? Probably not. Does he come when called even with distractions? I bet not.

In order to help your dog improve his manners overall, it is absolutely necessary to work on his basic obedience first. If you need some help, it’s OK to attend an obedience class or work one-on-one with a trainer.

4. Make sure you “claim” anything you give your dog.

This is not complicated or mean. It’s just a subtle communication to the dog – “OK, I see. That toy belongs to the human.”

For example, before giving your dog a toy, you could ask the dog to sit. This puts the dog into a calmer state of mind. If the dog accepts the toy in a calm state of mind, he is more likely to remain in that state and play with the toy calmly. A calm dog is less likely to become possessive and reactive.

As another example, you could ask your dog to wait before eating. Once you place the bowl on the ground, do not allow your dog to charge the bowl. Simply, ask for some space. You can do this by standing over the bowl calmly but confidently. Or, you can tell your dog to sit before you give a calm release command to get the food.

While the dog is eating, you should ask him to stop and back away or sit again. This teaches the dog that you can take the food at any time. Just make sure to give the food back as a reward, or drop in something extra that’s even better like real chicken!

This post has been expanded into a FREE ebook on how to break a dog’s possessiveness. Get it here.

How to stop a dog's possessiveness of toys

5. When the dog shows aggression, “trade” him for something better.

Do not hesitate to seek help from a professional dog trainer in your area if you are at all hesitant about approaching your aggressive dog. If you are tentative and giving off a weak energy, your dog is only that much more powerful.

Of course, you will need to practice this over and over again a few times per day over several weeks or even months.You definitely don’t want to reward your dog for showing possessiveness of a toy, but it’s hard to remove the object from the dog if she’s growling and snapping. One way to do this is approach your dog with something even better than the original object such as pieces of chicken, beef or deli meat.

Approach your dog with the food, give a command such as “sit” and then when the dog drops the original object and sits, give him a jackpot of the treats in your hands. Since dogs only focus on one thing at a time, the dog will be rewarded for the most recent behavior, the “sit.” The dog will not be rewarded for possessiveness.

If you purposely set up these scenarios, you should have your dog on a leash for extra control in case your dog tries to grab the original object and run off.

Of course, you will need to practice this over and over again a few times per day over several weeks or even months.

6. Teach the dog the commands “leave it” and “drop.”

When practicing the trading technique above, you can incorporate a command – drop.

The dog may not drop the object right away, but as you continue practicing the trading technique, the dog will be more willing to drop the original item. This is when I recommend you start saying “drop.” The dog will already be doing the behavior, but you are adding the command.

The dog will eventually learn to “drop” on command with or without a treat. You should of course continue to use treats every now and then to keep the dog interested.

I also use the command “leave it” to mean “Do not touch.” This is easier to teach and practice, because you would give the command when the dog does not already have the object in his mouth. Then, reward the dog for showing self control and not touching the object.

With practice, you can eventually use “leave it” in many different contexts. You’ll just need to practice in different environments and with different items slowly over several weeks and months.

Stop dog from guarding toys7. Desensitize and condition your dog.

Your dog might be so aggressive that the trading technique above is not working. One thing you can consider is setting up a desensitization plan. This type of training takes several weeks to work, so you need a lot of patience, and don’t hesitate to get some advice from a local trainer.

The idea is to set up scenarios where the dog is likely to become possessive. For example, if the dog is possessive of rawhides, you’re going to have to present rawhides to him every day and work to desensitize him. Patricia McConnell has an excellent post on how this desensitization and classical conditioning process works in dogs. I wrote a summary of her post here.

Here’s what you would do:

Put your dog’s leash on him, preferably a long leash. Use a training collar if it generally gives you more control. Then, give your dog a rawhide and leave the room.

Next, return to the room with a stock of highly valued treats (like pieces of beef). Walk up to your dog but stop before he has a chance to guard the rawhide. That distance will be different depending on the dog. Toss him a treat so it lands right by his mouth, and then walk away.

You want the dog to think, “No! Don’t go away! Keep giving me treats!” This will only work if you can find food that is “better” than the rawhide.

