How to Break a Dog’s Possessiveness

Possessiveness or “resource guarding” in dogs is a common problem. By that, I mean your dog is guarding items like food, rawhides or toys.

I’ll share tips on how to prevent and manage this behavior, but I highly recommend you consult with a professional dog trainer in your area if your dog is showing aggression.

How can I tell if my dog is possessive?

Stop dog's possessiveness of bones, food or toys

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!

The most obvious signs your dog is possessive of you or certain items are:

  • a stiff posture
  • a cold stare or
  • a growl if someone approaches.

Some dogs will follow through with a snap or a bite if they think a dog or person is trying to take the item. Others will lunge and bark ferociously, and some will just clamp onto the item refusing to let go.

Other signs to watch for include:

  • running away to hide with the item
  • raised hackles
  • licking their lips
  • raising their lips and showing teeth
  • crouching or moving slowly

Possessiveness can range from barely noticeable to very serious aggression. Sometimes it’s only between other dogs and sometimes dogs are possessive to people as well.

Every dog and situation is unique, but my goal is to help you brainstorm ideas to help your own dog overcome possessiveness (often called resource guarding).

How to stop dog possessive aggression

How to break a dog's possessiveness

How to stop a dog from being possessive of food or toys

If your dog guards or refuses to let go of certain items like toys, tennis balls or rawhides, the following suggestions should help decrease the behavior.

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 and attention.

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

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

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

Do not hesitate to seek help from a professional trainer in your area if you are hesitant about approaching your aggressive dog. If you are tentative, your dog will likely pick up on that and usually the response is not what we’re looking for!

It’s hard to remove an object from your dog if she’s growling and snapping. One way to take the item is to “trade” your dog for something even better than the original object such as pieces of chicken, beef or ham.

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 goodies from your hands or toss the food on the ground.

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 he 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.

3. 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.

See my post: How to teach the drop command.

4. 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. Behaviorist Dr. 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. 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.
  • 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.

5. 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. It’s a good rule that people 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 article has been expanded into a FREE ebook on how to break a dog’s possessiveness. Get it here.

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

This 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.

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 when on a leash? If not, then how can you expect him to listen to you when he’s off leash?

Does he come when called even with distractions? Now you know where you have work to do.

My dog Ace with his ball - How to stop a dog's possessiveness

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.

7. 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 than an excited dog.

Stop dog from guarding toys - break a dog's possessiveness

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 calmly release him 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 that’s even better, like real chicken!

8. 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?

9. Hire a professional trainer to stop a dog’s possessiveness.

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 for your unique situation.

How to stop a dog's possessiveness of toys.

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.  A good trainer will observe you and your dog in a biased, non-emotional way.

10. What about correcting the dog for showing possessiveness?

When correcting a dog that is showing possessiveness, you need to be careful because using force can bring out additional frustration or fear from the dog. Frustrated or fearful dogs are more likely to bite.

It’s all about timing. Ideally, you would step in and block or give a calm, firm “no” or “leave it” before your dog has a chance to grab or guard an item.

That way you’ve removed his chance to guard the item and you can actually reward him for a more appropriate behavior like sitting or backing away.

With your dog on a leash, you could even set up these types of scenarios and practice in short sessions a few times per day. Dogs need a lot of repetitions before a behavior becomes conditioned, so be patient.

What if the dog already has the item in his mouth?

Generally, I don’t recommend correcting a dog at this point. Instead, use one of the other techniques I mentioned above such as trading your dog for something else.

For some dogs, a firm “no” or “drop” will work or even a firm tug on the leash as a correction. Then reward your dog with a treat for dropping the item.

If he doesn’t release, do not keep tugging on his leash because there’s not a great outcome from this. At best, your dog might drop the item eventually, but in the process you’ve caused even more arousal or fear from your dog. Some will become more aggressive.

How to stop a dog from being possessive of owner

One last thing, what if the dog is possessive of the owner? For example, what if your dog growls and lunges at people who get too close to you?

If that is the case, you can certainly work on using counter-conditioning and desensitization like I mentioned above (#4).

You’ll just need to recruit some helpers. Your helper would approach you while your dog is in your lap or at your feet. She should toss a treat to your dog before he has a chance to guard you and then walk away.

An issue with dogs that guard their owners is they’re often acting out of fear. They’re afraid of new people and feel more confident or powerful when they’re leaning into their owner or sitting in the owner’s lap. They growl and bark at strangers out of fear.

If you have a small dog, I recommend you block him from sitting in your lap and guarding you. Likewise, if you have a dog that guards you from your feet, do not allow him to do this. Instead, get up and sit somewhere else or put your dog in a down/stay on a dog bed when you have people over.

I have written a blog post about small dogs guarding their owners, and I also recommend the books “Feisty Fido” and “Cautious Canine” by Patricia McConnell (affiliate links).

How to stop a dog's possessiveness

For further reading on a dog’s possessiveness, see my additional posts:

What do you do to prevent a dog’s possessiveness?

Let us know in the comments.

For more training tips, see my ebook, “50 Dog Training Tips: Your Training Problems Solved Now.”

Dog training ebook

559 thoughts on “How to Break a Dog’s Possessiveness”

  1. These are some great points Lindsay. I just wanted to add that we should also encourage consistency from other family members as well.

    I often have this problem with my sons who I have to keep reminding that they need to do their part in enforcing the rules we set for Misha. At times they allow her to get away with things that she is not supposed to.

    Omar

    1. May I ask how I would go about stopping my dog growling at me when he is in his bed and I want to stroke him?
      We give him treats to stop it but then he carries on- it wasn’t often At first but its now more and more common.
      He’s a regular size dashund

  2. My dog has the possessiveness problem at times, but it can get really bad at the dog park. Some people insist on bringing toys there, and when someone brings an awesome rubber ball that their dog barely even cares about, of course my dog is going to take it! This happened recently at the park, and my dog wouldn’t give up the ball for about 20 minutes. I finally got it back after he accidentally dropped it, and at this point the owner of the ball was very annoyed. I acknowledged that my dog should have given up the ball, but on the other hand, why create opportunities for dogs to compete with each other? I never bring toys to the park. Thoughts on this?

    I will continue training my dog on “leave it” and “drop it,” but my dog (like most, I think) is not nearly as obedient when we’re at the park. We’re working on that too…along with everything else.

  3. Lindsay Stordahl

    Emily, I don’t bring toys to the park because of my dog’s tennis ball obsession. If there’s a ball at the park, then all he wants to do is play fetch when I want him to socialize with other dogs. We can play fetch at home. I rarely go to the dog park because I end up getting annoyed with him. But I don’t see anything wrong with someone bringing a toy to the park. If a dog is aggressive over toys, then that dog shouldn’t be at the park. I’m pretty sure our city dog park stocks the park with tennis balls because there are always about 10 balls there that no one seems to “own.”

    Good point Omar, thanks for bringing that up. Consistency among all the family members is very important!

  4. I find sometimes I can’t figure out when Kota will guard something and when he won’t. He’s always interested in toys, but normally he doesn’t take a ball and guard it for THAT long. I guess my take on toys at the dog park is that it’s a risk to bring them because you might lose them (at least temporarily), and that should be somewhat expected. Still, it’s definitely embarrassing and frustrating when my dog won’t give up a toy. I need to work on getting him to obey in that environment. At the park, he doesn’t listen well to commands he would normally follow.

  5. Lindsay Stordahl

    I agree. If you bring a toy to the park, just assume you might lose it. I could care less if another dog decides to keep one of Ace’s nasty old toys. If I cared that much, I’d leave the toy home.

    By the way, Ace will take other dogs’ toys and insist on playing fetch. This is annoying to me. Usually the other dog owners don’t seem to care and their dogs usually aren’t even interested in the toy. But I do what I can to prevent this behavior.

  6. My dog was in a fight with another dog at the dog park one time because the dog was very possessive over his tennis ball. He didn’t want to play fetch with it, he just carried it around in his mouth, and the minute my dog got close the possessive dog growled and lunged, which my dog felt he needed to defend himself. It wasn’t really a full-on fight, no biting, but a lot of teeth baring and growling. I just couldn’t figure out why the owner would allow the dog to have the ball at the dog park. Eli is not possessive over anything, but put a rabbit or squirrel in front of him,and it is all he can focus on. Even a strong wind with a prey sent will keep him very focused on the wind. He will sit and heel for me, but that’s it. I suppose that is his prey drive, and I’ve tried to turn it into something constructive such as tracking, but so far he’s not interested. We will keep working on it.

  7. I use leave it as well but I also use the trade command. In my opinion using the trade command is safer than just snatching an object out of a growling dogs mouth. It may seem like I’m bargaining with the dog but heres how it works….. If I need to undo possessiveness I teach trade, the dog has their high value object that they dont want to give up so I come along and they see me as a threat to that object. They start growling, etc. but I throw something wonderful down a few feet away from them that is more wonderful, say peanut butter. When they go for it I say trade and take the high value object. I do this until they learn trade means that I have something else thats even better to give them. Once this is established and I can walk up and take that same high value object from the dog without a word I begin to extinguish the trade command. What is happening here is the dog is now seeing me as a bearer of good things instead of a threat and they are happy to give up their object because I might have something better. It’s kind of like a back door way of asserting dominance without direct confritation and if you have a stressed out dog as it is it’s better to keep their stress to a minimum. Obviously they dont get something from me every time and eventually trade is replaced with leave it but its a long process. I’ve successfully done this technique with a lot of dogs but everyone has their own training styles.

  8. Great tips! We do similar things: they wait to eat, we pat them while they’re eating/chewing on a toy, practice taking toys out of their mouths and rewarding when they give up easily. The only thing I would add is a solid “drop it.” It really helps, especially if they pick up something they shouldn’t have and you want to get it quickly without it turning into a game of chase!

  9. Lindsay Stordahl

    Good point, Sarah! I have used this idea as well without the actual command.

    Maggie, I agree and forgot to mention “drop.” That’s something all dogs should learn.

  10. We get to reinforce drop all the time, because there are certain toys we don’t want going outside. Before we open the back door to the yard, we usually have had to command Lady to “drop” whatever she has. She’s at the point where she’ll drop whatever she has at the door as she anticipates going out, but I often still use “drop” just to make sure she doesn’t forget that command, since the drop command transfers nicely to other contexts.

    I often do bring our ball to the park, but I don’t always take it out of my pocket. Sometimes the park is well-stocked with new balls, sometimes it is slim pickings. Our ball is a heavy duty Kong that bounces better than the tennis balls. And Lady sometimes likes to chew the cover off tennis balls, and it doesn’t help anyone if she does that to the park’s common supply.

    I won’t bring out the ball until I see that Lady isn’t playing with other dogs (not every dog interests her), and I’m cautious about using “our ball” if other dogs seem overly excited/obsessive/possessive. If there are enough other balls around in good condition, I’ll use those. If not, though, I prefer our ball. I know she’s not possessive about the ball, and neither she nor I care if some other dog wants to carry it around for 20 minutes. I just expect the owner to keep an eye on it to let me know where the ball winds up, or toss it in my direction when they are finished. I’m aware that there is a chance we won’t get the ball back for whatever reason, but I’ve been bringing the same ball to the park with me for months (as has my husband), and we’ve never had any problem getting it home.

  11. Lindsay Stordahl

    I use drop all the time too because certain toys stay outside and I have Ace drop them before we come in the house.

  12. Another doggy would get fixated and possessive with her toys, but Gus could care less.

    He’s a bit mean with the water bowl though. The old kitty will be innocently drinking and Gus will decide he wants some and just goes over there and moves the kitty our of his way. It doesn’t take much. He just nudges his big head in. Poor kitty. I don’t think he’s being possessive with the water bowl, just a bully.

  13. I am having a possessiveness issue with my dog Rosita. However, it is what she is possessive of that is the kicker. It is me. When the cat comes to cuddle, she will growl and snap at him for wanting attention. They are good and play together otherwise. I have not seen her possessive of my interactions with other people. Some with other animals and a little with food if it is something she really likes. Usually she does let me take the dish right from her when eating.

    Any ideas on handling this one? Should I show her the cat is “above” her in rank by feeding him first while she watches?

  14. Lindsay Stordahl

    Definitely do not allow her to “guard” you from the cat or any other animals. You decide who approaches you and when, and that means sometimes the cat gets to cuddle with you on the couch and the dog has to move away. Make sure you take time each day to completely ignore the dog and give your full attention to the cat and correct Rosita if she tries to snap or push the cat away or nuzzle in between you and the cat.

    I think your feeding idea is a good one, too. Try that.

    There are some additional pointers in my post about leading a dominant dog: http://www.thatmutt.com/2009/01/14/how-to-lead-a-dominant-dog/

  15. Thank you Lindsay. I have been through obedience training with Rosita. She is 7 months old. She is doing very well and does respect me as leader. I have given a sharp no when she snaps at the cat, which does stop her, however, it is not stopping the behavior in the long run because the next time in the same situation she does the same thing. It actually is one of our last remaining hurdles. Maybe the food will be a longer-term solution. Any other correction ideas other that a sharp no or ah-ah that gets her attention and stops her in the moment?

  16. Lindsay Stordahl

    It sounds like you are doing all the right things. I would purposely set up situations where the cat approaches you so you can correct Rosita multiple times a day.

    Also make it very obvious that you “own” the cat, not Rosita. Stand and hold the cat and correct Rosita if she gets excited or stares. You could also sit on the floor, make Rosita lie on her side and relax and hold the cat in your lap so the cat is above Rosita and between you and Rosita.

  17. Great tips. I got my dog at 10 months from a shelter (he’s now almost 2). He’s either a giant schnoodle or a boxerdoodle. Either way, a big dog. He had a lot of issues when I first got him (separation anxiety, fearful aggression towards children, bikes, statues … really anything new and bizarre to him). But I worked with him so that he could go to the dog park and play nicely and get along with everyone and everything.

    I guess I slacked off a bit lately because he’s become more possessive, aggressive and territorial, though he has never shown aggression towards me. Those all seem like great tips, and I’ll definitely start working on those, but my main problem is his food. He doesn’t gobble down food like most dogs. He’s already on the slim side, and, while I make him sit and stay when I give him food, he’ll go up and sniff it and walk off. I prefer to leave it out, because he’ll take all day to eat one bowl, snacking small bits at a time, although he also has the habit of only wanting to eat when I am present. I don’t want him to lose weight (he already looks trim), but I don’t want to encourage bad habits, either. Should I still just have his food down for certain periods of time? Also, is his picky eating a further sign of his attitude problem?

    1. I’m not a professional so can’t offer that kind of answers or advice but we did have a dog that had the same attitude around feeding. I always “free fed” her so she had kibble in her bowl and especially as she got older she was also a very social eater meaning she would go to her bowl and bring a few peoples of kibble at a time into the other room to eat with us when we were eating together as a family. Lol, she would put them down in the doorway and eat them one by one with us. The only food she really got excited about was carrots which we used as a treat, though she enjoyed other vegetables too but we limited the people food early on and when she did get scraps or something on special occasions I always insisted it go into her bowl so she ate it from there and we never had any issues around food guarding or begging, it made travel very easy with her. I generally filled her bowl with kibble each morning or just when it needed replenishing. She lived to be 19 and never had a weight problem, though her last year or so I often made her food myself to entice her to eat more and cut out salt ( to easy to find low salt dog food) for her heart. My point I guess is unless the vet feels your dog is too thin he will probably eat what he needs as it’s always available to him and you may even notice that days he is particularly active, say you go on a long hike, he will eat more than days he doesn’t expend as much energy. Count yourself lucky he listens to his body and doesn’t over eat. Now if the vet feels he is too thin maybe changing his food or including something appetizing and higher in calories once a day would help? Good luck!

  18. Lindsay Stordahl

    Well, don’t think of it as an attitude problem. Dog’s can’t think that way. Instead they are conditioned to act certain ways. They don’t reason about what they are doing.

    I never recommend leaving food out for a dog at all times. If food is only provided for a few minutes twice per day, the dog will see food as something to work for, which is what you want, especially if you have a dog with any kind of aggression issues. So, feed your dog during specific meal times and if he doesn’t eat, throw it away or put it away for the next meal.

    Unless there is something medically wrong with the dog (which I doubt), he will eat when he’s hungry. If he decides to skip a meal or two (or three), don’t worry. He’ll be hungry for the next meal. Increasing his exercise will also help.

    Here are a few posts I wrote on “picky eaters” –

    http://www.thatmutt.com/2009/12/27/my-dog-wont-eat/

    http://www.thatmutt.com/2008/04/23/what-to-do-when-your-dog-is-a-picky-eater/

  19. Thanks Lindsay, I appreciate the tips. We will definitely keep working on it. Creating situations will hopefully move things along.

    1. I have read all these tips and agree all the way. I am very blessed to have a very well mannered truly amazing rescue that just turned 8 years old. he walked in to my life when he was about 4 months old. he has never been possessive of his food? even though he was almost starved to death when he walked in to my garage? since he was a pup, if I didn’t stand there while he ate, he would be more interested in what I was doing then his food. and if he didn’t eat when I fed him he wouldn’t go back later even if I left it out? to this day, sometimes he eats when I feed him sometimes he doesn’t. I always pick up his bowl because his big sister will eat his and hers if I leave it out? he is a pit bull she is a German Rottweiler. Both are 8 now Abby has been with Chance and I for almost 5 years now!

  20. Great article Lindsay! I have to say that I am guilty of
    letting my dog get away with possessive behavior, mainly because of laziness on my part. When I first got her I took her to training classes where she learned a lot of the tips you have mentioned. But over time I got lax on keeping up on her training. Not a good thing 🙁

    Here is a funny list that is related to this topic.
    Pretty much sums up what will happen if you let your dog get away with too much.
    http://www.funnyfidos.com/dog-property-laws/

  21. I had read about dogs growling or even biting out at people when they try to touch their food or even approach them when they’re eating. I’ve heard people say: “Oh but what do you expect, you’re distracting them while they’re eating!”

    From the very beginning when I got Keeda I made it my goal that she will never become aggressive over food, toys, or anything else. I made her sit, lay down, or follow other commands before each meal (still do) and made sure to take away the bowl once in a while, making her “leave it” and wait for me to say it’s ok to eat.

    When she was a few months old I heard the first (and only) soft growl from her when I bent down to pet her while she was eating dinner one night. I immediately nudged her out of the way with my leg, picked up the bowl, turned my back, and walked away. I wouldn’t acknowledge her until about 10-15 minutes later, when I came back and gave her her food. She never growled at me after that, over toys, food, or anything else.

  22. Lindsay Stordahl

    That’s great that you have been so consistent with your dog from the time she was a puppy. It’s paid off big time!

  23. I have a 6 month old male german shepherd named Koda. He is very dominant but listens very well except for at the park. I have possessive issues with him playing with tennis balls and frisbees at the dog park. I am starting to work with him on being less obsessed with these items, but I had one incident where he turned and got somewhat aggressive (did not bite, but chased and growled) towards a younger more submissive dog. What should I do in that situation? He loves the park and I never have problems with him unless someone starts tossing a ball or frisbee. Should I not take him to the park until this problem is corrected? He is a wonderful dog but I don’t want this ptoblem to hold him back from socializing at the park.

  24. Lindsay Stordahl

    One problem with your dog acting somewhat aggressive is if he acts this way towards the wrong dog, it could turn into a fight. A lot of dogs that go to dog parks are simply not exercised enough or given rules, so I would be very cautious. I wouldn’t stop visiting the park, though. Just be very aware of your dog and watch him close. I would correct any aggressive behavior and leave the park if there seems to be a dog that is not a good match for your dog’s energy. Better to be safe than sorry.

    Another thing you can do is practice having him lie down and stay while other dogs are playing with toys. I sometimes do this with Ace. Although Ace is not aggressive, he will obsessively toss tennis balls at strangers to get them to throw them for him. It’s a good challenge for Ace to go into a down-stay for a few minutes and chill out at the park.