Then, over several days or weeks, you would continue to get closer to the dog until he is OK with you approaching while he has the rawhide.

8. Correct the dog, then redirect and reward the new behavior.

I mentioned the desensitizing approach first, because it’s generally safer, but it’s not the only way to stop a dog’s possessiveness.

Some trainers will recommend correcting the dog for the inappropriate behavior, and I have used this approach many times. You just need to be careful because using force can bring out additional frustration from the dog.

For correcting a dog’s possessiveness, I recommend you keep a leash on the dog. This will give you more control and confidence. You would then set up a scenario where the dog is likely to become possessive. Maybe you drop a rawhide on the floor. If the dog tries to go for the rawhide without your permission, you would tell the dog “no” and then ask the dog to sit. Once the dog sits, reward him for that behavior. The dog must learn to wait until you give him permission to take the rawhide.

You can also practice this by allowing the dog to take the rawhide. Then, give the command “drop.” If the dog obeys, reward, reward, reward! If he doesn’t, you could correct the dog by giving a quick tug with the leash and collar. If he releases, reward him! If he doesn’t release, you may have to have a backup plan and trade the dog for something better.

Practice this multiple times a day. Dogs need a lot of repetitions before a behavior becomes conditioned, so be patient. Make this process fun rather than stressful. You want to be the leader, but you want to be a fun leader.

9. Do not make up excuses for your dog’s possessive or aggressive behavior.

Small problems lead to bigger problems when dog owners do not take a dog’s mild aggression or possessive issues seriously.

Of course, some dogs sound aggressive when they are playing with toys. This is normal as long as the dog is just playing and will allow you to take the toy and end the game at any time. For more information, see my post on why does my dog growl at other dogs?

10. Hire a professional trainer.

This is actually my number one suggestion.

Aggression is serious, and I do not want anyone to get hurt. A professional trainer will be able to evaluate your dog and tell you some additional ideas.

One of my foster dogs was showing some severe possessiveness, and even though I have a lot of experience with dogs it was nice to consult with a trainer for some extra ideas. When you don’t live with the dog, it’s easier to notice things the owner may not see.

For further reading, see my additional posts:

What do you do to prevent possessive behavior from your dog?

This post was updated in October 2016.

540 Readers Commented

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  1. Megan MacRae on August 8, 2013

    I have a one and a half year old Pitbull and Chow mix. He is the most loving dog I’ve ever had, but we’ve run across a couple extremely bad habits. If he isn’t doing what he likes (like not wanting to go to bed) he will have no problem growling at you and acting like he’s going to bite you. Also, this morning he went out to see the horse and stole a piece of hoof that was left by the farrier (not my horse so I’m not picking up after it) and tried to bite both myself and my Mom when we went to take it from him. We have kids that come over and we are getting nervous that if they go after whatever is in his mouth he will bite them. I think I am a huge part of the problem. When we play, I growl at him when I try to take his toys away from him. How can I get this loving and caring dog to not have temper tantrums?

  2. Stefanie on October 11, 2013

    I have a 2 year old German Shephard mix. She is very sweet, loving, and playful, knows the drop command, and plays well with humans. The issue is that she hoards all of the toys and bones, and shows aggression towards our other dogs if they try to take or have one of the toys. For example, we have a 7 month old puppy who had a ball and was calmly laying with it in his mouth; my GSD entered the room, saw the puppy had the ball, and went to attack him. The strange part though, is that when she does play with the puppy she knows to be gentle because he is smaller and will often lay down and just let him tug. How do we fix this possessiveness?

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on October 28, 2013

      Sorry to hear you’re having this issue. Have you been able to fix it since you wrote your comment?

      I would recommend you work on some self-control exercises with your 2-year-old shepherd mix. For example, have her on a leash and allow the other dog to play with some toys. With your shepherd, work on some obedience commands with treats, rewarding her for focusing on the task at hand and ignoring the other dogs. You may need another person to help you. One person could work with the shepherd while the other plays with the other dogs.

      When/if she tries to go after the other dog, I would give her a verbal correction – “no” and a tug on the leash. Then reward her for a more appropriate behavior such as sitting on command.

      It definitely gets tricky when you’re dealing with multiple dogs. I would definitely be interested in hearing what has worked for others.

  3. Kerry Bilsby on November 10, 2013

    I have a 4 year old rescue jack Russell,during the day I can move his bed or even sit in it,he doesn’t take any notice,but at night if I pick it up to move it he runs towards it growling & showing his teeth,even if his in it at night & I walk past it he growls at me,his such a lovely dog but this is getting worse & I’m not sure the best way to handle it??

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on November 10, 2013

      Sorry to hear you’re having issues with this. How frustrating. Points #’s 7 and 8 on this list are two options for how you can help your dog overcome this problem. My ebook goes into more details on both, so I recommend you check it out. Best of luck to you, and don’t hesitate to contact a trainer in your area. I don’t want you to get bitten.

  4. Dana on November 15, 2013

    I have an 8 month old Husky who I put in daycare last week to help keep him busy during the day. The same week, I noticed he has been possessive of his rawhide bone. He doesn’t take this to day care with him, but I was wondering if the issue was stemming from being around other dogs. I have only had him a month and I am unsure of his background. Should I not be taking him to daycare if he is having these issues?

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on November 15, 2013

      I wouldn’t say he shouldn’t go to daycare, but you might want to find a dog daycare that doesn’t keep toys and bones out on the ground in the main play area. That may sound odd (what? no toys?) but I think it’s generally a good policy to keep all the dogs safer. I’m not sure what your current daycare does, but it would be worth asking. Also let them know about his potential issue so they can prevent any incidents. And they may suggest he should come to daycare anymore. Don’t take it personally if that’s the case.

  5. Kyle on November 28, 2013

    My 7 month old rott has an aggressive possesive behavoir that we are working on with techniques above. He has only had a problem with toys food treats but now I had a tool bag laying in the living room by th couch for a couple days And last night i was on the couch watching tv as he was sleeping by the tool bag and he woke up calmly then snapped at me and begun guarding the tool bag and for two days showed no interest in it at all…when he was guarding it it took 10 min of trying to trade him with various foods to get him away from it… what may have triggered the guarding of the bag

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on November 29, 2013

      Gosh, it’s hard to say what triggered it. Some dogs have a tendency to guard their space or to guard their beds or other things on the ground.

  6. Debbi on January 9, 2014

    I have a 5 year old lab pit mix with possession aggression issues. I have paid for $1000’s of dollars of trainers. She will fixate on an object, growl, bear her teeth and threaten to bite. She was a rescue and has been fearful of going outside, etc from day one. We cannot even get her to walk outside at times. I am considering surrendering her because nothing seems to be working. Is there a time when you just have to say enough is enough? I am afraid she will hurt someone. Most of the time she is the sweetest animal. We even have a small dog that she plays with just fine.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on January 9, 2014

      So sorry to hear you are going through this. It’s so hard to give advice over the Internet, but I know you will make the right choice for you, your family and the dog, whatever that might be.

  7. Tiasha on March 2, 2014

    My friends puppy who os only a few months now is being very possesive of her bones. I try to train her and so far its going well but she just wont let us touch her when she has a bone and I cant trade anything because she is too small to have dry food. She is a lab and the reason they got a lab is cause they are gentle but she snaps and shows her teeth and thats really bad because zhe is so young and still tiny

  8. Lindsay Stordahl Author on March 3, 2014

    Oh I’m sorry to hear your friend’s puppy is acting possessive. I go over some tips in my ebook on how to stop this behavior. I would also encourage your friend to seek the help from a professional trainer in the area. You can definitely put a stop to this problem now before it gets worse.

    Any breed can become possessive.

  9. Suzette McGlynn on April 16, 2014

    Thank you for this article! Very helpful. My dog is a German Shepard lab mix. He has become very possesive over the chuck it balls. He can fit two in his mouth and on play dates he actually will guard up to 3 of them at a time. I am stumped on how to fix this.