    You said you are working on your dog’s obsessive issues, and that’s great. In areas other than the dog park, try to set up situations where he has tolerate another dog playing with his toys and sharing the toys. If you have friends or family members with dogs, have them help you out with training your dog. Keep your dog leashed so you can correct him if he becomes aggressive. It is important for him to learn to “share” his toys.

  25. This is all very helpful, but we have a unique situation. Our 8yr old mutt died over 1 mo ago and our 14 year old mutt seemed lonely. Also, our next door neighbor’s dog (15 mos) was not getting the attention, etc. she needed and we had already gotten to know her, so by mutual agreement, she is ours now for 5 days. The dogs get along fine most times, except the new girl, Shyla, is trying to be dominant over Sadie, who is herself a dominant dog, wth fear aggression( which we tried many times to ‘cure’, but we learned to avoid such situations). Over attention, we have been doing what you say, but food is another matter. We can only feed them separately, one outside, one in. No food can be presented without a fight…and one must be grabbed(usually Shyla as the aggressor) and removed. However, we cannot continue this….and we want to end it soon. I know they are getting to know each other and work out hierarchy, but this is NOT that. Thanks, I wish you lived nearby.

  26. Lindsay Stordahl

    If I had them in my house, I would definitely be walking them together side by side (not in front of me) for at least one long walk or run every day. This is something constructive they can do together and helps them get into a pack mentality. It would also stress that I am the leader, not one of them. Inside, I would correct any excited behavior and also watch to make sure neither dog is “guarding” me or a toy or food. They will do this in the most subtle ways sometimes like casually lying down between you and the other dog.

    Does either dog show any food aggression towards people? If so, I would work on that issue first. I’m sure you are making the dogs work for their food by walking together and then practicing calm behavior inside before eating. This is very important.

    For feeding them in the same room, think of ways you can work in small steps and be successful. If it were me, I would probably have both dogs leashed and then make them lie down and stay for five minutes or so. I would ask for help from a family member. Once both dogs are calm and waiting, I would allow them to take a few bites. Then I would put them back into a down-stay again and so on. This makes them really work for their food. The second one dog becomes too excited or aggressive, both must lie down and relax. There are no freebies, and no rewards for possessiveness, aggression, excitement, etc.

    Make sure you are touching the actual kibble and holding the bowl like you own it. If you need to correct one of the dogs, I always step forward over the food and into the dog making her back away from the food and into a down position. Make sure to watch the behavior of both dogs. Often someone will think one dog is causing the problems when really it is the other dog or both dogs.

    If they are generally OK with each other when food is not present, try randomly having treats or pieces of kibble out when both dogs are calm. Any small successes will help in the long run.

    My post on working with a dominant dog and my posts on introducing dogs may be of some help to you as well:

    http://www.thatmutt.com/2009/01/14/how-to-lead-a-dominant-dog/

    http://www.thatmutt.com/2009/05/07/how-to-introduce-dogs/

    http://www.thatmutt.com/2009/08/17/introducing-dogs/

  27. Thanks. We are going to try this after using the Gentle Leader for a while. Despite being untrained and fairly unsocialized, Shyla is smart and can sit, etc. She is never aggressive with people, so with patience, I think it will be OK.

  28. Nice blog. I never thought of making my dogs do anything for their dinner, but it makes sense. Next time they’re going to sit and wait (much like we humans do at restaurants, lol).

    Robert

  29. Hi,

    I just discovered your blog, and I think it is great! We have two dogs, a beagle and a miniature schnauzer. The beagle has this problem when we go to the dog park. If she is sniffing around and finds some food, she will snap if another dog gets close.

  30. Would a good way to prevent possessiveness in a puppy be to keep the toys put away, say in a box, and only take them out at a certain time of day, then put them away when I decide playtime is over?

  31. Lindsay Stordahl

    That is a good idea – you should be the one to decide when it’s play time and when it’s time to put the toys away. The only thing is the pup might try to take the toys and run off when she knows you are going to put them away. Don’t encourage her by playing chase or tug games if she does this. Instead, keep her leash on so you can catch her right away. Or, completely ignore her or distract her with something “better.”

  32. Hi Lindsay, thanks for the informative article! I’m not sure if you still check this as the last post was from July, but I just wanted some advice. I have a 16-week-old Siberian husky named Kyra. For the most part she is good and listens. But sometimes when she has something, she can be very possessive, and if I try to take it from her she will snap. I can always tell, though, because as soon as I approach her, she stiffens up and has quite a look on her face. If I try to move her away, she will bite me, but treats and toys won’t budge her from the object. She just started an obedience class, so I am going to ask my instructor what I should do in these situations, but it’s very frustrating, and she’s getting bigger, and it hurts a lot more when she does bite.

    Thanks for your time!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      One thing I do is walk over the the dog and step on whatever she is holding while I’m wearing shoes. That way I don’t have to bend down and put my hands or face near the dog. I keep my foot on the toy until the dog eventually backs off. Usually it takes no more than two minutes. Then I take the toy, intentionally hold it for a minute to “claim it,” and then give it back. I don’t let her grab it, she has to take it in a calm, gentle manner once I give the OK. Then I repeat the process. Eventually the dog learns to let you take the toy since her brain tells her you are going to take it anyway. This will be difficult if you have a dog that likes to bolt and play chasing games, though. You can try backing her into a corner, but only do this if you are comfortable as it could put the dog into fight mode. Keep your side to her and do not make direct eye contact. Move into the space and step on the toy.

      Another trick you can try is to offer your dog a much more valuable treat. Use whatever she loves most and trade her the extra special treat for the toy. You may need to use pieces of steak or chicken or hot dogs. Use whatever works. Use a command like “drop” or “leave it” and reward with the tasty treat once she does. Repeat several times a day.

      1. Lindsay Stordahl

        Another thing you want to do is make sure the dog gets nothing for free. Everything is owned by you. Don’t keep her toys out at all times. You own them, and you are just letting her play with them. So put them away when a play session ends. Make her sit before she gets to play with them. Make her sit before she eats and before she gets a bone, etc. Since she’s still a pup, you don’t want her possessiveness to get worse.

        Also make sure she is getting enough physical exercise and mental challenges.

  33. Hi Lindsay,
    Thank you for all the great tips. I have a very similar situation to what Gina posted (May 1st). I was wondering if you could give me more details on how to “correct” the behavior in a dog park.

    I have a Samoyed who just turned one, and close to the same time started showing possessiveness over tennis balls at the dog park. It is unusual because this is a new behavior for her, and we’ve been going to the dog park since she was 3 months old. None of the balls are ‘hers’ but there are several abandoned balls in the enclosed dog park. She will gather them up and watch over them and growl/show teeth/snap at any dogs that come up and show interest in ” her” balls. So far every dog she does this to backs down and in a few instances where the dog does not- she gladly will back down (like her aggression is all show). She has never bitten another dog,and I don’t think she will, but this new obsessiveness and aggression makes me uncomfortable. She also shows no aggression to people, and will let any person handle her, and her balls. We have worked on ‘leave it’ etc at home, and this problem only arises at the park.

    From other responses, I take it that it would be good to have her on a leash when this happens. What else should I do to “correct” the situation? Put her in a time out? walk her away from her tennis balls? Bring treats and have her do some tricks for me? After which, she can be returned to the balls, or should we leave the park? I have a feeling she would only act this way when off leash, and that even if she acts better on leash, she would act the same way when she’s off leash and knows she can get away with it.
    I don’t want this new behavior to stay, and am afraid it could escalate. Any help would be appreciated!

    1. I just read your post on Ace showing dominant behavior and “becoming a man.” I wonder if my Samoyed (female) is just growing up and if this behavior is problematic or just normal and healthy.

      I should note that the first time I noticed any possessiveness was with the dog park water bowl, which happened immediately after she had been home boarded for the first time and spent 1.5 weeks with 4 other dogs. Is this a healthy development or does it need to be corrected?

      1. Lindsay Stordahl

        It sounds like she is getting a little out of control with her possessiveness. Hoarding balls at the park is not healthy 🙂 But if you are not sure, you may want to find a behaviorist/trainer in your area and get their opinion.

    2. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would correct her right before she “claims” a ball. Tell her “no,” walk towards her and make her drop it. Then “claim” the ball yourself by walking over it and telling her to “leave it” if she tries to take it again. Then encourage her to go do something else. If she’s possessive every time she plays with a ball at the dog park, then don’t even let her play with the balls. The aggression/possessiveness she is showing is completely unacceptable, and it could definitely lead to a fight if she is matched up with the wrong dog.

      Although my dog Ace is not possessive or aggressive over balls at the dog park, he is a complete nut and will fixate on one particular ball, totally oblivious to everything going on around him. He won’t acknowledge other dogs, even if they are humping him! So, I don’t let him play with a ball at all at the park. If he fixates on one, I tell him “leave it” and I walk towards him, stepping over the ball and walking into him, forcing him to back away. Once he is no longer fixated, I can get him to walk away and do something else. We do have to repeat this process sometimes 10 or 15 times, because my dog is totally obsessed with tennis balls.

      You could use a leash for your dog, but it will be more effective if you cause her to back off on her own, rather than pulling her away. So, whether she has a leash on or not, walk into her the way a dominant dog would do, and get her to back off. If she will focus on treats instead of the ball, then definitely use them to distract her. She won’t really learn anything if you leave the park or give her a time out, but this is something you can do if you are getting too frustrated with her.

  34. I know I am a little late on this one, but I have a unique possessive problem. We have a 9 month old weimaraner who is pretty passive, except he has always been possessive of his toys. The thing is, he will readily “drop it” and “leave it” if we ask, and he will give it up if we just take it away without any command. However, when we try to pet him while he is chewing his rawhide or rope he hunches over whatever he has and gives us a low growl. He never shows teeth and will immediately drop the object he has if we ask, but he doesn’t seem to want to be petted while he is chewing. I am no sure how to correct this behavior, but I don’t want it to continue because I know growling can be scary for people who don’t know the dog. We also have a very dominant cockapoo (he was rough to train but now he knows we are the leaders and is passive to us, just not other dogs) that might play into his need to guard the toys. Any advice?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Well, he is telling you that he doesn’t want to be petted while he is chewing. So that’s a good thing that he’s communicating with a growl rather than a bite. But I agree, I would not want to tolerate this behavior from my dog either.

      One thing that would work well with your dog is to offer him something even better than the bone or the rope. Like pieces of chicken or hamburger. When he has his rawhide or rope, take some pieces of chicken and pet him. If he doesn’t growl, give him a piece. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat! If this is too hard for him right now, then start by just sitting next to him. Then progress to leaning against him and then petting him. Of course, be very careful. Do not put your face over his or anything like that. But it sounds like you know what you are doing.

      Will your weimeraner still growl when he has his rawhide even if your other dog is in another room?

  35. Hello, everyone…!
    I was hoping to get some good advice for my situation. I have a 9 month old husky mix named Nox. I’ve had her since she was about 5 weeks… I had to bottle feed her because the mom got an infection. She is a little angel for the most part.
    I worked very hard from a young age to socialize her. We go to the dog park, the local field, and the pet store. She loves to play with other dogs, and meet new people.
    However, the last time we went to the dog park I noticed a problem… she is beginning to have “sharing” aggression. She will snarl at other dogs until they give her their tennis ball, or will get aggressive if she has a tennis ball and another dog comes to play. I always immediately remove her from the situation, but it continues to happen. Then the other day, a kitty friend she plays with quite frequently approached a toy that Nox wasn’t playing with to sniff it. Nox lunged and snarled at her!
    She is never possessive of things with me and if there isn’t an object involved shes the picture of perfect puppy behavior.
    I would really like to curb this before it sets in. Any ideas??

    1. Sharon McGuigan-Baki

      I started Hannah as a puppy by putting my hand in her food bowl and feeding her so she learned this was ok. I also taught her “leave it” and “take it “with treats and “trade” with a toy.
      I have seen dogs at the park that get so aggressive if a person tries to take something away from them or another dog tries to. Also there are those dogs that jump up on people and try to take mittens, a phone whatever which shows the dog was never taught “off” “leave it” or “trade”

  36. Lindsay Stordahl

    Have you taught her a “leave it” and a “drop it” command? These would be useful. You could also teach her the “trade” command Sarah suggested in the comments.

    Unfortunately to stop this aggressive behavior you have to catch her in the act and correct it. I would keep her playing in smaller groups for now and avoid the dog park. When there are toys involved, make sure YOU are the one to claim that toy. She obviously has respect for you as you said she is never possessive around you. If another dog wants to play with a toy and your dog gets aggressive, then intervene by stepping over the toy, telling her “no” or “drop,” get her to back away and allow the other dog to play with it.

    I would also have some of her favorite treats handy. Whenever she does allow another dog or cat to play with the toy with no issues, then give her a very highly valued treat like pieces of hotdogs, peanut butter or chicken.

    Don’t hesitate to contact a trainer or behaviorist in your area for help. Better to take care of this while she’s a pup and before it escalates.

  37. This is helpful information! However, my dog (Will) is not possessive at all with me – he is fine if I take his food or bone anytime. The problem is with other dogs, and not 100 percent of the time. Maybe 20 percent of the time he get possessive of his toys when another dog is trying to play, and, my God, will lash out at the other dog.

    My dog is also very protective when a stranger comes in the house. As long as I am there to open the door and let the person in and let Will know it’s okay and give him a chance to sniff the other person, then he’s fine and a sweetheart. Any thoughts or suggestions on this?

  38. Lindsay Stordahl

    My dog can get possessive and growl and snap at other dogs around highly valued objects like a bone. And every now and then his playing will escalate from a play growl to a “I’m the dominant one” growl. I make sure not let it escalate to that point. If I have dogs over and I have two bones for them, they only get the bones if they are both relaxed and calm. Excited behavior equals no bones. If one dog wants to go see what the other dog has, I tell him “no” and direct his attention to his own bone.

    As far as people coming to the house, make sure to get your dog under control before you answer the door. I have a tendency to rush to the door and let the person in, and that just feeds my dog’s excitement. Sometimes I want to get to the door quickly so his barking will stop, but it’s better to address my dog and then let him in. And of course this is easily said than done, but invite people over just for the sake of practicing good door manners with your dog.

    Work with your dog on obedience commands so you can get her to “drop” reliably even when another dog wants the toy she has. I do this with Ace and the reward him with a treat when he drops his bone. Usually both dogs will then become interested in me instead of the bones or toys.

  39. Hi!

    I just found your blog, and it is very helpful. We have a 6-month-old Swissy, and we are experiencing agressive/possessive issues at different times. This morning we were at our local dog park, which he goes to every day, several times a day. Samson was playing with his other Swissy friend, who is three weeks older as well as two other large-breed puppies who he sees all the time. After 40 minutes of playtime, he decided to go for one of the five tennis balls that were in the park, although he had left them alone all morning. My husband and I both were trying to get him to let it go by using the leave it command. He demonstrated a chase behavior. After about 10 min of walking up to him and saying leave it, he was almost ready to give it up, until the other Swissy came over to play. Samson snapped, and they began to fight. We know the other owner very well and we were able to stop the situation. It is so embarrassing as well as heartbreaking when he acts like this.

    The behavior though is just hit or miss. Sometimes he goes for a ball, and sometimes he doesn’t. We do know, however, when he gets one and starts demonstrating the chase then we have a situation on our hands. I am just not sure what to do. We live in an urban area with a lot of dogs and there are always several tennis balls at the park. I try to hide most of the balls when we are in there to prevent the situation, but for the most part I can’t. The other dogs play fetch, and it is not right for me to take all the balls away. The biggest problem is the inconsistency of his behavior. We have recently been going to classes and our trainer also recommended making him work for everything, so we just started that at home. However, the dog park environment is a whole other story. Help!

    Thanks

  40. Lindsay Stordahl

    You definitely want to avoid any opportunity for him to play “chase” while you are telling him to “leave it.” This just enforces that he doesn’t have to listen to you. So, only use the “leave it” command when you can enforce it, like at home or when he’s on the leash. Never chase him. I’m sure this is great fun for him. It’s like how you should never tell a dog “come” unless you are 99 percent sure the dog will come to you. You also don’t want to chase him because then you are putting even greater value on that ball. If you want it, it must be really good.

    Try bringing his absolute favorite treats to the park. I’m talking about something he can’t resist, even when he has a ball in his mouth. Maybe it’s hotdogs or hamburger or chicken. Use that to reward him for “drop” or “leave it.”

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Also work on improving general obedience off leash so you can get control of him in all situations. Practice in areas that are a little less challenging than the dog park. Work on getting your dog to come when called no matter what, to “watch” you no matter what, to sit no matter what, to drop no matter what, etc.

  41. I’m very late to the game on this one, but your post came up in a Google search, and I found it very informative (as well as your comments).

    I’m having a big problem. I just adopted a 2 to 4-year-old black Lab/German shepherd mix from a no-kill shelter. When I met him, he was very sweet, lovable and calm. The shelter also said he was great on a leash and OK with new dogs when given some time to adjust. He cannot be around cats or small dogs.

    Anyway, he’s become very aggressive on his leash when we see other dogs. I’ve retained a trainer for 6 months from Bark Busters to help me with the problem, but he got loose and bit a dog this week, and it was very scary. Now I have him back on his Gentle Leader so he can’t get the best of me, and I don’t go anywhere with him without a spray bottle and water bombs to correct the behavior.

    In the house, he is great. I make him sit, lie down and stay before feeding, water, toys and treats. He’s a love too – loves to cuddle, great with people. Now he does it without me even asking. However, this morning I gave him his Kong on my way out the door and gave him a pet to say goodbye and I got a low growl.

    I am not sure what to do. Are these related problems? I must admit, I wanted to get in his face about the Kong, but I’m a little frightened due to his behavior outside, so I just left.

    How can I teach him toy manners without getting hurt if he goes ape on me?

  42. Lindsay Stordahl

    Have you tried the concept of “trade” with him? Basically offer him something even better than the Kong or whatever he has. That way whenever you approach him to take something away, he will learn to anticipate he will get something even better (so no need to get possessive). And of course you can eventually get him to obey the command “trade” or “drop” even when you have nothing.

    When you give him a Kong, make sure you “claim it” first by making him wait for it as you have been doing. Don’t let him snatch it, even when you do release him. Make him take it calmly. And practice taking it away from him by either stepping over it or using the “trade” concept above.

  43. Hi Lindsay,

    Thanks for the advice. He’s very good at waiting for it and taking it gingerly (no snapping!), which is nice. He must have had some training before. After I gave it to him, he tried the grab technique first, and he was pretty growly and he ran under the desk. So, I pulled out a Milkbone (his equivalent of a tennis ball at the moment) and grabbed the Kong when he went for it. Wash, rinse, repeat 🙂 By the end of 15 minutes, I could give it to him calmly and take it back right away, but it’s going to take some more work to get him to be nice when I take it back after he’s had a chance to sit down with it.

    Thanks for the tips. I’m hoping that being dominant in the house will help me deal with him outside.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      It will take some time but you should see some improvement.

      I’m glad to hear you are using the Gentle Leader on walks. I’ve had success with that as well.

  44. Hi there,

    I have two Boston terrier who are very, very sweet and high energy. They love attention. Lately, there has been a problem with possessiveness. When we are out for a walk, they get excited to meet a new person and then turn on eachother. It is as though they are fighting for the attention from this new person. Is this partly an issue because they are on leash? Off leash, I have never seen this problem. Either way, how do I correct it? Is it simply that they need better socialization?

  45. Lindsay Stordahl

    A lot of dogs turn on each other when they see another dog and can’t get to it. The excitement (“oh, wow a new dog!”) turns to frustration (“why can’t I get to that dog?”) which often turns to aggression (“I don’t know what to do with my energy but now I’m charged up”). And since the dog can’t get to the dog across the street or on the other side of the fence, he turns on the dog next to him. It’s nothing personal about his buddy. Dogs don’t think about what they are doing. They just react. Some will even bite their owners. Then they are nice again within seconds.

    I don’t know your exact situation and what you have tried so far, so I’m making assumptions here … feel free to jump in …

    What’s probably happening with your dogs is that they are so excited to get to that new person that they pull and pull and pull and there is a lot of tension in their leashes. The excitement builds and builds and they don’t know what to do with that energy/excitement/frustration, so one dog turns on the other. It’s probably one dog that is starting it. The new person adds to this tension/excitement by acting excited as well. This just feeds everyone’s energy. And when you pull back on the leash, this just causes them to pull even harder. Eventually they just turn on each other as a way to get rid of all this crazy energy. It’s very typical in terriers.

    I would work with them one at a time and train them to heel at your side, not in front and no pulling. When you meet someone new, work on calmly walking up to that person while keeping the leash loose. If the leash is tense, then you do not approach the person. If they keep pulling forward, use treats or a toy to get them to “watch” you on command or simply turn around.

    I would also make sure they are getting enough physical exercise. Bostons need A TON of exercise, like 5 miles of running every day might be enough just to get by. On top of that, give them plenty of time to play games like tug to help get rid of any additional stress. And give them plenty of interactive games/toys and mental challenges and training. I’m sure you’re already doing all of these things. But you know where you could add more challenges for them.

    When you walk them together, I would make them walk at your side, one on the left, one on the right with no pulling. Practice basic obedience like sit and stay and the command “watch.” If you aren’t already, use collars that will give you the most control such as choke collars, prong collars or martingale collars. Definitely ditch the retractable leashes if you are using them.

    Let me know if this helps or what other questions you have.

  46. Lindsday, first, thank you for your helpful article. I was referred to it because I’m having some possession issues in my home. It’s so nice of you to continue to help people even a year after the article posted.

    The good news I derived from your post is that we’re doing everything we’re supposed to do. The bad news is that we’re doing everything we’re supposed to do, and it’s still occurring.

    A little background (I promise a little) on our zoo — We have two dogs, one dog (Captain Awesome) is a two year old shepherd mix, and we’ve had him since we rescued him as a puppy. Our second (Tannis) is a six year old Siberian Husky that we got less than a year ago in July. And on top of the two dogs, we have six cats (a leopard gecko, a bearded dragon, and fish too, but who’s counting? 🙂 ).

    For the most part, there is some disjointed type of harmony that occurs when you have so many animals in one place. The husky, Tannis, had toy and food possession issues, but we nipped it in the bud as soon as we got him last year, doing all the things you outlined, also only allowing one or two toys in rotation at any given time, and when we were out, we took the toys away and only allowed an item that would keep him stimulated (a frozen Kong full of treats/peanut butter, for example).

    Since we were first introducing him to the home, we crated Tannis when we weren’t home for safety’s sake. We knew he was fine around cats and other dogs, but it was a new situation, and we didn’t want to go in blindly. After about eight weeks of being crated during the day, we started letting him out in the afternoon and then once we were sure things were okay, the full day.

    The cats do not seem threatened by him, even though he’s lunged, snarled, and/or growled at them if he has a treat or toy in his possession (quickly taken away when the behavior was exhibited, and after a few times, he stopped). Captain has given up on toys, but he was always fickle about toys anyway, so we didn’t take it to heart too much.

    However, recently, we’ve noticed that Tannis is getting snarly again. But about household items. A blanket was thrown on the floor in the living room, and one of the cats curled up on it because that’s what cats do. He immediately went over to the cat and tried to make her vacate the blanket by giving her a look. We, like always, gave him an uh-uh, and he backed away, guilty because he was caught. But we found he’s doing it with other things too… dog beds, our bed, certain rooms.

    Captain Awesome used to greet us every day when we came home from work by popping his head up in our bedroom window. Now he’s afraid to go into our bedroom unless we give him permission. He’ll stand outside the doorway and wait and stare at us. He also won’t lay down on one particular dog bed in our bedroom that he always used to frequent that now Tannis seems to favor. What tipped us off that this was husky-related was when the husky isn’t present, Captain will reluctantly go into the bedroom without permission, though he’s looking around while he’s doing it, almost as if he’s making sure the coast is clear.

    Toys and food seem so easy now. You can withhold these things when you are or aren’t around. But withholding blankets, bedding, a room… The only thing we can think of doing is crating him again, and we really don’t want to do it unless we have to. He generally sleeps when he’s left alone, so I think my concerns or feelings of guilt are unfounded. But he was never really thrilled with the crate closed (he’s truly a cat; he likes sleeping it in when it’s open!). But I also don’t want Captain to feel threatened and unwelcome in the room either.

    As you stated, correction needs to be consistent for it to be learned. And obviously, we cannot do this when we’re not home. So is the crate the only answer? I was thinking that perhaps if we crated him during the day for a couple weeks, we could see if Captain started poking his head up again from the bedroom window. Perhaps it would be a sign that at least the fear has been undone.

    Thank you for reading, listening, and helping (you have so much already!).
    Jennifer

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I have three cats and a dog, and my most dominant cat does all of the things you describe about Tannis. He goes over and claims the dog bed, blankets, even certain rooms. He’s not aggressive about it. He just calmly walks over and takes what he wants. I don’t see anything wrong with this. The other animals just accept this and fall into place. It’s sad to see a 15-pound cat take the bed from a 65-pound dog, but that’s the way it is. Ace just moves to the floor or to another dog bed.

      As long as there is not any aggression, I wouldn’t worry too much about your situation. Snapping over food should not be tolerated, but claiming a bed is normal.

      The only thing I don’t like is that Tannis seems to be possessive about YOUR bedroom. So make sure that you claim everything so that Tannis knows you are ultimately in charge. You may want to consider making your entire bedroom off limits to dogs. Only allow them in with permission. Make them wait in the hall, even when your door is open. And definitely keep them off your bed. I’m not sure where they are sleeping, but you may want to keep them out of your bedroom at night. And with the other beds, pillows and blankets that Tannis likes to claim, make sure you are claiming them quite often by making him move to the floor.

      Try not to feel bad for Captain. Part of his uncertainty about the whole situation might be because you feel bad for him. Dogs do not feel bad if they are “second” in line. I foster and pet sit a lot of dogs and almost every single one is more dominant than my dog Ace. I always want to give Ace special privileges because it’s “his” house and he is “top” dog in my mind. But nature doesn’t always work that way.

      Make sure to have plenty of blankets and dog beds around so there is always one for each dog.

      And one more thing. Does Tannis seem to lie at your feet a lot as though he is guarding or claiming you? Don’t allow him to do that.

      Hope this helps. Let me know your thoughts.

  47. Hi everyone! I need some real help here. My dog Roni & my girlfriend Amys’ dog Jo get along just fine but Jo shows aggression towards Roni all the time by growling at her in the house when she walks by her or walk by Amy & I and the worst of it is that Jo attacks her if Roni has something, anything! Jo doesn’t necessarily want the ball, space on the couch, food, etc… but she just doesn’t want Roni to have it. I have broken up 4-6 fights aleady and Roni is starting to fight back. Jo is a 7 year old Border Collie Mix that came from a multi-dog household at Amy’s parents (where she was very food possesive & growled at the others allot with little correction besides verbal) and Roni is a 3 year old American Pit Bull Terrier I adopted from the Humane Society a few months back. An example would be throwing the ball at the park. Roni has a high drive to play fetch, Jo doesn’t really care. But when I throw the ball, Roni goes after the ball and Jo just goes after Roni and that’s when the fight broke out. Also, just last night Amy & I were on the couch and Jo was allowed up for a few minutes of affection. Roni walked by and looked at us and Jo growled. Jo was immediately told “off” and as she jumped down she lunged and attacked Roni because she was close. Again, broke up another fight. It’s got us baffled because they are like peas & carrots on a walk, sniffing the same grass, walking side by side, even licking each others faces. As soon as there is something to claim though Jo turns into a first class A-hole! We really need help because this is causing tension. We are both active duty military and have enough stresses of deployments, staying together throughout conflicting assignments and whatever else is thrown at us. We want these two ladies to live happily ever after but this is our big hurdle right now. Thanks for the help. Chet…

  48. Lindsay Stordahl

    Have you considered hiring a trainer in your area to come work with you and the dogs? Since there is already aggression, that would be a good idea.

    Don’t think of it as Jo being an asshole because she is just reacting. She obviously came from a situation where there were a lot of dogs and she felt she had to fight in order to get anything. I’m assuming their were few rules and it was quite chaotic. She might be uncomfortable whenever there is a lot of excitement, such as when Roni goes after a ball. She is likely trying to control the situation and get everyone to be calm again.

    I know this sounds too simple, but I suggest working on their basic obedience and making sure the dogs always follow rules. Nothing is free. Not even a pat on the head. Make them lie down and stay for five minutes before eating. Don’t let them on the couch at all, especially not if they’re not invited first. Work with Jo so she can sit or lie down and stay reliably for 10 minutes even with excitement such as Roni chasing a ball. Also, do what you can to eliminate these kinds of “exciting” situations unless Jo is under control first.

    Keep taking them for walks together and doing anything that brings out their calm, happy energy. Make sure to reward them when they’re acting the way you want.

    It does seem clear to me that Jo is trying to be possessive of you and your girlfriend, such as when you are all on the couch. So do not allow her to do any kind of guarding or claiming of you or your girlfriend. For example, don’t let her sit at your feet and prevent Roni from approaching. Make them both sit on their dog beds or on the floor a few feet from you and invite them to you on your terms.

    I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  49. Lindsay, thank you very much for the response!

    Tannis is very clear that we’re in charge, which is why he tries to get away with things when he thinks we’re not watching. The other day, I was just outside the bedroom when I saw one of our cats, Neechee (our most dog-friendly cat) jump to the window sill. He was very excited that the window was open for a change, and he wanted to sit and sniff and stare.

    Tannis didn’t like this, and he lunged at Neechee to make him leave the window sill. I caught him in the act and gave him a firm “uh-uh!”, and he meekly backed away in that, Oops, I’ve been caught! manner. Neechee ignored him. Neechee has suffered a couple nips from Tannis (I was going to say “bites”, but that suggests that Neechee got hurt, and while he was shaken up for an hour or two, he got over it) in the past, and he still thinks Tannis is better (or fluffier anyway!) than sliced bread.

    He knows that we (the humans) are boss, and he rarely ever misbehaves when he knows I’m watching.

    Tannis is very much a solitary dog, and when we’re home, he opts to sleep upstairs, alone. He’ll take a dog bed or our bed. But when it’s time for us to go to bed, he immediately hops into his crate. He does not really like too much physical attention from us unless *he* deems it necessary (cat/husky behavior 🙂 ). He doesn’t want to be near us or lie at our feet. He doesn’t even opt to go on the couch unless we’re not nearby (wow, what does that say about us? 🙂 ). And we’ve been okay with that. It was when Captain stopped going into the bedroom or wanting to go into the bedroom that alerted us that something was different.

    We got over the fact that Captain won’t touch toys anymore. And we’re okay with separating them when they get treats to make sure Tannis doesn’t get anything of Captain’s (Captain has already more than compensated for that by eating everything ridiculously fast now that he has someone else in the house with him). It’s the fact that he feels he’s not allowed in the bedroom anymore that bothers me.

    Our bedroom is the brightest room in the house during the day, so as you can imagine, it’s the favorite nesting spot of, well, everyone. All the cats go in there, Captain goes in there, and Tannis does now too. We just want everyone to feel allowed to be in there.

    We crated him this morning, and he doesn’t seem to have minded. He’s very low energy, a walk out to the backyard and back is enough for him to feel exercised (so imagine how he feels after our 1 1/2 – 2 hour hikes every afternoon), so it wasn’t exactly difficult for him. I think it’s still the mindset that the door closed in punishment, though we’ve never used it as such.

    Since our bedroom is everyone’s nirvana, I’d be reluctant to prohibit anyone from getting in there, especially the cats; however, I think there’s something to be said about requiring permission to go in there. Our spare bedroom (also know as “the cats’ room”) has a baby gate in the doorway so the cats have a place they can go that’s dog-free (they also have our finished basement because the dogs won’t take the stairs). It might be a good idea to put a baby gate in the doorway there as well, so they’re only allowed in there when we say it’s okay (and the cats will still be able to go in there). That might help with some of Tannis’ possession issues.

    Tannis’ behavior has always been unpredictable. He lived in the same home for six years before he came into ours, and he was the model dog (though still a stubborn husky). His world was turned upside down when he came to our house. He used to live with a large pack, and now he gets to be top dog (since his only competition is Captain and our angry cat, Luna). We knew we needed to be strict with him (I’ll never forget the first time we took him for a walk, and as we were trying to get the leash on, he took off. He would run and stop, wait for me to get within a couple feet of him, and he’d take off again. Man, was he testing us to see how much he could get away with!), and we make sure he works for everything he receives. But it’s been a challenge since Day One.

    We were finally getting into a routine with him, and then about two months after we got him, he attacked a porcupine, requiring him to be anesthetized three times to remove quills, as well as a month of us trying to shove antibiotics down his throat and three months of pulling quills out of his nose. Since then, while he’s bonded with us, he’s wary of us too. We’re the evil pill-pushing-quill-removing people.

    I give you the background because we’ve only had him since July, and things keep changing dramatically with/for him, so his behavior has been… less than ideal. I’ve been trying to figure out why suddenly now he feels the overwhelming urge to take over the house. Maybe it’s because he’s finally feeling better. Or maybe because we did have to pay extra attention to him when he was recuperating and now we don’t (though I figured he’d enjoy us not hurting him, as he’d recoil in horror every time we pulled a quill out). Or maybe winter put a bee in his bonnet. I know it helps to know what the cause is, but I can’t pinpoint exactly when he decided that he was king.

    It could also be us. We’ve really reached the end of our rope with him (not just within the house, but outside, with other dogs, other people, etc.). A couple months ago, Victoria Stilwell came to our area and gave a talk. I remember walking out of there, feeling renewed, thinking we could tackle anything Tannis threw at us. Apparently, I need another pep talk. 🙂 It’s tough when you have a cat in a dog’s body. You don’t treat the dog the same as the cat. The cat walks all over everything, and your reaction is, Okay, he’s walking all over everything even though I don’t want him to. He’s a cat. But when a dog does it, your reaction is larger. It’s a double standard. Maybe I should teach him to meow! 🙂

    Thank you again. I will definitely start creating new boundaries for the dogs and the bedroom.

  50. Lindsay, just wanted to update you once more…

    Day one of day crating worked really well (we think).

    Not only was Tannis happier to see us, he actually tried to play with Captain. He usually avoids Captain at all costs (Captain is the little brother he doesn’t want). And Captain was back in the window again! Tannis normally doesn’t even say hello when we come home. But he was visibly happy (but not crate-crazy-happy) to see us and actually showed affection toward us.

    I know tomorrow could turn out horribly, and we’ll feel like we’re starting all over again, but this was a very encouraging start.

  51. After a couple days of crating, he doesn’t seem as perky as he was on the first day, but he’s definitely not bothered by it as far as we can tell.

    When we’re home, he still heads up to the room, so we call him right back down and make him stay in the living room with us. Other times, we close the bedroom door, and he’ll just come back downstairs because he doesn’t really have any other options.

    He does seem more amiable, and Captain seems to be on more even ground with him now, which makes us all feel better.

  52. My lab mix Roxie gets possessive with toys and bones and occasionally her food. I worked on the food thing by standing next to her and offering her little extra pieces of chicken and dropping it into her bowl as she eats. She then thinks that when I stand next to her, I will offer yummy extras and she won’t growl or be possessive.

    I always make her sit or lie down about 5 or 6 feet away and make her wait for the “OK” command to come get her food. She is very good at that and will listen and be obedient. I am hoping it helps her realize that I am the dominant one and get her used to the “wait” command. I never feed my dog until she works for it. I’ll take her for her morning run or walk and get her worked up to drink and eat. I read somewhere that this process fulfills part of her hunt/pack instinct.

    I also realized that if the dog is not exercised consistently every day, it will be more likely to have these aggressive/possessive behaviors. A tired dog seems to be able to listen more and is more calm. As far as the bone possessiveness, I need to work on that one more. I avoid giving her super treats like that because it gets scary. It’s strange to have a sweet, playful, affectionate dog one day and then a scary beast the next. I saw an episode with Cesar Millan dealing with a big, black dog that did the same thing as Roxie. He had his tennis racket in front of him as protection and didn’t back down. Eventually, the dog surrendered and became submissive. It’s not an easy thing to do when your dog has teeth glaring at you, but I realize that this cannot be tolerated at all.

    The trade thing works OK in these occasions. I’ll have a piece of chicken with me and offer it to her and that will make her stop growling. She then will bring her bone to me and let me pet her. She’ll do anything for chicken, thank God!

  53. Lindsay Stordahl

    Sounds like you are doing all the right things with Roxie. Thanks for your comment. I think a lot of other people can learn from your example.

  54. So many helpful hints. Thank you. I also have a problem. We have a 1-year-old male French bulldog and recently adopted a 3-year-old pug/Jack Russell cross. The pug is a lovely dog, very sweet and loves cuddles. The Frenchie is so gentle and loves to play. In two weeks the pug cross has become very possesive of us. She won’t let the Frenchie come near us at times and bullies him into leaving us just with her. We really don’t want to give her back, but on several occasions she has gone for our Frenchie and a fight has errupted. If anyone can help us to keep her, we would appreciate it so much.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Just don’t let the pug x do this. Do not let her guard you. Push her away or get up and walk away. The dogs can approach you only on your terms. I know this sounds easier than it is! Make the pug x work for everything. No freebies. Also walk them together side by side, not in front of you. Do things to show leadership on your part.

  55. Really? Does no one see this? “A dog should not be given something for free.” We’re given things for free all of the time! Most of the time we don’t even deserve it! What makes us so special that we get things for free and dogs can’t? Why can’t people see this? This person obviously knows nothing about animals, and it’s sad that seeing this animal abuse is so daily for us that we’re used to it and don’t notice it/point it out.

    Second of all, we don’t own dogs. We don’t own cats. We don’t own anything but inanimate objects. Is that so hard to see? We’re their humans and they’re our pets. We don’t own them at all. We might have paid for them and all, but we pay to get human orphans, yet we obviously see that we don’t own them. Again, what makes us so special? We’re not their owners! They can’t have rights, too?

    Third of all, we tolerate other humans’ aggression all of the time. Dogs sometimes have their bad days when they’re all grouchy and irritable and aggressive. We do, too. We tolerate each others’, but when it comes to dogs, this person thinks we shouldn’t tolerate it. Again, what makes us so special? Dogs are like us. They have feelings, and one of those is grouchiness. We can tolerate it. Suck it up.

    And why did the author of this article say “belong” to him? Yes, things can belong to dogs. Wake up and smell the roses. They have rights. This person obviously knows nothing about dogs and their rights and how to treat them. Don’t listen to him. This is actually considered animal abuse.

    I agree with the author on one thing: dogs don’t think toys or anything are their babies (except their babies). They don’t think like that. It’s like them not rolling around in dirt because they think they’ll get dirty – they don’t think like that. But, when the author says “would be humanizing the dog,” that’s basically saying that the dog is not a living being, just a mere live object of ours.

    Okay, I have had enough of reading this animal abuse. The dog must sit or lie down for the dog’s own food? You’re supposed to give the dog his own food no matter what! Let’s say he/she doesn’t sit down. You don’t give the dog the food? That’s animal abuse. I swear to God I will report you. How about, at every meal, I make you do this dumb trick before I give you your food? How about, before every time I talk to you, I make you do a dumb trick to entertain me first? Hey, Dummy, this is animal abuse. You’re an animal abuser, and I can see it in the eyes of your dog that he is a victim of animal abuse, not a very happy dog, and you should seriously change your ways that should have never started to begin with.

    You’re confusing the dog and the dog’s instincts. The instinct is to protect the food. When you get in the way, that comes into play. When you punish him for his instincts, that makes him confused. Are you that dumb? People! Don’t take your dog’s food away when he/she is eating, or at all! It’s animal abuse. Would you like it if some alien you didn’t understand that is much bigger than you randomly took your food away all the time? No, you’d want it to get out of your space and let you eat.