  10. Deanna on June 21, 2014

    I have a 1 year old Doberman/Bernese Mt Dog. He is extremely possessive of me, his behavior is good otherwise but he is constantly biting my hands and arms and barks when I even SIT next to my husband. Not much with my kids but it has happened. No other signs of aggressiveness but he gets right up in the face and deep barks. As you can imagine its extremely aggravating. HELP!

  11. wendy on July 2, 2014

    we have three dogs one small 6yr , large 6yr , very large but shy but sorta aggressive at times one year old. The young one on very few ocassion i toy and mainly bone he becomes possive and aggresive to down right fight i dont every see teeth marks but sounds awful but most time it been claw injuries which is bad enough to me . Now we just give young one a bone in cage unless he been bad that day we dont give him the bone when goes in cage . The other day we got you big red tody and it was laying behind the 6yr old big dog and the young one seen old one look at it and it was on this does not happen every time but i guess cause it was new . The young dog is lover and sweet they all are i got in the fight to break them up and neither goes after me or anybody else it just confusing . The young one goes in cage when we leave the two older ones do not fight or nothing well play fight that it ,

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on July 2, 2014

      That must be so frustrating. I’m glad they never go after a person who is in the way. Have you considered hiring a trainer to come help you?

  12. Jim on July 11, 2014

    Hey there,

    We have a 4 year old golden retriever, she’s got a heart of gold with people but not so much with other dogs. We’ve just moved into my grandmothers house, she had a golden lab, who is very dosile and doesn’t really care what our does, shes 6 and they’ve been around each other maybe 2 times a week for years. Now my dog is in my grandmothers dogs space she’s possessive of both us and her toys. She is a very vocal dog in the sense that she play growls (if you want to call it that) when she plays and love bows. I’m not into the idea of isolating my dog, since they are fine around each other when they are not getting attention or my grandmothers dog isn’t playing with a toy (her dog doesn’t really play with toys). Have you got a any idea of how I can train my dog to be aware that she isn’t top dog and that I am?

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on July 11, 2014

      Just brainstorming here … obviously I don’t know your exact dog and the exact situation. So maybe this can at least help you think of some ideas.

      Have you read this post about dogs guarding their owners? It’s more about small dogs guarding their owners from other people, but could also apply to a dog guarding the owner from other dogs:

      I would definitely work on your dog’s obedience skills in general. They may be pretty good already, but keep looking for ways to challenge her a bit more. Keep it positive, but be firm on your rules.

      For example, one challenge you can work on with her on is to have her lie down and stay on a dog bed while you give attention to the other dog. Then, you would reward your dog for calm behavior. You could practice this (safely) with other family members too. Tether your dog to a chair or have someone hold the leash if necessary.

      If you’re ever petting your dog and the other dog approaches, don’t allow your dog to block the other dog from you. Put your dog in a down stay and give attention to the other dog. Then reward your dog for calm behavior.

      The toys will be a challenge. Maybe keep all toys put away for a few weeks while the dogs get used to each other?

      I did write a post years ago on how to be a leader to a more dominant dog. I know people are sensitive to the word “dominant” but regardless, it may give you some ideas:

      You know your own unique dog best, so maybe you can modify any of the ideas I’ve listed. If you can swing it, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to hire a trainer to come observe the dogs. Even one session with a trainer may be worth it.

  13. Karen on July 25, 2014

    I have a nine month old golden retriever that just bit my hand. It was a real bite, not a play one. She sunk her teeth right into me. She has showed possessive tendencies before, but I was always able to deescalate and trade her for something. This time she just bit me. I am in tears because she is otherwise a sweet dog. She is sweet, but she is also an alpha and is not willing to give up her alpha position. Now that she has bitten, will I ever be able to trust her around small children? I need a dog that I can trust around small children?

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on July 25, 2014

      So sorry to hear this, Karen.

      No easy answer, but my opinion is that it is possible to help most dogs overcome possessiveness issues with the right training program, patience and time. Yet, I would never trust a dog that has bitten someone 100 percent around small children. Of course, you can’t trust any dog 100 percent.