    I don’t blame your dog for looking sad in that picture. Apparently, in your and his mind, he owns nothing, has to do whatever you say or he may not eat, and gets punished for instincts. I actually feel sad for the little guy. You know, animal abusers shouldn’t post advice articles on stuff they don’t even know about, like how to treat an animal.

    No, I do not treat my dogs like babies. I believe they should be treated well, but not like princesses. When me dog eats my other dog’s food, I do take that dog, put her in another room with her food and have her sit before I give her the food. Now she hardly takes or even thinks about taking my other dog’s food. It’s rare for that to happen now.

    I hope you all don’t listen to what this uneducated person has to say about animals and listen to the people who do (I’m not saying me). Dogs shouldn’t beg for their food. Dogs shouldn’t be punished for their instinct of protecting their food. If you buy a dog toy, you don’t buy it for yourself. You buy it for your dog. It’s officially theirs then.

    1. Thanks for the laugh, Lindsay! Megan, good luck with your animal abuse charge. I don’t think you are going to find much support.

  56. No Megan. Not everyone’s an ass. You are just showing yours. Report me as well for animal abuse. You should go back and really read what you wrote. I pity your animals.

  57. Tawna Whitford

    Megan would have to report all the dog trainers for military and public sectors such as local police and guide dog trainers who have amazing dogs that are highly trained and extremely bonded to their trainers with deep love and loyalty. These trainers also use such methods for behavior modification and have for years because it’s the proven method that works. It doesn’t break a dog’s spirit. It’s only training their natural instincts to perform.

    My dog loves to be challenged to raise to the high calling of self control. It gives her pleasure to please me and show that she can do more than I expect of her. Wow – dog abuse? Megan just has her own ideas of how to love her animals that don’t fit the normal grid of thinking. I’m sure her pets are just as happy as Ace in their own way because they have no boundaries set for themselves. Who wouldn’t love to be the master of all they see?

    By the way, Ace just happens to have a face that gravity loves to pull on because of his breed. Sorry, Lindsay – Megan’s got you on that one! Hahaha. Ace does have a face that looks sad but unfortunately he was born with that face which makes you love him all the more!

    What’s important is Megan’s ignorance to have never met Ace and knows how much love has been poured into that relationship and how much Ace adores you. She has judged without knowledge, and that makes her ignorant and a fool. What the whole world suspected about Megan has now been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt by her own words. Good luck, Megan.

    Ace is one hell of a lucky dog!

  58. Lindsay Stordahl

    Thanks, Tawna!

    Whenever we go to the vet, she says to Ace, “You can’t fool me with those sad eyes!” 🙂

    He is one spoiled boy, that is for sure!

  59. It’s been just over a month since I first wrote you about our issues with Tannis.

    I think the crating has been working out well. Captain is more willing to go into the bedroom. When we let Tannis out, Captain is very excited and happy to greet him.

    On Mother’s Day, an odd thing occurred – they played! And they’ve played a little each day since! This is amazing, since they’ve barely had any relationship, other than possessiveness and policing. It’s even gotten to the point where Captain has stopped policing Tannis for the most part. The playing may only last two or three minutes, but we’ll take it.

    Tannis has become a happier dog, and it’s a lot more harmonious in our house. 🙂

    I’ll have to make sure to abuse my dogs into happiness more often. 🙂

  60. I’ve just started dog walking for my grandpa’s 6-year-old German shepherd mix. She wasn’t socialized as a pup. Three times a week I take her out for one hour of off-leash dog park time. I brought a tennis ball to the park yesterday, and she started acting possessive over it towards the other dogs (snapping and chasing them away).

    I took the ball away and tried again later. She then growled and snapped at another dog while trying to get that dog’s ball. The other dog owners didn’t react, but it was really embarrassing.

    I just wanted to know what I should do next time that happens, and if I should do some training at home with her?

  61. Lindsay Stordahl

    The dog park is probably not a good place for your Grandpa’s dog to go. Dogs that visit the dog park should be well socialized and not possessive over toys. I would stick to walking the dog or organizing small groups of one or two dogs for her to play with.

    If you want to help her get over the possessiveness, then practice a command such as “leave it” or “drop” when you are not at the park. Basically the idea would be to give her something more valuable than the toy. You can also use “trade.” You take the toy but she gets an even better reward such as a piece of chicken. If she obeys these commands with just you around and no distractions, then you can try the commands with another dog around and eventually take her to the dog park again.

  62. my 18mth jack russell has just gone very strange over a cushion. she growls if we go near it and has taken it into her bed. does anyone know why?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      If she is typically a submissive dog, this may be something she feels she can “control.” I’ve seen this with two other dogs and they were both very submissive.

      I suggest getting rid of the cushion if she is showing aggression. If you think she might act like that with another pillow or cushion, don’t let her on the furniture anymore without permission.

  63. Hi Lindsay,

    We’ve had a very similar problem as a few others have noted above. Wanted to check and see if you thought we were on the right track with how to correct it.

    We have a 1.5 year old boxer-standard poodle mix. We have had him for about one year and have taken 3 obedience classes, which we reinforce with him daily.

    His main problem is stealing objects at the dog park, mostly balls and especially balls that makes noise. He will steal another dog’s ball, and play keep away from them and all humans. He learns right away that he’s got something that everyone else wants, and will not come, will not drop it, will not leave it in this situation. Sometimes this can go on for 30 minutes plus. We don’t chase him, but eventually he gets distracted and drops it. We try to bring a high value treat for a trade (beef jerky, cheese, hot dog), but nothing seems to be higher value for him than the ball. He won’t come near us during this time, and clearly sees this as a game.

    For the past 2 months, we have been working on lots of recalls and drop its, at home and at the park. We do this mostly on a long lead so we can “make it happen” if he ignores us. He seems to know that he can’t get away with “keep-away” while on the lead, but is still about 75% with recalls and drop-it’s. If we decide to let him off leash (to see if we are seeing improvement) so he can play with the other dogs, we still notice no improvement in the keep-away.

    Again, the ball seems to be the biggest value for him in the park setting. At home, he will happily drop it for a reward, but at the park he still defies us.

    Any other suggestions? We’d love to be able to let him play off-leash at the park, but this situation has turned into a nightmare and can be very embarrassing to not be able to control him, especially when the owner wants their ball back….

    Thanks so much for any guidance…

    Anne

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      You said the greatest reward of all is the ball he’s playing with. You could try using that exact ball as a reward. If he drops on command, he gets the ball back. That would also show him that the “game” is not always over. Right now, in his mind, he’s not getting a reward for obeying. The greater reward is to continue holding the ball and getting people to chase him. So you’ll have to find a reward that’s even greater than the chase game he has created.

      What if you brought along a fun squeaky toy or just the squeaker to a toy and pulled it out, walked the opposite direction of your dog and started squeaking it and acting like you were having all kinds of fun without him? That might get him to come to you and drop the ball. But I imagine this wouldn’t work after he caught on.

      Another route would be to try an e-collar with a remote. This would be temporary, to help him transition from the long lead to no lead. It would teach him that he must listen with or without a lead on. Give the command to drop. If he doesn’t drop the ball, then give him a vibration correction and a reward the second he obeys. The reward might be a pile of jerky treats or a piece of real chicken or you throwing the ball for him again. Just use whatever makes him the happiest.

      Also, have you practiced this with just one or two dogs playing in a setting that is more controlled than a dog park? Maybe someone’s fenced yard where you could keep him on a leash?

  64. We are fostering an 11month old JRT. She is a beautiful smart girl, however she is completely deaf. She is learning hand signals well and is finally beginning to get the idea that biting us or our dogs is no fun. The problem we have is she seems to be possessive of my son ( her primary care giver) when the other dogs come around. She will growl, lunge and snap, then run and hide. She seems to know she’s wrong although I could be humanizing the behavior. This behavior is not consistent nor is she waiting until the dogs are close, they have been as far as 7 or 8 feet away.

    What we have done up to now is put her on the floor on her side with the other dog present until she relaxes, which she does very quickly. She’ll even fall asleep. But of course this can only happen if we catch her before she runs away. Otherwise she will run and we just love on the dog she just snapped at while she watches.

    Do you have any suggestions on how to curb this behavior?

  65. Lindsay Stordahl

    Are you able to determine whether this is true possessiveness or if she could be fearful of the other dogs?

    The reason I ask is because some dogs will lean on or guard a person when they don’t want other dogs to get any attention. But some dogs will lean on a person in order to feel safe or secure. My foster dog is submissive and fearful, and he will lean on me in order to feel more comfortable around other dogs. He sees me as a protector. Either way, it’s not a behavior I would want to encourage. But if it’s possible your dog is acting this way out of fear, then be careful about making her lie on her side submissively with the other dog present. You don’t want to make her even more insecure.

    If you think her behavior is out of dominance/guarding, then instruct your son not to allow her to sit at his feet or on his lap or on the furniture unless she is invited. If her behavior continues, start training her to lie down and stay on a specific spot such as a dog bed or blanket not necessarily as a “timeout” but to help her relax and focus on something other than the other dogs.

    If the other dogs are running around all the time and acting rowdy, she may actually be trying to calm them down by snapping and telling them their behavior is inappropriate. Or maybe she is not used to other dogs. If that is the case, then work on getting all the dogs to lie down and stay in their specific spots when asked.

    I hope this gives you some ideas. Thank you for your comment. I’m happy to hear you are fostering a dog.

  66. Hi,
    thanks so much for the info it is really helpful. From reading other people’s comments possessiveness over a ball is pretty common, which makes me feel sort of better because it means we are not alone.
    We have a 7month patterdale terrier and have done lots of work on her recall which has been really successful (she is now coming out of rabbit holes), we try to make her work for things and “giving her jobs” and have found this makes her more obedient, e.g. laying down for her food, like you have suggested.
    Recently I started taking her to our local field and other dogs were there, being a terrier I want her to socialise as much as possible, she enjoys chasing a ball but will not give it up even for hotdogs. She especially likes having a couple of balls, the other is usually someone else’s, and chewing on one and keeping one.
    One of the dogs tried to take the spare (which this time was hers) and she growled and then a scuffle ensued. I pulled them apart and promptly took the balls. When there are no balls she is fine and very friendly and playful, but if another smaller dog tries to take hers she does not like it. She will allow people and larger dogs to take the balls.
    What would you recommend? Obviously I do not want an aggressive dog, at all, and don’t want to be on the outs with other dog owners.
    Thank you

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Would it work to distract her with a third, potentially higher-valued toy? Maybe one of those tennis balls that squeak? Only bring it out in emergency or training situations so it remains exciting to her. Since she is a terrier, she has a high prey drive and she probably goes through the motions of “killing” the toy. You are doing all the right things by working on her recall, general obedience, etc. I would keep looking for ways to practice a command for “drop.” Obviously you’ll have to start with less challenging situations like getting her to drop the ball for just you, which she is already good at. Then try with just one or two dogs around, maybe your friends’ dogs. Keep her on a leash if you need to. Then progress to more difficult situations like that field with strange dogs around. Find something that is more rewarding to her than the original toys she has. Chicken? A squeaky toy? I have a relative who puts a stuffed animal on a string and pulls it along the ground to get his cairn terriers to chase it. Use whatever works!

  67. Hi, we have recently rehomed a 16 month old beagle. When we got him he had issues with toilet training, strange men, loud noises but over the last three months we have successfully elimenated all these problems. The one issue we have left is his aggresiveness and possiveness. If were on a walk and he picks up something he is not allowed to have i can reach in his mouth and take it with no problems but if he is in the house and gets a sock or towel he wont let me near him. He gets very growly and aggresive, and has snapped at us on numerous occasions. We make him sit and wait for his food which he does just fine. Its becoming a real issue, im afraid to have people dog sit in case he bites someone. What can i do??

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would approach him with something he values even more than the sock or whatever he has. Use pieces of jerky, hotdogs, chicken or whatever it might be. Teach him that if he “drops” on command (or whatever word you want to use), he gets a treat. You may even want to take the sock away, hold it for a second and then give it back as the reward. You want to teach him that good things happen when you approach him. If he is one of those dogs that tries to make a game of this by running away, then practice this with his leash on so you have more control.

      Make sure you are always reinforcing that everything belongs to you first, and then him, as you are doing with his food. But do it in a fun way. Take things away, but then give him a treat and give the object back. You can start with objects he is not aggressive over, like his food bowl. Push his food bowl away while he is eating but give him something even better – pieces of hotdogs or something like that. Then give him his food back and tell him what a good boy he is. Then progress to more challenging situations like when he has a sock.

      1. I tried the food bowl trick earlier with no problems, he didnt even flinch when we took it away. Later my boyfriend approached him in his bed when he was chewing his kong and he snapped at him! Am I best to continue with food rewards or should I put my foot on his toy. It seems to be selective possessiveness which makes it really difficult to stamp out.

  68. Lindsay Stordahl

    I would do both.

    Drop a treat, put your foot on his toy, drop another treat, remove the toy, drop another treat, pick up the toy, then give the toy back. Tell him how good he is. You could even use a clicker to mark the exact moment he willingly gives up the toy – and then give him several treats in a row – Wow! What a good boy!!

    Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

    1. Thanks for your help. It’s only been a couple if days but we are seeing a slight improvement already. Hopefully things will continue to get better

      1. Lindsay Stordahl

        Oh, good! Let me know if you find something specific that works well. It is helpful for everyone to hear which techniques work best in specific situations.

  69. My 5 1/2 month old chocolate lab Leo loves to play with Valentino, a 2 year old golden retriever at the park. On two separate occasions, while giving my dog a treat, I accidentally dropped it and both dogs went after it. Leo growled at Valentino and Valentino attacked him. Both times Leo hit the ground whimpering and crying while Val had to be pulled off of him. Valentino’s owner said Leo has a possessive aggression problem and needs to be trained but to me Leo just let out a growl and then was attacked. Who is the problem here?
    Also when we play ball, Valentino hordes both balls and won’t let Leo near them even when they are his. Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Sounds like both dogs could use some work on their possessive issues. But you can’t control someone else’s dog. You can only focus on your own dog.

      It would help your dog if you teach him a “Leave it” command. That way if you drop a treat, he will “Leave it” on command. Teach him this by purposely dropping a treat, blocking him from picking it up and offering him an even better treat as a reward for leaving the first treat. To stop him from growling at other dogs, you will have to practice this in a controlled setting around other dogs. For example, with another dog safely on a leash but close by. Give him yummy treats while the other dog is there so he learns to take treats nicely. Practice dropping treats on the floor and asking him to “leave it” even when another dog is there and eventually to allow the other dog to get the dropped treat. When your dog waits, he gets a handful of even better treats for being so good!

      So really, with the growling thing, it’s not ideal. If you growl at the wrong dog, you will get attacked. My dog does the same thing Leo does. I don’t like it one bit. I understand he is just communicating to the other dog that this is mine, but he does need to learn some self control, even if it’s not natural to him.

  70. Hi,

    I have a one year old mix pomerenian/bijon. The problem I am having is that when he takes something that is not his, he hides under the bed. When anyone tries to take it away from him he growls and snaps at you. The fact that he is under the bed makes it difficult to teach him anything. I have tried giving him a treat in return but he then takes possession of both items.

    Is there anything else I can do to dominate him?

    Carol

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Keep a leash on him. Then set up situations where he would be tempted to take something and hide under the bed. That way you can get a hold of him safely and offer him a reward for dropping the item.

  71. Great advice, my dog will let humans take anything from her, problems i have is if we are out walkies, and she has a ball/rock/stick, and another dog comes near she warns first, if the dog persists, can get more heated.

    Have to ask, but the picture of the dog in the original article………….is the image of mine! What breed, mine is a mix breed of great dane?? Just interested!!

    Thanks again

    lisa

  72. Lindsay Stordahl

    I would practice “drop” or “trade” or “give” or whatever command you want to use. Give her something even better when she does drop the object. Then practice this around other dogs in a controlled situation like with dogs you know on a leash. Start with the dog six feet away. Then get closer. Use different objects. Set up realistic situations so when these situations really occur with strange dogs she will remember the drill and drop the object in order to get an even better treat (hot dog, chicken, jerky, etc.).

    Send me a pic of your dog, please to Lindsay@ThatMutt.com or post a link. I’d love to see!

    I don’t know what Ace is, but I guess mostly black lab mixed with some dane and maybe another kind of hound or pointer. Who knows. He’s about 68 pounds, so like the size of a lab. He just has the big head and lankiness and jowls of a dane.

  73. I have a 7year old unneutered JRT whose very unsociable. He has recently become very possessive over his duvet and pillow that you cannot go near him he will growl or come to bite. He guards it continually and doesn’t want to eat or go out to piddle. I m not sure if its his mating idol as he often mounts it, is plainly aggressive or is unwell. I am now afraid of my own pet. What is your best advice to assist me please?

  74. Well you could try getting rid of the pillow and duvet. Just put them in a closet for a few weeks. But I bet the behavior will continue once you bring them out again.

    Put his leash on him and keep his leash on as needed. When he’s in that guarding mode, take his favorite treats, walk over to him and give him the treats when he moves off the bed. Take his leash and physically move him if needed. Do this 20 times in an row. Do this every day. Teach him that he gets good things when you approach. Also, remove him and then “claim” the pillow yourself. Hold it. Sit on it. Don’t let him come near it until YOU decide it’s OK. Give him permission to approach. Then give him lots of treats when he’s being nice and friendly while you both sit on the pillow or while he sits on it and lets you pet him.

    The mounting behavior he does is his way of showing he “owns” and “dominates” the pillow. It wouldn’t be such a big deal, but since he becomes aggressive and possessive, do not allow him to mount the pillow either.

    You could also try throwing the pillow and duvet away and getting new ones just to see how he does with something new. He might have a whole new, friendlier attitude. But most likely he will get possessive of the new objects, too.

    Let me know if you have questions. Since you are dealing with aggression, do not hesitate to contact a trainer for help. You don’t want the behavior to escalate and it is dangerous.

  75. Dear Lindsey, thank you so much for the reply will definitely try and let you know. Do you think it wise to consider neutering him now?

  76. It might help, but don’t expect it to suddenly eliminate the possessiveness. That, along with everything else I mentioned should help.

  77. I managed to remove the items he searched frantically to no avail however found another pillow but not so agressive today. I managed to distract him and give him his bathe as well. He’s back to his normal self now was even hungry. Thank you so much for the tips I will continue with them. You saved him as I was seriously considering giving him up as I was so scared of him even though I love him to bits. Thanks a mil. God bless.

    1. Oh I’m so glad he’s a bit better. You’ll have to keep after him because he will always have the tendency to become possessive of something.

  78. I have a 1.5 year old lab/shepherd mix. She is wonderful at home with food and water. We make her sit or lay down, stay, and then use the “watch me” command to maintain eye contact with me before she gets food or water. The problem is at the dog park when it is really hot and there isn’t this structure. There are dog bowls filled with water all over the place and I cannot easily prevent her from getting to them. With my own bowl I will still have her work for me before getting the water, but this is a lot more difficult with everyone else’s water bowls. When another dog tries to drink out of the same dish, or even come close to it she becomes possessive (sometimes growling or lunging) of it. I don’t know how all of this started…some days she will drink just fine out with another dog out of the same dish. But it seems like the days when she is really hot and thirsty she thinks it is her own. She has gotten into a few scuffles because of this. Any suggestions?

    1. That’s hard since it’s so hard to get control of the dog in an dog park setting. You could try setting up similar scenarios in your yard or friends’ yards with one or two dogs. Allow her to drink and keep approaching with other dogs but then give her treats when they approach so she associates good things with other dogs approaching. Just be careful so she doesn’t become possessive of the treats! Give them to her when she is calm. Also practice making her lie down at the dog park, not as a punishment but as a way to keep her calm. Reward her for eye contact. If you haven’t trained her to “watch” on command, do that, too. Give her treats for making eye contact. That way you can get her attention when needed.

      My dog steals tennis balls at the dog park, and I make sure to step in and make him drop the ball and then I walk into him, pushing him back, away from the ball. This is difficult just like your situation since there are tennis balls everywhere and sometimes he’s far away from me. If I see him eyeing that particular ball again, I get after him and say “No!” and walk between him and the ball, requiring him to change his mindset. I’m not sure if you would be able to do this with the water bowls, depending on how they are set up. But you could step in every now and then, forcing her to back away from the water, and then give her a treat.

      Does it help at all if you bring your own water bowl? I assume not since I know how that goes. The dogs prefer to drink out of the public bowls, it seems. If you do bring your own water, make sure to reward her when she drinks from it.

  79. I have two dogs who have toy aggressiveness. I think we’re going to have to use corrective measures for our puggle but we just adopted a new fox hound who has the same toy aggressiveness, and I think that we need to implement your suggestions on him right away. Do you have any other suggestions on how we should manage this?

  80. It helps if both dogs see you as the ultimate owner of the toys. Both my dog and foster dog will at times show possessiveness over a toy or bone. But if we are all playing together, they will both surrender the toy to me or to each other because they know I “own” the toy. I reward them and tell them how good they are when they are playing nicely and “sharing.”

    When one of them does get possessive, it does not help the situation if I get tense and upset. Usually this just makes the dog go into an avoidance mode, which is better than being possessive, but they are not learning anything. If one dog becomes possessive, then I just get out a new “better” toy and totally ignore that dog while playing with the other dog and making sure to make a huge point that we are having all kinds of fun!

    So, I suggest making sure to claim everything as yours. And keep the toys put away when you are not playing. Rotate which toys are out so they are always interesting. And always have something even better to bring out whether it’s treats or other toys.

  81. Hi Lindsay,

    We just (a month ago) rescued a puppy, Piper, someone abandoned next to a garbage dumpster. The vet thinks she’s about 2-3 months old, possibly a lab or lab mix but hard to tell at this age. She’s been fine with everything up until recently — we crate her at night & if we leave the dogs in the house when we’re not at home, during the day she stays outside with the other 2 dogs (Shiloh & Lacy) we own & gets along fine with them, she plays with her toys when we play with her, walks on a leash (for the most part–she’s still learning), etc. And until just in the past couple of weeks, feeding her was no problem but now she’s started showing aggression toward her food. We make her sit & wait for us to put the food in the bowl & wait until we place it on the floor. She still doesn’t wait long before rushing to the bowl but she is learning–if she starts heading toward the bowl as I’m setting it down, I stand back up & tell her to sit. Once she is sitting, I tell her to wait & then begin to set the bowl down again. But, as I said, just in the past couple of weeks, she’s begun growling when I pet her while she’s eating (which I was able to do before). Yesterday, I was just putting some food back in the bowl that fell out & she really growled & I thought she was going to snap.

    I am so glad I found your blog — my husband said he tells her no & picks up her bowl, makes her sit & then gives it to her again, which is what you recommend. I wasn’t sure what to do & if what he was doing was right. I was attacked by my step-father’s dog shortly after he & my mother were married so, although I’m not afraid of dogs & am normally forceful when I need to be, in situations where I feel they may bite, it’s difficult for me to be forceful but I plan on putting your tips into practice, but she does show more aggression toward me with her food than she does toward him.

    I have a few questions. We feed Shiloh & Lacy outside because they eat much slower than Piper (& we’ve always fed them outside) & she acts like she is starving even after we’ve feed her (we feed her about a cup of food 3 times a day) so we don’t want her to eat their food — Shiloh is sometimes timid & Lacy is 12-year old, so I fear with this recent behavior that Piper will take over the food bowls of all the dogs. When is a good time to introduce the three of them to eating together, if ever? Is the fact that we feed her inside, apart from them, something that led to her aggression? And, they get a mixture of wet/dry food & she just gets puppy food but my husband put a couple of chunks of wet food in her puppy food a few times would that extra “treat” in her normally dry food have led to the aggression? As I said, she was fine with her food before so I’m trying to determine what may have led to the aggression so we can rule that out & make sure we stop doing whatever it might be!

    Thank you for any help you’re able to provide. 🙂

  82. Lindsay Stordahl

    Some dogs are just naturally more possessive of their food. If you do feed all three dogs together, I would make sure to make them all sit first like you are doing with Piper and then release them and allow them to go to their own bowls. Make sure to supervise and to correct anyone who tries to go to another dog’s bowl. Keep leashes on at first if you need more control. And don’t leave any food out at all times. Put the bowls and any uneaten food away until the next meal.

    My foster dog Cosmo is a bit aggressive with food as well, and he is nuts about food just like Piper. He inhales the food as though he’s never eaten in his life. I also make him lie down and wait for his food and he practically shakes with anticipation. One thing I do with him sometimes is make him sit facing me with the bowl between us. And then I literally feed him by hand. This forces him to be calm and to accept the food from me on my terms. It’s not very convenient to do this all the time, but it is something you could try. With Cosmo, I keep feeding him one piece at a time as long as he is sitting nicely without growling or snapping the food from me. Sometimes I have him work on a few obedience commands like “watch me” or “down” while I’m feeding him this way.

    Remember that the reason Piper is growling is because she doesn’t want you to take the food away. There is a strong possibility that she will bite if you take the food while she is growling. Dogs growl as a warning that they are going to bite. So do be very careful and don’t hesitate to contact a trainer in your area for help.

    When Cosmo is eating, I walk over and nudge the bowl away from him with my foot. He is a small enough do so he won’t be able to hurt me this way even if he does bite. So I move his bowl away with my foot and walk into him, causing him to back away and tell him to sit. As soon as he does, I tell him what a good boy he is and allow him to return to the food immediately as a reward. I might do this two or three times while he is eating. Sometimes I have an even “better” treat in my hand like pieces of chicken. I use these rewards to teach him that it’s not a bad thing if I approach his bowl. I might be approaching him to offer something better!

    I’m not sure what has set Piper off. It is probably just her age and personality. Make sure you are a leader to her at all times like you are doing. Remember that everything in the house belongs to you – the dog food, dog toys, and so on. She only gets something with your permission.

    Make sure you are not feeling bad for her because she had a rough start during her first month or two of life. I guarantee that she has moved past that point in her life and you do not need to feel one bit sorry for her. Doing so will only empower her even more.

  83. i have 3 year old terrier.who is very protective over clothing items steals mail.she will sit growling for hours.if you go near her to get them back she snaps and sometimes runs away with it.we have tryed all ur tips but nothing is working please can you help.thank you carol.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Give her less freedom and opportunity for this. Keep her on a leash when needed so you can re-gain control. Have you tried “trading” her for something better? If nothing else is working, you could try a shock collar with a remote. Give the command drop and then give a correction. Reward with her favorite treat the second she drops. You may even want to consider giving her the same object right back if that is the ultimate reward. The goal is to get her to “drop” on command.

  84. Hello,

    I was wondering is someone could help me with me with my puppy. This is the first puppy that i have EVER had in my life to date. She has started to become aggressive with her food dishes. Everytime I go near her dish she tends to growl, show her teeth, and her hair stand up on end. I was wondering if you could give me some help with this as it is not aggressive behaviour yet but I know it can turn into that if something doesn’t happen now. She is a Border collie lab mix and is 6 months old. Thanks

    Patty

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I have a few suggestions.

      First, make her earn the food. Go for a long walk before each meal or work on some obedience. Then make her sit a few feet back while you get her food ready and release her calmly with an “OK” if she is calm – ears back, relaxed, not panting frantically or ready to bolt at the dish. Keep her leash on while you feed her for more control, and stay calm and pleasant but confident and in control. Be a leader, but don’t be super tense about it.

      While she is eating and has her leash on, approach her bowl with some extra special treats like bits of hotdogs or chicken. Don’t bend down and touch her or put your face near her quite yet. Just walk right into her, causing her to back away. When she does, immediately give her a treat and put another treat in her bowl telling her she is a good dog. Repeat this several times. If you are uncomfortable with this, then hold the leash the whole time. Have the leash in your hand before you put her bowl down so you are holding the leash the whole time. You don’t want to have to bend down and get it if there is a chance she could snap. Keep repeating this game with the treats so she learns to associate good things (better food!) with you approaching.

      At the same time, you don’t want to just be bribing her with treats. You want her to respect you and understand that you can take the food away at any time. So keep working on approaching her and progress so you are able to touch her back and head while she eats and massage her. Then you can try pushing the bowl away with your foot. Then you can progress to touching the food in the bowl and so on. Be very careful of course and if you are not sure of the warning signs a dog gives before a bite, please consult a trainer in your area for help.

      You can also make her sit in front of you, facing you with the bowl between you. Then hand feed her the food. This teaches her to be calm and that you control the food. This is time consuming so you probably aren’t going to want to do this every meal.

  85. Hi,

    We have a two dogs, a collie and a jack russell. they are both grown up and the jack russell (elvis) moved in with us last year. Now my problem is he was a rescue dog and so thought he might have been treated badly, but i’m not sure… Now he continually takes random things and guards them quite aggressively, and i was wondering if anyone can give me any hints on how to stop him doing it. Basically when you go to take the object away from him he will initially start to growl and if you continue he shows his teeth and then goes for your hand if you don’t hold him back. The rest of the time he is an awesome loving dog. anyone with any hints it would be much appreciated… 🙂

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would teach him a command for “drop” by trading him for something he values even more than the object he has. Maybe this means using hotdogs or chicken or whatever. Sometimes that might even mean giving him the object right back if he drops it on command first. You will want to work on this randomly when he is not being possessive until it becomes automatic.

      Also, make sure you are doing a better job of claiming everything as yours. The food is yours. The dog toys are yours. Everything is yours. Use the “nothing is free” method and always make your dog do something before he gets what he wants.

  86. Hi, I was hoping you could could share your thoughts with me. I have a two year old weimaraner that I rescued at ten months. A few months in, he got something out of the trash and when friend tried to pick it up, he snapped at her and peed himself. I believe that in his past, he may have been abused for grabbing items. We hired a trainer, worked on leadership, drop it, give, etc. with all things, he us very stubborn. He will listen to a command only of he wants to. He knows what I want but is stubborn sometimes. He randomly gets things that were not important to him yesterday. If I try to get it from him, he’ll stand over it and and growl, snarl. I used to get his leash, get him to come, and then tie him up and get the item. I’ve tried letting him watch me, I’ve tried having him in the other room. I’ve tried claiming it after getting it, and I’ve tried making him work to play with it again. When that wasn’t working, I decided that I’m willing to risk a bite to make things right. I tried trading things, he doesn’t care for anything else once he’s in that mind sight. I’ve tried grabbing the item at which time he lunges and snaps over and over again to get it back. Sometimes, I have to get him on his side and pull on the item until he eventually loses it by trying to get a better grip and loosening his jaw for a moment. I get the item and he goes crazy. I have to hold him down and put a muzzle on him,. Sometimes I can let him up without the muzzle. Sometimes I am holding him down trying to get the item got up to an hour. He knows he shouldn’t do this. When he does “get me,” it never breaks the skin but I have huge deep bruises and knots from his teeth. He plays and shares with other dogs just fine. Always. Minus this, he is a pretty great dog. We practice nothing in life is free, he works for everything. He doesn’t sleep with us, he gets plenty of physical and mental stimulation. Besides these “random” items, he gives, drops, etc. when we ask. I will not give up on him or return him. I an doing as much research as possible and am going to work with a different behaviorist. What is your take on this? What would you do?

    Thanks for reading all of this!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would’ve suggested teaching him drop or trade as you have been trying. And since there is nothing he values more than that original object, I would give that right back as his “reward.”

      Are you comfortable with an e-collar? In this case, you would tell him to “drop.” If he does, give him tons of praise and a reward. If he does not, give an immediate correction and then an immediate reward once he does drop the object. I suggest pieces of chicken or other real meat as the reward.

  87. We have a 7 month old whom we’ve had since she was 7 weeks old. She has nipped, growled, and bitten our children and other children when they are near her food or try to take something she shouldn’t have. (this has happened a total of 8 times since we got her). Now she’s recently growled over toys and her crate. I can’t have her biting anyone, but I don’t want to get rid of her . We’ve always done “drop it” and have traded her for treats, we’ve let the kids feed her handfuls of kibble at meal times, we’ve taken toys etc. away from her during play times… but I’m sorry to say the few times she’s bitten or growled I have only been right there to correct her immediately the past two times. I think she sees the kids as her litter mates. I’ve read that I should always monitor any interaction with the children and the dog, but this is simply unrealistic unless she spends a majority of her day in her crate. Any thoughts?

    1. You should definitely supervise the children and the dog whenever they are together. You can buy baby gates to block the dog in certain areas of the house so she doesn’t have to be in her crate when you are not watching her.

      Besides biting the kids, does she show dominance over them in other ways? Does she jump all over them? Push them out of her way? Take their toys and run off? Usually there are other signs that the dog thinks she is in charge before actual biting/growling occurs. Your dog needs to know that all the people are in charge of her, including the kids.

  88. Hi, thanks for getting back to me. No, she doesn’t do any of those other behaviors. We have read a lot and understand her need to know her place in the “pack”. Not sure how to teach the kids to show her that she is not in charge. We have had them feed her and walk her. They put her in her crate, trained with her in classes, been in charge of treats. She seems to be fairly tolerant of being pulled, squeezed, squished, etc. She is very receptive to my husband and I, and will listen to the kids when given a command, but it’s not the same as when I call her, or ask her to do something.

  89. Lindsay Stordahl

    Do you think your dog just needs a break from the kids sometimes? Does she go in her crate because she wants to get away from them?

    I think you are doing all the right things by including the kids in her training and walking. When they walk her, do they make her walk in a formal heel position? Do they practice obedience commands with her? Those would all be good things to keep doing. You may also want to consider having a trainer come to your house and work with you, your dog and the kids together.

  90. Hi Lindsay. Kudos for having such an informative blog and for sharing your knowledge of dog behavior with frustrated/desperate dog parents! I have two male Siberian Huskies, 4 years and 7 months old. I am a pretty firm/strict Mama, since I’ve had this breed my whole life and I know how challenging they can be if you don’t give them boundaries and miles of exercise. We have none of the food aggression or possessiveness that a lot of dog owners have mentioned on here, but despite my best efforts, we have a couple of problems I haven’t been able to figure out.

    When I got my oldest boy, he was an only dog and I took him to the park 4 to 5 times a week as a pup. He is a now well-adjusted dog who plays with big and small dogs just fine. His only issue (and it’s a bad one) is when people bring squeaky toys to the dog park. It’s like an instinctive switch is tripped and he goes after the dog who is chasing the toy. He has never drawn blood, but he does lunge at the dogs’ necks and try to make them submit while growling and snapping at them. This has happened every time a dog has not walked away from his bared teeth over a squeaky toy. As a result, I am always on high alert for squeakers and I must appear insane when I yell at people to please hang on to their squeakers until I can grab my dog!! How should I go about fixing this? I know I have to catch him right before he goes for it, or he completely ignores me. But he’s usually on the run already and I’m too far to get to him in time before the scrapping starts. Any ideas?

    My other little problem is with socializing my 7 month old. Since he had a big brother to play with and I have a good-sized yard, I didn’t take him much to the dog park and as a result I have a 45-lb ball of energy that has no idea running 100mph into a strange dog’s face is inappropriate behavior. He also tries to mouth on the dogs like he would his brother, but mouthing combined with his energy and relentlessness has also led to more than one angry dog owner huffing out of the park. I know he isn’t just being aggressive because I understand Husky behavior, but I am also worried about him upsetting the wrong dog and ending up at the vet’s office. Any tips? I’m guessing you will say smaller groups of dogs we know? Anything else that could help besides just letting him take his “licks” like all puppies do when they’re learning?

    Thanks for reading, and thanks again for taking the time to share what you know!

    1. I would practice getting your older husky to listen to you 99 percent of the time when you call him. And then get him to make eye contact when you say “watch.” If you can achieve those two things, you will be able to get control of him in almost any situation. You will have to practice this dozens of times, probably hundreds of times, in areas other than the dog park where it is easier for your dog to concentrate. Then progress to more challenging situations like quiet hours at the dog park and then busier times. It’s not an easy fix and will take a lot of time. If you are up for it, you could also try an e-collar so you can correct your dog the instant he is thinking about going after another dog. Then reward when he breaks focus from that dog and comes to you instead.

      For your younger dog, yes, smaller groups will definitely help 🙂 Also exercising him a lot before you go to the park so he has less excitement when he’s charging up to the other dogs. Take him running before you go to the park or at least play some tug of war games. It would help if you could go for walks with your friends dogs so he can learn to just chill out and walk with other dogs rather than play, play, play! Also group obedience classes are good.

      1. I’m in need of some advice similar to that of Jessica’s post from Nov 22 of last year. I also have two male huskies (both fixed). I obtained my first boy, “Vito,” back in 2009 when he was only 4 months old–turning 3 years this May. About two months ago, I rescued another male husky, “Tommy,” who’s only about 9-10 months old. At first, they had their tiffs about who ran the household, but I think Vito came out on top, and rightfully so. Now, they get along great…with one exception: No more tug toys??? They seem to do okay with balls, kongs, etc., but when it comes to ropes or the “critter-type” toys (squirrels, fox, skunk, etc.) with the squeek in the tail and head, you’d think they were bred to fight!! I never thought Vito was the type to fight another dog as he was raised in a very social environment (Florida and New York City dog parks, doggy daycare, etc.). As for Tommy, I don’t find him to be the aggressive type either, however it seems like he’s the one misinterpreting the situation as fight-time, rather than playtime. But again, this ONLY happens with ropes or critter tug toys. I feel really bad because this was one of Vito’s favorite games to play with me; but now I can’t play that game without Tommy running over and getting aggressive. On the contrary, if Tommy wants to play tug with a squirrel or rope, Vito won’t intervene. It got to the point where I couldn’t even have those types of toys laying around the house. The interesting thing about it…is that Vito seems to sort of enjoy the mind games…. he would bring a squirrel up to Tommy and drop it in front of him–almost as if he’s saying, “I dare you…”. And God forbid they get into a tugging match….that’s where the rabid side comes out! They’ve only gotten into a food-possessive fight once, which occurred when I first brought Tommy home. Other than that, they’re great..they even get along with both of my cats!
        Any suggestions on getting back to playing tug with my boys….or even better–them playing tug each other in a nice, playful manner?

        1. Lindsay Stordahl

          I think Tommy gets very, very excited about playing tug and then it escalates into aggression. I would introduce the toys back very slowly and keep the dogs in a calmer state of mind when they play with these types of toys.

          My dog has an extreme tennis ball obsession, and although he does not become aggressive, he does enter what I would consider a red zone case where he can’t control himself. This happens if I let it escalate to that. So when we are playing ball I have to end the play session before he gets too excited.

          Also play with one dog at a time with those types of toys. Possibly start working on having the other lie down and stay while the other plays as that would be good for working on self control.

  91. Hi, I just had been reading this and I could use advice on my two pups. When all toys are picked up they play nicely and take turns being dominant. However, once the toys are introduced the older one will take everything for himself. The younger dog seems to think of this as a game as I see him often do a play bow to the other, but the older dog just seems to get frustrated and growl. I know he’s trying to be dominant and I try to redirect him to something even better, which doesn’t phase him, but the younger dog needs to chew and play with toys, and they each have the one same object/bone, but how can I get the older one to understand that he doesn’t need to be possessive with everything? Food however does not seem to be an issue. They could almost eat out of the same bowl (they do not but the first couple of days with the younger pup he would stick his head in the bowl and there was no fighting since he didn’t know there was a bowl for him.) This seems to be no possessiveness over food like the toys. Any tips are appreciated. Thanks!

  92. Lindsay Stordahl

    Does your older dog allow you to take away the toys? I would start with that. Make sure he knows that everything is ultimately yours. If he is OK with you taking things away, then progress to having him lie down and stay while you interact with the toys and your younger dog. Reward your older dog for sitting calmly by giving him his favorite treats or inviting him to play.

    Also make sure to teach a command for “drop.” Use his favorite treats as a reward or give the toy right back. You may have to use a very highly valued treat like real chicken. You can practice this without your younger dog around at first. Then practice when both dogs are playing. Try to stay positive and keep it fun. Give both dogs treats when they are sharing nicely.