      This may be a case where it would be helpful to meet with a trainer and get some good feedback from someone who can observe your dog.

  14. Peter on September 16, 2014

    My dog is a beautiful natured Amstaf Ridgeback cross 2 year old. At home she is demanding but will listen when I am firm. She sits and waits for the command to eat dinner, drops her toys on command at home. Pulls on the leash but much less now as she grows older. Just started to walk a short way down our street without a leash and so far good. In the park or on the beach, with her own ball or other dogs balls, she gets them and will not drop or give them up, not even for a treat. Not agressive in any way. I don’t know how to correct this.

  15. Debra Johnson on December 1, 2014

    I have a 7 yr old Silky Terrier. He is very close to my husband and doesnt like me to get too close to him. He will nip at my feet and stand in the way to ” protect his dad”He is also very affectionate to me .

  16. Cindi on January 22, 2015

    Hi there! I have a 4 year old Pit that I’ve had since a pup. She is loved by everyone that meets her and plays well with others, until there is a toy involved. It doesn’t matter if it’s her toy or not, she automatically thinks it belongs to her and will do anything to keep it. It’s only getting worse and quite frankly it’s embarrassing to take her to the park. Just today she was chasing her ball and two other dogs just wanted to play with her and she abruptly stopped, growled and showed her teeth!!!!! I have to be honest in saying I’m harder on her because of her breed as I know others tend to be Leary of her. But, she wasn’t always like this and I don’t know how to fix it. Please help!!

  17. Annie on May 31, 2015

    Hi Lindsay,

    i’ve been reading your blog about possessiveness in dogs, which I think will help me but i’m not sure how to stop this particular behaviour when it happens at the park
    My dog Richie, a rescue bitsa, loves to chase the ball. He doesn’t regularly bring it back and drop it (we haven’t mastered) but as soon as we get to the park he will start jumping up for it. I can get him to sit and wait for the ball no problem, I wait for his eye contact and then i throw it. However, lately, when I’ve put the ball in my pocket because i want him to play with other dogs, or because i just want to walk for a while, he gets frustrated and starts jumping and biting at me trying to get to the ball. This is painful and dangerous. I can get him to sit, but as soon as I walk off he starts jumping and biting again. If i put him on the lead, he starts chewing and tugging on the lead. I have had to walk him back to the car holding on to his leash for about 50 m and then he seems to calm down. How do I stop this ‘getting at the ball’ behaviour?


  18. Noah on June 5, 2015

    I have a Cane Corso Mastiff and he is big but he is really possessive because my dad tried to take his bone and he almost got bit. Also do you know any way that will make him not be growling and biting the people that we let into my house. Please tell me what I can do.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on July 13, 2015

      Hi Noah. Sorry to hear of your dog’s issues. Have you made any progress since you left your comment? I would definitely recommend hiring a local trainer to help you with your dog, even if it’s just a single one-on-one session.

  19. Sunshine Chemco on June 17, 2015

    Thank you for this article! Very very helpful. My dog is a two year old shih Tzu and he is very playful. When he is sitting /playing with my husband, if my daughter says lets go say god night to dad he shows possessiveness and kinda shows his teeth to her. Nothing major issues I have with him but is it normal behavior?

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on July 13, 2015

      Hi Sunshine. It is somewhat “normal” but not exactly a behavior we want to allow from our dogs. Is your husband able to show your dog he disagrees with this behavior by blocking him from growling or saying no? You could also try having your daughter approach with treats and having her offer the treats when the dog sits politely without growling.

  20. Chris on July 11, 2015

    Hi, I have a Staffordshire terrier who loves, loves people. He will run at some dogs and not others on the beach when we are walking. There are no signs of aggression prior to him running at the dogs and no apparent reason for his show of aggression. Is he being possessive of me, protective or fearful of other dogs?

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on July 13, 2015

      Hi Chris. I’m sure that is really frustrating, and I’m sorry to hear of your dog’s aggression issues. It’s really hard to know why he is acting that way without more information or seeing him. Would there be a way you could hire a trainer to observe your dog?