  93. Hi Lindsay,
    Just wanted to say thank you for posting this! Just found it googling possessiveness in dogs. My pup, Sally, a 6 year-old silky terrier, has been acting awful when she is chewing on a treat (rawhide or jerky) if anyone goes near her. She will growl if I get close to her and she will snap and even bite if I try to take it away. It is so unacceptable! She just acted the worst she ever has, so I had to do a search and learn how to correct this issue.

    The trade method easily did the trick to get it away from her. I did this search because I had friends over and she was acting soo demonlike, it was embarrassing! I’ll definitely follow the rest of this advice and hopefully we’ll break her of the habit!

  94. I just bought my Shih Tzu a bone that has chicken flavor on it. She sat down as to protect it. I tried to pick her up to take her to bed and she started growling at me. I kind of got scared because I didn’t want her to bite me. What should I do?

  95. Lindsay Stordahl

    I would follow the steps and suggestions listed in this post and in the comments. Your best bet is to teach her a drop command and get to the point that she will drop anything no matter what in order to get an even better reward. Of course, it won’t work to only practice this when she has something she thinks is really great. This is something you’ll have to work on every day by purposely giving her something and then having her drop it for something better until she automatically does it.

  96. Lindsay Stordahl

    I can’t possibly help you with such little information. I suggest you get him into some obedience classes where he can learn to focus and relax around other dogs. Increase his exercise (I’m talking about an hour of walking with you every single day at a minimum). And slowly introduce him to other dogs while avoiding eye contact and tension between the dogs. Here is a post on preventing dogs from meeting head on:

    http://www.thatmutt.com/2010/08/12/prevent-dogs-from-meeting-head-on/

  97. will someone please suggest how I can teach this 5# Rat 1yr old shelter Terrier how not to be so possive of me, I have her on trail for 1 week Ive become attached, problem is she doesnt seem to like my husband very well and if we can[‘t get her used to him by this friday she may have to go back, breaking my heart, when she growls most of the time she is sitting next to me, i put her down on the floor when she does it everytime, but sheesh she doesnt give in to easy.. anymore suggestion please…

    please help me keep Daisy

  98. what would you recommend i do with this situation. I’ve recently adopted a 1yr old husky. after a few days of training her, because she was possessive with my other dogs food ect.. (shes amazing now everythings good) But what she does now is that i’ll give my dogs a bone and she will try to take it from them. she will stalk them as their prey, she has gone far to take anything from my german mix’s mouth which is very unexpectable. what would you recommend it do???

    1. Do they fight over the bones and other things? Do your other dogs snap or growl when the husky takes things? As long as the other dogs don’t seem to mind, I’ll usually just allow the more dominant dog to take what he or she wants from the others. But I will supervise and make sure the dog understands I (as the leader) can take whatever I want at any time. And I’ll make sure to do just that.

  99. I have a 9 year old AKC English Springer Spaniel. she is a beautiful dog and behaves failrly well and I love her very much and I think she knows that. But there are times when she acts like a very spoiled little child! If I go into another room or step outside she runs and quickly grabs something she knows she shouldn’t and runs inside her indoor crate and will not let me take the item from her, she growls and shows her teeth if I even attempt to take it from her, therefore I don’t, I don’t want to get bit, if it’s a towel or something she may start tearing it up or not it may just lay there but she just won’t let me come near it. Please help me stop this behavior I will do whatever suggestions you can share. I have already been trying the leave it or drop it and gave her a small treat when she obeyed. Help please!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Another important part of this is to do everything to prevent these kinds of situations. Maybe you keep her kennel door closed when you don’t need to leave her in there. Or, have her drag her leash around so you can grab the leash when needed. If she does steal something, then she will have nowhere to retreat to and you can step on the leash and then step on the object and reclaim it.

      For trading her with a treat, you will have to use a very highly valued piece of food like hamburger or steak or chicken, whatever she likes best.

      Another thing to consider is whether your dog is getting enough attention. Do you exercise her enough? Do you give her enough training and other mental challenges. She may be just bored when she takes a towel or other object.

      1. Thanks so much, I have thought of that too about the attention part, and that is why she does take things she knows she will get some even tho it’s not the right kind like when I scold her. I have always thought I have given her enough, maybe not as far as Lexi is concerned tho. Might work on that along with the other suggestions. Thanks again!

  100. I got a rescue dog about 3 months ago that had clearly been abused in the past. He has serious aggression over his bones. He always sleeps right next to me in the couch or bed and recently when my boyfriend goes to move him he gets really agressive and tries to bite him. Really don’t know what to do.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      It sounds like your dog is guarding you. I’m sure you are his sense of security, quite possibly something he has never had before. He may also be a bit fearful of your boyfriend. I recommend you contact a reputable trainer or behaviorist in your area for some help if the aggression does not get better very soon.

      I suggest you do not allow your dog to sleep in your bed at all. Don’t allow him on the couch either. Teach the dog some boundaries. If he jumps onto the couch, push him off. You don’t have to be mean about it. You just want to prevent putting him in a situation where he becomes possessive, which happens on the furniture.

      Here are some other posts you might find helpful:

      http://www.thatmutt.com/2011/11/11/why-does-my-dog-lean-on-me/

      http://www.thatmutt.com/2011/12/07/dog-owners-need-to-be-open-to-change/

  101. I am a teenager who loves dogs. When my dog got hit by a car we talked about getting another dog for a while. We finally got a 3 year old rotweiler named rocky from my moms friend. He is mine and I love him a lot. He is super friendly and happy except when it comes to food and toys. A trainer told me to put my hand in his dish and feed it to him. That started to work but not for anyone else in my family. Whenever someone comes near he snarls and growls. He is worse with toys. We can’t give him any toys because he will not give them up and snarls. We tried trading multiple times but be won’t budge. We think this behavior is because he was beaten and fed little. Do you think I can break these habits? Any suggestions?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      When you are dealing with aggression from a powerful dog, I recommend you consult with a trainer or behaviorist in your area. You don’t want to get hurt.

      I do think you can help him by teaching him that you (or your family members) are going to give him even tastier treats when you approach his food dish or his toy. Start by just walking by and dropping little pieces of chicken or hamburger or whatever it is that he likes best. With toys, distract him away with something even better. Then, have him sit or lie down to get the treat so he doesn’t think he is being rewarded for aggression. He’ll think he’s being rewarded for sitting.

      Obviously, prevention can go a long way. Don’t give him certain things like bones unless he is in his kennel or safely put away in a bedroom where he won’t feel like he needs to guard the item.

      I also suggest you use the “nothing is for free” method of training. Make him sit before he gets anything. Make him sit even before you do things he enjoys like heading out for a walk and that type of thing. Before you give him anything – food, a bone, a toy, make him work for it.

      But ultimately, keep your own safety in mind. Do be careful and get help if you think you need it.

  102. I have a 7 year old golden retriever mix who’s great about food and kids and the like, but she’s really possessive of her toys. Now that she’s living with another dog, she’ll growl and grab toys out of his mouth. Now the other dog is intimidated and drops them when she comes near. I’ve been taking the toys from her if she takes them from him and reprimand her with a firm “NO”, but it doesn’t seem to get through to her. If I see her going towards the other dog with the intention of taking the toy, I will stop her and try to redirect her thoughts to a toy that she already has. I don’t want this behavior to get worse and become more aggressive. What do you suggest?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I like your idea of stopping her before she has a chance to take the other dog’s toys. Re-directing her attention is a good idea. How does she respond to command such as drop and leave it? I would definitely teach her those and practice until she responds 99 percent of the time. Also make her do something before she gets a toy, and don’t keep toys out all the time. While the dogs are playing, make sure to take the toys away every now and then. Make her wait until you give a command to take the toys again. Also have her practice down and stay while you play with the other dog and the toys. All of these little exercises practiced for a few short sessions each day should help her. You may already be doing all of these things. I’m not sure.

  103. I have a 2 y/o Lab who has become noticeably possessive as of late. She is the sweetest dog and still very much a puppy. But I think some bad habits are starting to develop. We take her to the dog park nearly 4 times a week, and she got bit by a Doberman who was tormenting all the dogs in the park. Now she is pretty anti social with dogs, and really is just interested in the tennis balls around the park. BUT she thinks they are all hers and most people can’t play fetch with their own dog. If I throw a ball, she goes after it and then will find another or go for someone else’s. If I do not throw one, she will come behind me with ball in mouth and nudge the back of my legs, or find someone with a ball chucker and run circles around them until she throw one. She try to gather all the balls in the park and runs around with a ball in her mouth and gets snippy when another dog comes near. Yesterday, I tried to hold her collar and kneel with her while another dog came to get “her” ball, and she went crazy. Mistake? I had to get her on a leash and she wouldn’t even walk normally with me to the truck. Literally, pulling her. Very uncharacteristic.

    At home she will usually give us her toys, but often tries to play “tug of war” with some. She will drop a toy if you touch her ear, which is strange to me. After reading the previous post, her “toy box” is gonna have to go away at home. But I want her to be more approachable with other dogs at the dog park. I want to get another dog, but I don’t want conflicts, so I think if I can break it now at the dog park it will be good in the future. Any suggestions?? Thanks in advance

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would follow some of the same advice I’ve given to others. Find other ways to exercise your dog. Take her running or walking every day. Then use the dog park as extra exercise and for socialization, not her main form of exercise. It sounds like she is quite wound up at the dog park, so get her tired before you go.

      Another thing is to socialize her in smaller groups. If you can set up a playdate with her and just one dog at a time, that’s great. Or maybe two or three dogs.

      On your own with her, make sure you get to the point where she responds to the commands “watch” (for eye contact) as well as drop and leave it 99 percent of the time. This will take many repetitions each day in short sessions. Work with no distractions. Then build distractions and increase the value of the objects you are working with. You will also want to practice in areas where she is highly excitable. Listening to commands in your living room is one thing. Off leash at a dog park where she is likely the most excited is another. So practice somewhere in between.

  104. Hi Lindsay,

    I am happy to find your blog, and I hope you can advice me to handle my black Lab – Bravo- 1.5 years old possessiveness over things.

    Bravo is not possessive over food, and i do the com and sit and stay before feeding him. He likes to play fetch-the-ball with me, or just put the ball in his mouth but come to me, and expect me to hold the ball while his trying to chew the ball.

    But, he comes to possessive mode when he steal things such as sandals, towel, socks, etc. And he also possessive toward his poop and puke.

    One day, unintentionally i pass through his puke and he bite me. The second time, he bite my dad, when my dad unintentionally pass his toy (stealing toy to be precise)
    He wont let go the toy even I said “Drop”, and i already afraid of him biting again thus i never said “Drop” anymore. He still not interested in the “trade” thing.
    What i do is then put clear area for him to play, so he cannot grab things. But once, he grab a thing, i will let him because I am afraid he will bite me again.
    On an occasion, i try to put “play” mode, so he will come to me (as in ball fetch), but more likely , he seems to notice that the “play” mode only to get to his toy.

    Please help me….

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I have a foster dog who can act this way, although not as extreme. I met with a trainer last night to get a second opinion. Here are the suggestions she had for my dog. I think some may apply to your dog as well.

      Use highly valued treats for your dog like pieces of real meat – chicken, hot dogs or whatever. And play games with him where you throw the toy and then give the command “drop” and he gets the treat. Hold the treat away from the toy and pick up the toy while he takes the treat so he is distracted. If you are worried he will bite you, then reach for the toy with your foot so he is less likely to get at your face or hand. Practice this many times in short sessions each day.

      I would do all you can to prevent him from stealing objects for now while you keep working on drop with less valued things like his toys. He seems to get the most possessive of things he knows he shouldn’t have, correct? So once he starts to respond to “drop” reliably with his toys, you can start to try this with the other object as well.

      I don’t know why he is possessive of his puke. That is strange.

      You may want to keep his leash on at all times so you can step on his leash for more control.

      I definitely want you to talk with a trainer in your area to get help with this. Black labs can be powerful dogs and I don’t want you to get hurt. It’s better to get help now before it becomes more serious.

  105. Hi Lindsay!
    We need some help. My husband and I adopted our dog from a pet store when he was about 3 months old. Ziggy is an april fool’s baby, so almost a year old. He is a german shepard/blue healer mix. He is sweet, and loving, for the most part. He know’s that when we give him treats, we say the word “easy” and he gently takes it from us. He know’s “sit”, “drop it”, etc. Now here are a few issues’s that we are having with him. He is terrified of the leash. Ever since day one, when we put it on him he drops to the ground and will NOT move. We literally have to pull him. And I hate that. As far as I know, he was not ever abused. I was told by the store owner who is very reputable that he came to the shop when he was six weeks old. We have papers on him. We don’t know why he does this. And because of this, we can’t take him for walks. We have a back yard, but since he is still a puppy he needs to run his energy out. I have tried leaving his leash on him just around the house for him to get used to it, and giving him treats to show that the leash is ok, but he doesn’t move.
    The other issue, the main one, is his possesiveness. He is completely relentless. I am not sure if it is me or my husband he is being possesive over however. My husband can not give me a hug without Ziggy barking and whining and jumping up trying to break us apart. And marital relations? Forget about it! We tried to leave him in the room, but due to the dog jumping up on the bed and crying and whining and trying to break us apart by licking my husbands bum, we kicked him out of the room. Not literally kick, of course, we take him out of the room and shut the door. Now we have 3 children, our triple threat. We have an 8 year old, a 6 year old and a 1 year old; all boys. We can’t leave him out in the hall, he whines and cries and throws himself against the door waking up the children and making the erm… process unmanagable with all the noise. Again we are not sure who he is possesive over. I don’t know if it’s me or my husband. Anytime we are close, he tries to break us apart, but he comes to me or my husband after we break the embrace. Can you please help us? We would greatly appreciate it.

    Side note, we plan on getting him fixed once our taxes come in.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      It doesn’t sound like your dog is being possessive. It sounds like he has tons of pent-up energy and also some anxiety. You need to walk this dog. I am not sure I believe you can’t get him to move. Get a collar he can’t slip out of and run so he chases you.

      If you absolutely can’t get him to walk, I highly suggest you get a trainer to help you accomplish this.

      In addition to walking or running with him, you should play some serious tug of war games to help him get rid of extra pent-up energy. And work on obedience training. Does this dog know how to sit and stay for 10 minutes? That should be a goal. He needs a ton of mental exercise as well as physical.

      As for as him getting aggressive when you and your husband hug, that behavior should be corrected the second the dog gets excited. Do not tolerate this at all. Keep his leash on him and step on the leash if you have to. And hug more often so the dog gets used to it. I would purposely hug one another 20 times per day. Get him in a down position and step on the leash right by his collar if you have no other way to stop him from jumping or nipping.

      Stop allowing your dog in your bedroom, period, unless he is in a crate in your bedroom. That might be your best bet, actually. Or put a crate in a downstairs room as far away from your kids as possible.

    2. Amber, I saw your post on Lindsey’s website about not being able to put a leash on your dog and thought I would put in my two cents because we had the same issue. We found a puppy two years ago and I guess since we hadn’t had a puppy in so long, really didn’t know that we were doing much wrong. Didn’t even think about a leash until he was quite a bit older and we couldn’t carry him anymore. He had to go to the vet but we couldn’t lead him there. I looked up all sorts of information on the web and finally hit on a few that helped. Like your dog, mine laid down and wouldn’t budge. In fact, he acted as if he was being punished — he went to hide under the table. Read that it was a good idea to put the leash on him while he ate, so he was distracted. This worked pretty well. Also, you can call him to you for a treat and put the leash on while he’s eating his treat. This way he will associate the leash with a goody ! Let him walk around the house (or yard) with the leash on, and you not hanging onto it. One website suggested that you could just cut off the last 8 inches or so of the leash and let that hang from his collar. It might be that he just doesn’t like the little bit of weight pulling on him, or it freaks him out to have something hanging off of him. If you have a second dog, let him see that dog with a leash on and you holding it. Worked for my boy. Little by little he was getting used to having the leash on and then we’d go outside to walk around. I would take treats (very small pieces, since you’ll be feeding him lots of them) and we would walk around the yard and I’d keep saying, good boy, good boy. Give him treats as he would walk with me, so he would know that walking with me was a good thing. It took a long time, but eventually it all worked. Just have patience. It got to the point that whenever he saw the leash he got excited about going for a walk in the yard with me. My issue now is walking him outside the yard and taking him to the vet. He wasn’t really socialized, since we didn’t know it was something we needed to do. He’s a good dog, even though he broke my leg last year ! 🙂 Good luck. Don’t give up !! My dog did the same thing and now the leash doesn’t bother him at all.

  106. Hi Lindsay, I have been up, down, left and right looking for some ‘honest’ advice. At last I think I have found the person to give it 🙂
    Now then, I have a 15 month old Lab, Mitch. When he first arrived he was 8 weeks old. We were utterly stunned at how calm, well behaved he was on his first day in the family home. I took him for his first walk to start the bonding process. I let him off his lead and he stayed by my side for the duration of the walk. He met other dogs, children etc.
    I live in a remote village in the Highlands, on our streer there is 10 houses. Mitch would run around the culdisac with the neighbours kids, ranging from 3 years to 13. I moved out of my house and into my Mums (who lived 50 yards away from my house) he knew the house, the layout and the rules. Zeke my mums Lab was boss
    My Dad was very ill and Mitch would always pop into his bedroom to see him. Then Dad died, and its gone a bit wrong. Mitch was only 8 months old when he died. Mitch then became very sooky towards my Mum after Dad passed. Always cuddling into her, holding onto her sleeve with his teeth. Just not leaving her alone. We allow the dogs out in the garden for most of the day. One day, a lady walked past with her dog and Mitch cleared the fence and started bouncing around the other dog playing. The other dog attacked Mitch, The owner kicked Mitch in the face then tried to seperate the dogs, her hands got in the way and recieved a single puncture wound. It was unclear who caught her hand. Its ended up in court and consequently found out after my vet did a behavioral report on Mitch, Mitch has OCD for tennis balls and is a fearfull dog. Not fearfull of us, but Men. And this makes him protectice if myself and mum.
    Going back to when dad passed. Mitch and Zeke both escaped from garden. It was -12 and they were out from 10:30pm to 6:00am. The police phoned to say a man had called them about two dogs stuck in a field houling and pining. It was about 1.5miles from our house. We jumped in the car and the man got in to take us to the dogs. We went over a cattle grid and there, huddled in the field shaking and pining was Mitch. Zeke wasnt bothered. It took me a good hour to get him in the car, he was clearly distraught. Ever since that night whenever we are in the car and someone walks by, especially a man, he barks, huffs and puffs and jumps around the car. Now he is obsessed by tennis balls and constantly has a cusion in his mouth he carries around in houae. When anyone comes into livingroom he picks a cusion up and sits on the couch, wagging his tail, looking all proud with himself with a cusion in his mouth! Why does he need the cusion as a crutch? Hes not aggressive in the house, or towards women. He just doesnt like men or other dogs. He sits timid next to men in vets etc. But fine towards my brother.
    How can I stop him always having a cusion or ball?
    Ive just had him castrated in the hope he will lose the territorial aggression.
    I hope you can help

    Louise xx

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Louise,

      First of all, I am very sorry to hear you lost your dad.

      This was obviously a very emotional time for you and your family. Sometimes our emotions will affect our dogs in negative ways. Mitch seems to be overly attached to your mom, for example. This might be because he is reading her pain/sorrow and wants to protect her since she is showing “weak” energy.

      In your comment, you mentioned all kinds of problems! I’m not sure I can help you with everything.

      One way to gain more control of the dog is to limit his freedom. Keep a leash on him when people come over, for example. Simply do not allow him to pick up a cushion. Teach him a solid down/stay so he will obey for up to 10 minutes with no distractions. Then work up to a half-hour. Then do the same but with adding more and more distractions. Sometimes our dogs need to learn how to chill out.

      I have written quite a few posts on my own dog’s tennis ball obsession. The most important thing for him is to make sure he obeys the command “leave it” and also “drop.” Teaching him a solid “stay” command has also been a life saver.

      As for being fearful or aggressive around people and other dogs – I would get your dog out more. Walk him around all kinds of different people and dogs and situations to build his confidence. You want to push his comfort zone just a tiny bit and reward him. But don’t push him so much where he feels the need to bark/growl or flee.

  107. Hi, I’ve just rescued a 4yr old siberian husky who is wonderful to be around. For the most part he gets a long with my other dogs, however we have noticed that he is being dominant to my other dog who was here first. The husky will snap at my other dog when he goes near his food bowl and will also run up and down our back porch and won’t let my other dog up on the porch and when he does get up he barks and snaps at him. The husky will also not let our other dog sit on his couch which he has had since he was a pup. The husky at all times tries to be on higher ground. We’ve only had the husky 2 days and I really have grown so attached to him and would hate to give him up however if I can’t stop this between the two then I will have no choice.

    Please help… Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Cheers 🙂
    Victoria

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’m going to direct you to my post on how to lead a dominant dog. I want you to practice the “nothing is for free” method of training. Also teach both dogs that good things come to those who wait. Remember that ultimately you get to decide who gets to sit on the couch and when. You get to decide who can eat what. You get to decide which dog you want to pet at what times. If one dog gets pushy, block him with your body and make him wait. Give the calm dog attention. With the couch, I would definitely make it a habit to have both dogs lying on the floor calmly before either is allowed on the couch, but especially the new guy. I don’t mean have them lie down, panting, staring at you, ready to jump up any second. I mean wait a good 10 minutes or so until both are calm and have forgotten about jumping up on the couch. Keep the leash on the new guy if that helps and step on his leash so he has no choice but to lie where you want him to be.

      Here’s my post on how to handle a more dominant dog: http://www.thatmutt.com/2009/01/14/how-to-lead-a-dominant-dog/

  108. Hi… I have an 8-month old Pomeranian(Spitz) puppy female (white). I stay with my mom and my dad. The problem is of late it had started to growl and snarl at my mom whenever i and my mom are talking. She has become too possessive of me. My mom does all the feeding,grooming.. etc but still it loves me more. Because of the aggression it exhibited in the past 3-4 days we gave it away to an animal shelter. But we took it back again hoping to correct it. It is in heat at the moment. It always sleeps on my bed. Can you suggest how to get it rid of the possessiveness towards me. I don’t want to send it away again. It is good 95% of the time except the fact that it yells horribly at strangers.

    And one more important thing, when somebody comes home it yells and goes under the bed,it doesn’t let us chain it.How can i train it to come and wear the belt.

    Please help… We really love it and want to keep it.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’m going to give you some links to some similar posts you may find helpful.

      This first one is to show the importance of you being a leader to your dog and blocking her from trying to control you and your mom:

      http://www.thatmutt.com/2011/12/07/dog-owners-need-to-be-open-to-change/

      And this post is about how insecure dogs will try to hide behind their owners to feel more secure. But sometimes, this insecurity leads to aggression. Check out the part about small dogs climbing into their owners laps to feel more secure. This is when a lot of small dogs start to become aggressive because they feel more powerful.

      http://www.thatmutt.com/2011/11/11/why-does-my-dog-lean-on-me/

  109. Hi I have a 1 yr old pure bread Lowchen puppy named Jasper. He’s very sweet and friendly and He never bites. The only issue we have with him is he gets very possessive of toys, treats or anything he gets into his mouth. If he grabs something and you try to take it away, he will start growling and jerk away from your hand. He doesn’t bite at all but like the article said i’m afraid if it isn’t corrected, it could escalate into something worse. He is totally fine if you have his toy or a treat in your hand and he is trying to get it from you, it’s only just when he’s got it. When he has something in his mouth, he will NOT let go. He’s got a grip of steel. Jasper can get pretty aggressive when someone tried to take something from his grasp. Although He is less aggressive around me, i think because he is more attached to me than the rest of my family. But I do believe some of the problem is from my younger brother. 🙂 He sometimes taunts Jasper or teases him. So ever time my brother is around, Jasper will run and get his toy thinking he is going to steal it from him. I have attempted to teach him to “leave it” by offering him treats when he has a toy and i have seen ‘some’ positive results but I feel like he only does it for treats and not when it counts. I’m not sure if this bit of information helps but A friend gave Jasper to us when he was about 6 months old. They got him from an ad online. They told us that Jasper was ignored most of his puppy life by the people who previously owned him. Always kept in his cage and never played with or taken out.

    So any advice would be very much appreciated! Thanks

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I have a foster dog who has some of the same issues you describe. I had a trainer come over just so I could get a second opinion. I liked her advice, and I will suggest the same to you.

      Keep reinforcing the “drop” command, but do it in short sessions every day during play. For example, throw a ball, then offer the dog a highly valued treat (hotdogs, etc.) when he brings it back. Do this three or four times per session, enough to keep it fun so the dog doesn’t get bored. And do at least two sessions per day. Eventually, if you do this often enough, it should start to get ingrained in the dog’s head that “drop” is fun.

      Do the same with leave it. Do it during play. And use highly valued treats.

      When your dog does take something he shouldn’t have, you could try completely ignoring him. Simply get up and walk into another room. Sometimes he might actually be doing this for attention. You could also keep a leash on him and step on the leash so he can’t run off. Then simply wait him out. Stepping on the leash will prevent you from having to get your face and hands near him. You may be able to step on the toy and get it away from him with your other foot.

      Overall, though, I recommend reinforcing the “drop” and “leave it” commands in a fun way.

  110. Lindsay, thank you ever so much for the advice 🙂 I started the training with the ball just after I mailed you. I drop it infront of him, tell him to stay and or leave it while I walk away. I managed to walk out the livingroom and close the door. I returned and he hadnt touched the ball =) he is refusing to give the ball though. I need to trade him in order for him to drop it. I need to make him realise than even though the ball is his, but it is also mine and I can give and or take it whenever I want. We are getting there, slowly but surely.

    As for going out, I walk him up high streets when out shopping, I can leave him outside a shop etc. Its once we are back in this,quiet village he wont tolerate other dogs and men.
    Will try my very hardest to crack it.
    I very much appreciate your help and will keep you posted.
    Many thanks 🙂

    Louise
    xx

  111. Hi Lindsay,
    I have two dogs, she is 1 years old and I is 10. The eldest is not interested in toys, so the girl has always played with his toys without sharing with other dogs.
    She knows the command “Do not touch that” and “drop” and plays with other people (children, adults, seniors ..). In addition, she shares her food with the older dog and other dogs.
    However, she does not share his toys with other dogs and she is possessive when other dogs are ahead, even she ever been labeled with the teeth another dog because he have removed a toy.
    she likes to take the toy in his mouth and the other dogs chase her, but if another dog tries to take the toy, she growls.
    when this situation happens, I tell her NO and if she stops growling I award it with some food and caresses.
    I do not know if I acted correctly and I don´t want she will more aggressive.
    Excuse my English because I am Spanish and I do not speak English very well.
    Thank you very much

    Eve

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would keep reinforcing the “drop” command. Work with few distractions until she is 99 percent reliable. Then add more and more distractions such as another dog. Use highly valued treats like chicken to reward her when she drops on command. I wouldn’t correct her for growling because that is her way of communicating to the other dogs that she doesn’t want them to take the toy. If she learns not to growl she could skip the growling and bite instead. So in a positive way while you are playing fetch and that type of thing, practice “drop” in short sessions several times per day until it becomes natural for her to obey all the time.

  112. Hello,
    I have a 7 month old Siberian Husky that apparently I got from a puppy mill, thought they were a reputable breeder, but unfortunately found out the hard way that they took him away from his mom at 4 weeks before I got him at 6 weeks. I know that is young to get a puppy, but I had no choice they wanted to charge me if they kept him there past 8 weeks. When I brought him home he was seriously ill with coccidia and worms and infested with lice, so he did not exhibit canine possessive signs, but once he was healthier and growing I started to notice his food aggression at about 10 weeks old. He has bitten, once was when he was eating a rawhide. Another incident was after he was fed a treat and sniffing for crumbs my aunt decided to pet him around his face with both of her hands, she did not understand why he bit her. He just bit again tonight, he had found a wine cork on the table and was chewing on it, we tried to get it out of his mouth, tried “trading” him with food, he tried to eat the food with the cork in his mouth still. Finally when I had succeeded of getting it out my gf was releasing him and he turned his head and bit her finger. I have gotten him training sessions and nothing seems to work, if anything it made him worse. With treats in the beginning he would take them very hard, but was taught to take them gently with training and he has improved with that with me. Other people, I need to show them how to present the food to him so he doesn’t nip too hard. I’ve tried hand feeding him over the bowl of food, stepping in front of the bowl so he gets to realize that it’s mine and he will eat when i tell him to. I am working on “wait” with him, but he still hasn’t gotten that down, he’s impatient with food and when he eats he gulps it so I just spread it out in his crate or on the floor, so it takes him longer to eat. I walk him and he walks/runs on the treadmill daily for about an hour a day. From the beginning I have tried to assert my alpha with him so that he knows that I am pack leader. My PetSmart trainer gave me the name and number of a lady that she knows and she came to the house for three hours and used the gentle leader halter as an obedience tool for his food aggression, it had a negative affect and he lashed out later that evening on someone in the house. My guess is because this woman held him by the scruff on the back of his neck and made him scream till he was in the calm, submissive state of mind on the ground, this lasted almost five minutes once. I do not use her and will never use the gentle leader on him, especially since it cut into his muzzle. I’ve called every obedience trainer in the area and they all tell me that they use the gentle leader for obedience, since I refuse to use it, I cannot hire them. I’ve tried numerous approaches with him and I am not about to give up, I cannot afford to take him to the Raleigh behaviorist, she costs 475.00 for a 2 and a half hour session and prescribes medicine for the dog. And all these private sessions with a trainer are adding up, and honestly, none of them seem to help me or know what they’re doing. The last lady that I went to told me to hold him to the ground daily for 10 minutes and get him to used to that and to use a prong collar on him after she called him “bonehead” and even referenced him to Ted Bundy, needless to say, I won’t be seeing her again. I’ve considered trying to contact Cesar Millan to help, but I know he has so many cases that I doubt he’d choose to help me out of all the people that need help. I just want to get him some help before this continues to grow worse and worse and someone tells me to put him down. Any advice would help, thank you so much. Another thing I forgot to add, he only seems to show this aggressive behavior with food related items or things he think are food, not with toys. I can take toys out of his mouth with no growling or signs of possession.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Joy,

      Sorry to hear about your troubles. Thank you for your comment on this blog. That would be awesome if you got a hold of Cesar Millan. Let me know if you do.

      I always use the “nothing is for free” method of training which it sounds like you are doing. All dogs sit and wait several feet away while I prepare their food. They wait to be released before they can approach their bowls. They sit before heading outside and before coming back in and so on. Structure and exercise are so important so I’m very happy to hear you have been consistent with both of those. Usually people complain about their dogs but do not take the time to exercise them. Not the case with you. But I would absolutely work on the “wait” command with him. That is an absolute must. He should be able to lie down and “wait” of “stay” for a good 10 minutes even if there is a bowl of food out. I want that to be your goal. Obviously you have to start small – five seconds, 10 seconds and so on. I would keep his leash on during feeding times and any time you are working on training so you can always step on the leash and gain control and keep yourself a bit safer. It’s safer to step on the leash vs. reaching down and grabbing the collar.

      I do recommend you find a good training collar to help you get more control of your dog for when he does become aggressive or possessive. Whether it’s a Gentle Leader or a prong collar or a regular slip collar – doesn’t really matter. What are you using now?

      I fostered an American Eskimo who had some food possessiveness as well. He would practically bite your hand off trying to get at a piece of kibble. It was very frustrating and he bit me and others. I tried many positive reinforcement techniques but he was so nutty about food it never helped. One method was to spread peanut butter on my hands and the second his teeth touched my hand I was to pull it away and say “ouch!” As long as he used his tongue and gums he could have the peanut butter. It worked fine for the peanut butter but he never could apply that and stop biting if I had any type of solid food. For him, and maybe your dog, I really believe the only way to get him to stop that behavior would be a shock collar with a remote. I am not sure how you feel about shock collars (e-collars) but I would consider one. That way you could deliver a precise correction.

      If you want to stick to the positive reinforcement approach, then I would reinforce the “leave it” command starting with items he doesn’t value too much so it’s not such a big deal to him. When he obeys, give him something wonderful instantly like a piece of chicken. Practice in short sessions several times a day every day and slowly add in things he values more like rawhides. You’ll have to keep finding treats that are an even better reward than the actual food item he is being possessive over.

      Best of luck to you.

  113. Joy my situations is very similar to yours.
    3wks ago we rescued a 2 1/2yr old boxer who has been in rescue kennels for over 18months!!
    We started by getting rid of the pent up energy(following all of ceser millans Ideas)Running,walking&cyclimg for a minimum of 2hrs a day ad have him on a long lead most of the morning with mr in my stable yard.
    He was very aggressive around food,although we claim it,stand in front of it hold it etc and 99% time he is now very good.we are always tireing him out b4 meal times.
    Although we still have I think fear aggressive &dominant aggressive issues.
    We also have a 4 1/2 yr old boxer (both are neutered males).
    If you sit on the floor he tenses up his tail goes upright and he starts by pushing you or leaning on you and then flares up aggressively. He does the same if you walk around if he has a toy near him.today he was calm&submissive soni gave him a pigs ear as I walked past him he bit me,I got him to calm down in the submissive position and then practises taking the pigs ear away giving it back ad stroking him etc,where he was good.
    We always leave the house in front etc and keep him walking By our side on the lead and try do everything we can to convey we are the pack leaders. However he walks with hiss tail upright and quite tense,he dominantly headbutts other dogs we walk with and occasionally humans to which we give the ‘ceser touch ‘ to him.
    If you try tonplay with him he flares up without a warming growl. When my other dog trys to initiate play in the house he tries to run away and roll over submissively eve though the other dog isn’t being dominant. We have searched our area for a behaviourist we agree with but can not find anyone who uses cesers techniques. Can u offer an advice?
    Many thanks

    1. Are you asking me or Lindsay? Where are you located. Do you always eat before he does and make him work for everything he gets from you; toys, food, affection, walks, etc? My dog isn’t so bad that if I walk by him when he’s eating he’ll bite. He’ll growl to warn if I approach too close sometimes or he feels threatened I guess, but I’m not acting in a threatening manner towards him, at least I don’t think I am. How does he do with his basic commands, sit, down, stay, leave it and drop it? You can email me at privatechase@gmail.com if you’d like.

      -Joy

    2. Lindsay Stordahl

      Carley,

      As Joy said I recommend you work on getting your dog to lie down and stay no matter what. I think that should be a goal for all dogs, to stay for at least 10 minutes and ideally up to a half-hour or more. It teaches them some self-control. Once they can do that with no distractions, you can start adding distractions. In your case a distraction would be dropping a pig’s ear several feet away. When you work on these exercises, it’s important to keep the dog’s leash on so you have an easier time controlling him.

  114. Hi I was addressing Lindsay but also anyone who can help. He is very glyphs at commands,he sits ,down,stays&waits. We are working on leave it as that is when he seems to claim whatever it is by tensing ,leaning over it so we have to stepson from of whatever it is to show it is ours.
    Thankyou for your advice I’m sure we will get there it’s just going to take time,but just wanted to know we are going down the right route-I so wish ceser would come back to the uk!!

  115. I have a 2 year old (NEUTERED) doberman who is highly intelligent. Although he has tons of energy, he listens on command very well. I can give/take anything from him with no problem, he comes immediately to call and has manners when you want him to. His only problem is that he gets very upset and possessive over his rope toy when my other dog tries to play with him. I can play tug of war with him all day and he doesnt behave this way- he will drop for me, play with me, give me the rope, etc with no problem, but not my other dog. Other toys and rawhides and things are fine, he doesnt think twice about sharing. Any suggestions?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      That’s very good news that your dog is not possessive when you try to take the toy. I would keep rewarding him for good behavior around you. Reward for the drop and leave it commands. Then practice this more and more with your other dog around. For whatever reason your dog really values that rope toy and doesn’t want your other dog near it! I would keep rewarding him when he shows good behavior with other items around your other dog because you don’t want the possessiveness to get any worse. So reward him when he shares his other toys and bones.

      With that rope toy, always supervise. Make sure both dogs know the rope is ultimately yours. Make sure to claim it and enforce the drop command for both dogs. Make the possessive dog wait while the other dog plays with the toy. Then invite him back. Try to make it a fun game rather than too tense and serious. Use highly valued treats.

  116. Lindsay, I came to your website while looking for an answer. I hope you don’t mind that I also added a reply to Amber above about the leash issue with her dog. Will the information get to her via email ?

    I am writing about my spaniel mix, Buddy. I also have a larger dog, Dalton, that we found as a puppy on the road. We also have a beagle, Sofie, who came to us as an older rescue. I tried to train Buddy and Dalton since they came to us as puppies, but have made a few errors by omission. They were taught that I own the food and they will now sit with a hand signal and wait for meals. I let them know they can eat by putting my hands together as if clapping. I’m also trying to do this for letting them in and out the door. Anyway, I’m getting away from the subject. I can get around Buddy when he’s eating, and for the most part he understands “drop it.” However, the problem I’ve been having is that he becomes possessive aggressive over other things. He usually will be next to me while I prepare the three bowls of food. If I am next to the food bins and a cat or the beagle comes nearby, he lunges and growls at them. He will do the same with a bag of garbage, if I’m getting ready to take it outside, or even a bag of cat litter going outside to the garbage. I’ve even seen him get possessive if a cat throws up a hairball. The food bins and the bag of garbage are not things he can get into his mouth, so how do I use the strategy of giving him something better ? I try to make him understand that Mommy owns these things, not him, and I will sometimes push him over on his back when this happens to show him that I am the alpha. Or stand over him. But he does it again a few days later. So far, I like all the answers you’ve given to others and am anxious to hear what you say about this. Thank you for taking the time to help all of us !

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      The info will get to her only if she returns to the site. Thank you for your response to her.

      Does he respond to a firm voice correction from you? (It sounds like he might). If so, I would catch him in the act whenever this happens and walk towards him so he has to back away. Then put him in a down position for a few moments until he is calm. Don’t think of it as a timeout, but a way to reward him for something else (lying down calmly).

      Unfortunately you probably have to set up some of these scenarios to catch him in the act and correct him. I like what you are already doing as far as making all the dogs wait before eating and entering the house and so on. Keep that up.

      For taking out the trash, scooping the litter box and that type of thing, I would put his leash on and put him in a down/stay position. Then hold his leash or step on his leash while another family member purposely walks by with the garbage or cat litter or whatever it might be. Correct Buddy the second you see him looking at the other dogs. If he starts to stare at them or stiffen, give him a firm voice correction before he has a chance to lunge at them. Reward him if he stays.

      You could probably practice this yourself even if you don’t live with someone else. It sounds like he has a decent down/stay mastered so use that to your advantage. Purposely practice this scenario at least once a day. Reward him when he’s calm and staying. Ideally he’ll remain in the stay position and purposely ignore you and the other dogs by looking away. Then the more you practice the more this behavior will become his natural response and you won’t have to tell him to stay anymore.

  117. Hello~

    I recently brought home a rescued Pomeranian (about 4 years old) to my 6 year old Mini dauc. I have not had any issues with toys or food. I am not sure the Pomeranian was ever taught to play so there is no interest in toys. At dinner time, I monitor them and the atmosphere is relaxed and I do take both their bowls away in the middle of feeding and make them wait. The only thing my dauc would not tolerate is the Pom trying to sleep on her doggie couch or go in her dog house. The dauc actually stacks toys in on her doggie couch and one in front of her dog house, which is her favorite place to lay. I found a dog bed for the pom and introduced it to him and had him lay in it first. My dauc has now taken to pushing him out of the bed and laying there herself. I have corrected her with the “out” command when I catch her. She is now making it her favorite place to relax. I find myself monitoring the bed constantly. I am not sure what to do about her possesive behavior. I know this is not as major as the other issues but I have a feeling it is going to lead to more behavioral issues down the road.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Is the Pomeranian being bothersome to your dauc when she approaches the dog bed? My lab mix is very mellow and he appreciates having his bed to himself for some down time. He will growl at younger dogs if they are constantly trying to play and climb on him when he’s trying to rest. So that would be my first question. Are you sure it’s not the Pomeranian that’s the problem by constantly trying to play?