      A couple of things I would watch for that could be subtle hints your dog is more excited around certain dogs: Watch for his ears or tail going up when he sees another dog and if you notice this, get him to pay attention to you instead. Also, get his attention if he seems to be staring at another dog or getting tense.

      Your dog could be reacting for any of the reasons you mentioned, but often it’s simply being overly excited around certain dogs and not knowing how to handle that energy. When two excited dogs meet, that is often when little scuffles break out.

      I don’t know anything about your exact situation or what you’ve tried, your knowledge of dog behavior, etc. Forgive me if you know all this already. Just brainstorming.

      Good luck!

  21. Shelley on July 17, 2015

    i have a 8 yr old golden retreiver who is aggressive towards other dogs when he has a toy or even a stick and it doesnt even need to be his if he has it in his mouth thats it does not show any aggression towards people we can take anything he doesnt care always worked with him when he was a puppy as far as putting our hands in his food bowl and so on, he actually nipped a 5 wk old kitten and the kitten died the kitten wasnt try to take the toy was just climbing on the couch but got next to his face now him and the kitten would sleep together the kitten with play with his tsil and so on and now i try to take him seimming and seone through a stick and trevor went and got it and another dog went to take it and trevor got mad and crowled i yelled and trevor dropped the stick and today at a friends and trevor found a ball and her dog 4 lbs walked over to him and he snapped at that dog he he’s been around that dog for 4 yrs, he is such a good boy other than that

  22. Eleonora on August 29, 2015


    I have a 7 months old hungarian vizsla. 2 months ago he started to be possessive on his chewe bone and pigs ear. After he became possessive on things fex: socks, key ring with soft toy on it, or anything what he decides it is belong to him. He bit me twice an my boyfriend twice because I took from him a chewi bone and a pigs ear. We are very worried about his behavior I don’t know who coul we stop it. I hope it isn’t too late! Thank you for your help!

  23. Eleonora on August 29, 2015

    I don’t know how could we stop it.

  24. Julie on September 12, 2015

    We have a 9 month old bernedoodle. He is a very loving large dog. However, he is quite possesive of the couch. If anyone sits on the couch he becomes very aggressive, growling and biting. At first it was cute when he day on the couch, but now that he’s become adhesive is quite frightening. Amy other time he’s the sweetest dog.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on September 14, 2015

      Sorry to hear that. I’m sure that is very scary and stressful.

  25. Jennifer on October 30, 2015

    Our family pet has become possessive of anything that hits the floor since we brought in a service dog to help my husband. I put down bones for them and she will guard them both, bringing hers close to his and keeping him from enjoying his bone while guarding both bones. She will snarl and bite him and me when anyone tried to correct it. She’s also not eating when I put their food down for them. Not sure why that is. I’ve tried to work in trading sessions with her and she will nearly bite me when I offer the reward after she does the command. I’ve gotten teeth on my fingers and it’s been a couple close calls. So even with treats during training the possessive and entitled behaviors are there. How do I proceed. Thought about getting her a gentle leader for walking since she skate had been a puller when we walk and now that we have the service dog I’ve seen the benefits of having a dog that walks with you. Could that help her to know I’m in charge?

  26. Don on January 16, 2016

    Thanks for finally writing about >How to Break
    a Dog’s Possessiveness | <Liked it!

  27. Jasmine on January 18, 2016

    Hi, I am writing regarding my mums border terrier x toy poodle, she is now just over a year old. She is the most affectionate dog towards people and usually very good with other dogs and loves to play, she can get too over excited sometimes. Although my mum has been a bit soft with her in the past and she does get away with alot, she isn’t very obedient and will only listen if your waving a treat to get her attention. Lately she has snapped aggressively on two separate occasions with other dogs and I’d like some advice on how to stop this. The first time was when she was playing with another dog she’s known since she was a pup, got over excited and started fighting with him, my mum had to pull her away as she wouldn’t stop. The second time a friendly dog we know got too close to her toy and she again began to start going for him, luckily the other’s is a softy and ran away. Do you have any advice to stop this? I partly blame my mum for letting her get away with murder for too long

  28. Steve reynolds on January 23, 2016

    I have a 4 year old chocolate lab, he is great with my 2 kids and listens to simple comands. But he has now started stealing food off the kitchen side or wrappers (with or without food in) once he gets hold of these things he turns very aggressive and lunges if you approach him. Whats the best way to get over this issue? If he goes for my wife or kids he will have to go but I want to try and avoid this happening!

  29. Trish on February 1, 2016

    I have a 1.5 year old lab mix who is sometimes possessive of food, toys, and his sleeping space. He has never snapped at a human but has snapped at dogs. One incident occurred when we were watching my sister’s dog. I decide to sleep out on the couch so the dogs could spread out in the living room. My lab mix sleeps with me every night so he naturally laid on the couch with me. When my sister’s dog walked my he snapped and growled at him. I am expecting a baby in a couple months and worry this behavior may escalate. What can I do to correct the possessiveness now?

  30. kristen Geideman on May 18, 2016

    Okay so here’s my problem. I have a one year old pit. All these addresses aggression towards me with things but that’s not his case. Yes he comes when called yes he stays until told to move. He is very well trained and he’s possessive with his toys and good But only with other dogs. I can touch his food while hes eating or before/after and I can touch his toys but he doesn’t like other dogs touching it. Its like he reconizes it’s mine not his but doesn’t want any other dog touching what’s mine. I really could use some advice.

  31. Ryan on September 12, 2016

    I have a 6 month old German Shorthaired Pointer. She has developed extreme aggression toward random objects to the point of biting and growling like crazy. It is actually scary to be around and I was hoping figure out how to fix the issue. We do not have kids right now, luckily, but if we do, I cannot have this behavior in my dog. She is completely fine in regards to her food, but when she gets random objects, she goes crazy all of a sudden. For instance, yesterday she grabbed my chap stick off of our table and when I went to get it from her and told her drop, she started aggressively growling at me, her eyes turned reddish, and she was trying to bite my hand and arm hard. She has done the same thing recently with a plastic wrapper. You cannot even really get close to her before she starts growling and then snaps if you get too close. I literally have to wear gloves if I get close to her mouth because she will bite. Please help!

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on September 12, 2016

      Sorry to hear that. I’ll give you some ideas to brainstorm off of, but of course I don’t know your dog or exact situation so take from this what you think applies to your situation.

      Does she normally “drop” on command for her toys and things like that when she is not in this fixated/possessive state of mind? Is there any type of food that could help motivate her with these “triggers”? What I would recommend is setting up a counter-conditioning program where you change her emotional response to these “triggers.” The hard part might be setting up the scenarios, but what you would want to do is use highly valued food (hot dogs, etc.) and once she has something in her mouth she might guard, you would drop a hot dog BEFORE she has a chance to get possessive and walk away. Leave the room, even. Then, return, toss a piece of hot dog and leave. Then eventually over several training sessions you would get closer and closer each time, always tossing the food and leaving BEFORE she has a chance to guard/growl.

      I know it sounds complicated and time consuming. Here is a good post from Patricia McConnell that explains it better:

      And obviously if she has something truly harmful or dangerous to her, sometimes you just have to get it from her, setting the training back. You do what you can. Hope this gives you some ideas. Also, just working on drop and leave it overall can help to an extent. And keeping things light vs. tense should help. You moving towards her or chasing her likely triggers her guarding response, unfortunately.

  32. Jenny on October 3, 2016

    I have a 5-year-old Golden Retriever who can be quite possessive when other people are around. Which is surprising because I always thought GR’s were so relaxed and easy going. It’s probably just dumb-luck. Anyway, I’m going to try some of these suggestions. Thanks for your effort in writing this post.

  33. Yolanda "concerned" on October 4, 2016

    I have a year old 4 pound maltipoo. She is sweet. when my granddog (girl catahoola mixed) stays with me the granddog growls and charges my maltipoo if she goes near my granddog’s bowl. Which we end up having to put the bowl on counter. This past weekend we stayed with our grandkids who have an English bulldog (girl). Well my maltipoo growled and charged my granddog, English bulldog. Usually the English bulldog is laid back and sweet well she charged back at my maltipoo. When inside house they fought about maltipoo’ bowls. But when they were in fenced yard they played so sweetly. What to do when this happens? They don’t get together too often. Due to schedules.
    Thank you!

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on October 5, 2016

      I would just keep food and bowls and toys picked up when they’re in the house, especially if they’re not together too often. Maybe keep the worst one on a leash while in the house.

  34. Sheila Singler on October 15, 2016

    I have a 3 year old Black lab mix we rescued 2 years ago. She is very skiddish and always has been. It took her two days to eat, drink, pee or poop when we got her. She chews everything and anything. She steals things off of night stands, purses, garbage can, and the bed etc. My son had his socks next to him and she took one and hid under the desk to chew it and when he tried to take it she snapped at him. When we try and take things from her she will snap and bite. She will do this when my son tries to put her in her crate. I have been bitten by her. She has times where she can be as good as gold and very loving but then out of the blue she will start. I don’t trust her and quite frankly I am tired of trying to teach her not to do this. I would have given her back right after we got her but my son wanted to keep her. Now he doesn’t seem to even interact with her because I am afraid she will harm him. The trainer the rescue sent out was expensive and used an electric collar to train dogs. I don’t want a dog that needs an electric collar to behave, I just want a good dog. Actually, I don’t think after this one that I will ever get another dog again. I need to know what I can do. Is there any hope of making her into a good pet or is she too far gone?

  35. Paul Connolly on November 8, 2016

    Hi Lindsay,
    I have been following your blog for several months now. We have a male Lab mix who is about 10 months old. We got him from a rescue when he was a pup. He has had all his shots and has been neutered. We have been working with him on the basic commands. He is not overly protective of his toys but has showed some aggression with my adult son and my wife. Most recently he was sleeping on the floor next to my son and when my son moved he snapped and bit down on his hand. This is not the first time this has happened. It usually happens when he is sleeping and is apparently startled. It is almost like he is in a trance. Once the episode is over he appears to be alright. Any suggestions would be appreciated. My wife and son are starting to get afraid of having him near them. I have noticed that he tends to be somewhat mouthy and will get excited if you are playing with him and play get to rough.

  36. Nancy Besser on November 8, 2016

    OMG my little 5 year old shih tzu is so possessive over everything, food , toys , me. He does it with me and he does it with other dogs especially. He takes treats I give and will hover over it and watch to see what the other dog , that also has same treat, does and hovers over it as if to dare touch it. I will try this. His possessiveness is so far harmless and use to think it was funny and cute but it could develop into aggressiveness which it has not , so far.

  37. Jackie morgan on December 5, 2016

    We have a taken a rescue springer spaniel as a companion for our 4 year old springer spaniel. We have had him 12 weeks. He has good recall is very food motivated and affectionate. We have consulted a behaviourist for his possessive aggression and shadow chasing. We have been told he is very stressed and has potentially had a very poor start in life. He is only 15months old. He is food aggressive and we are working on giving tiny bits of food, feeding him in another room and distraction to remove his bowl. He is worse in the evening and will guard/ chew blankets so we do remove them. However he has started to guard cushions and has lunged at my 18 year old twice . He broke the skin on her arm and she is really upset .any advice would be appreciated

  38. Emma on December 7, 2016

    Hi I was hoping you might have advice for me. We are bringing a puppy into the homeboy in a few months and we just found something strange that brings out aggression in our 2 yo female. If we are in bed together and I were to put my face down and sniff the bed she will snarl at us. We obviously can’t have her thinking everything is hers and even if the puppy sniffs it She has a right to snap at him. She lets us near her food and everything while she eats, she lets us take her hooves from her while she is chewing them, and never has a problem giving up a toy. So I don’t understand why she wants to snap at us for sniffing?