      You may want to purchase another dog bed so each dog has her space.

      Now, if the dauc is acting overly possessive, I would correct that behavior. For example, does she snap at the Pom just for walking by the bed? Some dogs become very possessive of their space and will guard it even if the other dog doesn’t actually want that space! If this is how your dauc is acting, then tell her no and remove her from that spot. Make her wait for a few minutes until you give her permission to return. I would even sit on the bed yourself while she waits and “claim” it because everything is ultimately yours. Also, invite the Pom next to you while the Dauc waits.

      And remember to reward with treats when you see either dog behaving the way you would like. Rewarding good behavior can go a long way.

  118. Hi,
    My husband and adopted our 3 year old Bassett hound last year. A week ago we adopted another Bassett hound so she would have a companion. She has been showing possessiveness over the couch and growls at her new brother aggressively when he jumps up there with her. She also showed similar behavior towards my mother in law’s digs whe we lived with her. I want to break this habit so she has a healthy relationship with her new brother.

    Thanks
    Lauren

  119. Hi, I have two labradoodles, one will be 2 years old and the other will be 4 years this Summer. The older dog, Phoebe, is very possessive of the younger dog, Lola. They share bones, toys, food, sleeping space, my affection, etc. very well. They walk well together on gentle leaders and are pretty much best friends. However, Phoebe becomes VERY possessive of Lola when we visit the dog park. When Lola, who is very friendly, tries to play with other dogs, Phoebe immediately begins barking and biting at Lola’s neck and legs, trying to get her attention and to play with her instead of the other dogs. Phoebe will also sometimes growl and snap at the other dogs. She is also very possessive of other people at the dog park. She loves getting attention from anyone who will give it, but if another dog approaches, she shows her teeth, growls and snaps. I’m not sure what to make of this behavior. Any insight would be much appreciated!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would make Phoebe lie down and stay at your side at the park whenever she acts this way. Don’t think of it as a timeout or punishment, but as a way to get her to re-focus and take a break. If she can’t stay at your side reliably without a leash, then work on this type of obedience in general, slowly adding more distractions. At the park, if she has been sitting at your side politely for several minutes, reward her by letting her go play again. But if the possessiveness starts up, bring her right back. Practice a reliable command for “watch” where she gets a treat for eye contact.

      Or, leave Phoebe home. That kind of behavior should not be tolerated.

  120. Hi i have a 2 year old maltese. we adopted him about 1/2 a year ago and ever since he has been rather possesive towards his toys. We have tried obedience classes but he doesnt seem to remember his “lessons” too well. Whenever we give him a toy, he plays fine with it but once we try to take it from him, he freezes then growls, snaps at us, and lunges towards us. We have tried breaking him out of this habit but it doesnt seem to be working. Any advice you have would be helpful!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Practice “drop” and “leave it” many times throughout the day in short sessions, keeping the sessions fun. Don’t wait until he is showing possessiveness to work on these. Just do them randomly while playing. Use highly valued treats like real chicken, hot dogs, etc.

  121. I have a 2 year old male Husky that we adopted a year ago along with a girl blue heeled same age. They have always gotten along fine and the husky was the dog I relied upon to never growl or bite, he was just a big ball of love. We have done Cesar’s stuff from the start, being calm assertive, claiming things, they have to sit to go out and come in…etc. well we introduced two new puppies (3 month boy border collies) and now the husky is possessive over everything. Growls at puppies when they come close, growls at children and us when he doesn’t want us close and we have to stop and dominate (literally mount the dog and turn him on his side) the whole works but the behavior is not getting better. I realize that intro’ing the puppies is the starting point but it’s been over a two months now. What am I forgetting, missing, doing wrong? Yes he has his own crate that he can go to.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      How often does this growling occur? Does he growl at the pups all the time or just when they are getting annoying? It’s OK for him to growl at them if they are acting inappropriately – jumping all over him, biting at his face, etc. Check out this post:

      http://www.thatmutt.com/2011/02/08/my-dog-growls-at-other-dogs/

      And remember that growling does not always equal dominance. My dog is very submissive. He still growls at young pups when they are annoying him.

  122. Hi Lindsey, great advice column!

    I have 2 poms. Both have problems with other dogs even while I take them out regularly. One has an issue with dominance more then his brother. While I am away the padvicei live with with constantly teach bad behavior such as being fed from the table, being allowed to sit with them on couches, to jumping all over my youngest niece. Recently the dog as both bitten and snapped at one of my roommates (the one that appears less dominant over the dog) while she was trying to get him off the couch. I felt heartbroken and as I try and fix the problem it would be too late. I don’t know what to do about this dominant dogs behavior could you give me some advice?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Sounds like the dogs rule the house, and I get the feeling that you already know what to do 🙂

      Stop allowing them on the couch, period. If you feel you have to have them on the furniture, then make them wait for a command first. And when they are on the couch, teach them a command for “off.” And if they don’t obey, push them off immediately or block them. If you think they will nip, then don’t reach for them with your hands, simply move your body into them and push them off. Or keep their leashes on so you can just pull them off.

      In general, use the nothing is for free method of training. Make them sit and stay for two minutes before they eat. Make them lie down before going outside to play or before getting a toy. Make them walk at your side on walks, not out in front. Practice obedience training a few minutes per day. Make them earn every single piece of kibble. Don’t leave food out for them at all times, etc.

      Check out this post on how to lead a dominant dog:

      http://www.thatmutt.com/2009/01/14/how-to-lead-a-dominant-dog/

  123. I have a 14-month old MinPin and this possessive behavior surfaced only about 3- months ago. At first I was not paying attention to it that much because everytime I give him food he would growl when I get close but stop when I touch his neck. Last night I gave him a new pillow and when my girlfriend came close, he growled at her. I took the pillow away and gave it back the this morning before I left the house. Also this morning he growled at me again while I was feeding him.

    Come to think of it, whenever I am carrying him or is at my feet then somebody comes near me, he growls at them. What can I do, he really is becoming possessive over everything now.

  124. Hi Lindsey!

    I have an almost 2 year old working cocker spaniel (lots of energy!) I take her to the park as often as I can 3-4 times per week, but use the ball and thrower as a way to drain her enegy levels, otherwise an hours walk would not touch her! I noticed she was starting to become obsessed with her balls (rubber or tennis) so limited their appearance to going out on walks.

    Recently she’s started exhibiting aggressive behaviour around her ball (not towards me or other humans, but other dogs), even if they show no interest in her ball, if theyre within 15 feet she’ll set off barking at them in a shreaked and clearly scared way.

    Yesterday we went in a fenced area in the dog park with 2 lovely weirmarars (sp) and she was fine. About 5 more dogs came on, all calm, fine. 2 more came, fine. A rottweiler came on and started stiffing her and paying extra attention to her while she had the ball in her mouth, she panicked and he went for her and I had to separate them. Ever since she has flipped out on every dog she sees, I was so disappointed, it was going so well. Today in the park was the same. I took the ball off her and walked home frustrated. We bumped into another lovely cocker and she was fine with her, as I had took her ball off her 10 mins earlier! She still wasnt interested in the other dog really, but she didnt make a sound.

    How can I stop this? I feel bad as shes on her own while I’m at work so I want to make her happy when I come home and take her out, but I can’t cope with her reacting like this. Shes such a sweet and loving dog with humans and it upsets me to see her so upset. Any help would be great!
    Thank you
    (another) Lyndsey

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      If you leave her ball home are there all kinds of other balls and toys at the park she would become possessive of? That’s a problem I have with my dog so we don’t go to the park. All he wants to do is play ball. We can do that anywhere. So that would be my first suggestion. Leave the ball home and save that for there are not other dogs around.

      As I’ve said in many of the comments above, if the dog is still having issues, then you shouldn’t be bringing the dog to the dog park. Work with the dog in smaller groups of dogs in controlled “playdate” type settings. One dog. Then two dogs, etc. Once she is well behaved with a smaller group of dogs in a friend’s yard with a ball around, then take her to the dog park.

  125. I’ve often wondered why some dogs become aggressive in the presence of their owner.

    As a jogger with a dog, I’ve frequently encountered loose dogs who, although not aggressive, appear suspicious or cautiously curious, but when the owner comes to collect the dog or even call for the dog from the house, the dog suddenly becomes aggressive.

    I’m not inclined to believe this is the dog being “protective” because I’ve also been approached by dogs running away from their owner towards us, lauching an attack and the owner states, “oh, he’s being protective.” I don’t buy it. If the dog wanted to protect you, he’d stay by your side AND would probably sense bad intentions coming from an approaching stranger.

    I often watch Cesar Millan and have noticed when he feels the need to take a problem dog to his compound, the dog is doing well until the owners come to visit and then “wham” the dog lashes out at another dog in the presence of the owners. For some reason, many owners seem to be a “bad influence” on their dogs!

    Any thoughts or theories?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I work with many dogs each day. Most act differently around their owners. Some are quite aggressive when walked by their owners and completely fine with me. I know it is because of the energy I project – staying calm, being a leader, keeping the leash loose and so on. Also, many owners predict or expect bad situations before they happen.

      A good example:

      One owner stated that her dog only attacks pitbulls, German shepherds and big, black dogs. He doesn’t like them, she said. I asked her if she is afraid of these types of dogs, and she admitted she was. The dog does not lash out at these types of dogs on walks with me or at dog daycare. He plays just fine with all dogs when the owner is not around. Well, I think we can all put two and two together!

      Heck, I even know that I influence my own dog in negative ways. If I am really anxious or excited about meeting someone, guess how my dog will react? He will also be excited!

  126. I think that also ties into what an owner expects or accepts from their dog. If you’re content to allow your dog to overact, over-react and you don’t take control of the situation, the dog will continue to take the lead. Dogs are smart; people don’t realize they can teach acceptable and unacceptable behavior but the dog isn’t going to learn unless you make it clear what is unacceptable. I expect alot from my dog because I know I can get it. It’s just a matter of making it clear to her what I want and once she knows, she does it. And best of all, I see when she learns from her mistakes. Not an ideal method of training or learning, but at least she has learned something and I can trust her more and more and she earns more privileges (like more time off the leash – for her, that is the ultimate reward)

  127. michelle richardson

    i recently aquired a beautiful white/beige 3 month old husky,i,ve had a husky before and had no problems and also have a 4yr old cairn terrier whos well behaved.
    within an hour of coming to our home she snapped at me when i went near her food bowl,i put it down to nerves and told my children to leave her alone when she is eating,shes extremely timid,very nervous of new people but is very dominant of our cairn terrier jumping all over him and attempting role reversal in a certain manner!!!
    shes more attatched to my partner and often shys away from me and will not stay in the same room with me.
    last night she found some food on the floor and it got stuck in her mouth,i attempted to move it and she growled at me snapped and then attacked my cairn terrier.
    her aggressiveness seems to be food related,other than that she will jump and play with my boys,follows my partner everywhere and loves my cairn,i,m definately the black sheep at the moment,any advice would be gratefully received.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Same as I’ve suggested for many others:

      1. Make her lie down and wait for her food.

      2. Hand feed her when you have time or at least a few times per week.

      3. When she is eating, approach her bowl and drop something wonderful in it like real chicken. Teach her nothing bad will happen.

      4. Keep her leashed when she eats so you have more control if needed.

  128. Hi . I just recently got 2 beautiful husky dogs for free from a young mother . Luka is all white , blue eyes , and is 3yr old . Sasha is black and white , blue eyes , and is 4 yrs old . The person that had them before has had them since they were 8 weeks old . She is a single mom now and her daughter is about a yr and a half old living in a 1 bedroom apartment . The reason she gave them away for free was she didn’t have the time for them or the money but the number one reason was because Sasha ( 4 yr old female ) snapped at her little girl . Now I have had them for at almost 2 months but I don’t see Sasha snapping at anyone . It is Luka our 3 yr old male that has snapped 3 different times at my family . It was me , then my husband , and just day ago at my 9 yr old son . My husband was almost ready to get rid of them but I am not willing to do that knowing that this can be corrected . I can not afford a trainer for them to show them I’m the boss . So I saw your site and felt that you could help me with tips on them listening to commands , not going on my furniture ( such as my sofa’s or bed ) , and snapping at my family or anyone else that may lead to a nasty bite . I have a friend that has 4 huskies and I told her about the snapping and she said that I would have to bite them ( not to drawl blood or anything but just enough to make them yelp ) on the neck area or their ear to show I’m the dominate one . Which I believe it would just make it worse and plus I believe Cuba Goodin Jr. did that in Snow dogs but that was just a movie … If you can help me at all I would be ever so grateful . Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you .
    Sincerely ,
    Tanya

  129. my fiance and i trying to find a companion for our 6-7 yr old. we are currently doing a trial with a second dog. we are having an issue with her being possessive with the toys, which causes them to fight (female 6-7, new male 4). she started it but was the one that ended up getting hurt, not bad but now she seems scared of the new dog and doesnt seem to want any thing tho do with him. i know it takes time for them to adjust, i just dont want her to get hurt worse. we have taken toys away for now and we will be trying the other things that were suggested, i was just wondering if there would be anything else that we could try as well.
    we really want to keep the new dog but we also know that might not be possible due to the way our other dog is reacting to him since there little incident.
    thank you

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thank you for giving the new dog a chance. Sometimes it just takes a while for the dogs to work out their pecking order. The situation may correct itself. I would continue to do everything mentioned already. Ultimately, you own the toys. You decide who can play with what toys. You decide when the dogs can eat and so on.

  130. Hi we have recently got a new dog (buy recent i mean 2 days ago) he was a rescue and seems to be gettin on well with my kids cat and other dog, except he is food agressive not to us humans but to my bitch i no its early days an i havent got the total confidence with him yet also he was in kennels and isnt sure of us yet either hes brilliant with my kids its just if my bitch tries to take his food or they scrap over food that has fell on the floor, so at the moment i shut him in the garden when the kids are eatin and my bitch stays in so he can learn hes bottom of the pack im sure that in time when we trust each other completely ill b able to feel more confident doing the things uv said but at the moment i think its to soon but i dont want to leave it and jus let him get away with it please help also not that i think it makes any difference but hes a 2 yr old sbt
    thanks hannah

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would work on making both dogs lie down and stay before meal times. When they are calm, they can eat. And don’t allow them to approach one another’s bowls. It also works well to have some extra yummy treats that the dog values more than his food. While he is eating, go up to his bowl and drop those into the bowl so he learns that good things happen when you approach his bowl. Then you can bring the other dog along on a leash to approach the bowl and drop a treat in the bowl and give a treat to the other dog.

      Always reward calm behavior. Keep them on the leashes when needed for more control. I usually have a new dog drag his leash around the house for at least a few days, sometimes a week or two.

  131. I recently, 2 weeks ago recently, rescued a 2nd dog. She’s 9mos old a spaniel/beagle/lab mix we assume and she’s by far one of the most loving and trusting dogs I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. I have a 12 year old, deaf, arthritic cocker spaniel that likes other dogs and is very welcoming to dogs in the home. I rescued her about 10 years ago and she came from an abusive background. I believe the new dog was the result of a dog getting lost and not abused at all.

    For the most part they are doing great getting along. The puppy is very respectful of the cocker’s bed (will not even put a paw on her bed)… but will show possessiveness over her crate if the cocker gets too close to it. I haven’t noticed any food aggression, but what I have noticed is possessiveness over items…in addition to the crate… my bed. This morning, I was getting ready for work and the puppy was laying on my bed with my cocker . Everything seemed fine then I heard a low growl from the puppy. My cocker being deaf is usually unaware of anything around her – so she was just laying there watching me get ready. The puppy jumped her. Since I heard the growl I was fortunately paying attention… I pulled the puppy off my cocker… and got her off the bed. She sat down and minded me. My cocker came over to me for some attention and the puppy watched. I realize this has only been 2 weeks but I really don’t want my cocker to get hurt. How can I prevent random acts of aggression that you just wouldn’t think could happen?
    Also, we were shopping for toys the other day at a petstore… the puppy set her eyes on one of those bones with peanut butter filling. A pit puppy (8mos) came over to look at the same thing … my puppy growled and moved toward that puppy – as if all the bones there belonged to her. These random acts of aggression blow my mind b/c she’s such a sweetheart 99% of the time. But I want to prevent any issues and really want her to get along with other dogs… especially, my cocker. Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Strong, strong leadership and consistency. I would set firm rules like not allowing him on the bed at all. He is so young and already claiming your space as his. Teach him that the bed and everything belong to you. You decide who gets to be in your space. I would say no puppy on the bed for at least six months. At the very least, always invite him up with a command after he has been lying calmly on the floor ignoring you. If you want your cocker on the bed, that shouldn’t be an issue. Sounds like your cocker is not the problem.

      The bones and toys are harder. Your new dog maybe had to fight in order to keep anything in the past. Or maybe he just never learned how to socialize properly with other dogs. Definitely work on the “drop” and “trade” and “leave it” commands as I’ve outlined in almost all the other comments from me. Work with a local trainer if you don’t see any improvements. Better to be safe than sorry. Better to get control of this situation right away.

  132. Hi,
    I have a three year old bassett hound. Over the past year he has slowly became really possesive over anything he decides he wants. Such as food, tv remote, toys or anything he decides to grab. If I try to get it from him he comes at me very aggressively. He has not bit me yet but I’m afraid he’s going to if I don’t fix this now. I have three children (the youngest is 6) who know not to grab anything from him. The dog knows how to sit, lay down, leave it but these commands don’t work if he has something. Right now, I give him treats to get objects away from him. Am I making it worse by doing this? I feel like I’m rewarding him for bad behavior but am at a loss as to how to do it differently without getting bit. Sometimes he’ll drop the object but if I reach for it he comes after me very aggressively. Other than when he has something he’s a very nice dog. So, I’m a little frustrated and confused on how to fix this issue. Any suggestions?
    Thanks!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’ve outlined in most of the comments above the importance of teaching “drop” and “leave it.” The key is to practice this every day while incorporating play. Practice it when you can set up the scenario. Use highly valued treats like real chicken. As long as you are rewarding the dog for the behavior he just did, in this case “drop”, he won’t associate the reward for stealing the toy.

      Ideally the dog will learn to drop 99 percent of the time during practice and will eventually learn to drop even in “real life” when he takes something he shouldn’t. Teach him that he gets something even better when he “drops.” Sometimes you can even use that same item as the reward. If it’s not really that big of a deal if he has that piece of trash and he actually drops it on command, then give it right back as his reward.

  133. I have 2 lab/american staffordshire terrior mixes. They are litter mates, both female. They are almost 2 1/2 and we have had them since about 12weeks. We have always had this issue of dominance between the two of them…and it has really displayed itself through possessiveness. Early on we started working with them and even took them to training. We really dont have a problem with them being aggressive towards or around us its always towards each other and 90% of the time when they are outside unattended. Just this morning our bigger female was guarding a gofer in our yard and when our smaller one when over she got attacked…my husband was nearby and was out there trying to break them up and generally we throw something like their water bowl or something just to startle them out of it but this time was different…our bigger one would not stop. She had her by the back of the neck and was really trying hard to pin her. (I think that if she really wanted to she could hurt the smaller one…they differ in size by about 2in and 15 to 20 lbs). They have never drawn blood and this time was no different in that area, but she just wouldnt let go. I finally came out and banged on the window and was able to startle them out of it but this time kinda scared us. So I think usually when they get into it they are just out in the yard playing and then they just get rougher. We feed them apart and we don’t give them “chews” because it causes so much tension its not worth it for anyone lol. Everything I have read has been towards humans but ours is only towards each other…any thoughts?

  134. my sisters dog wont let any other dogs or male touch her….he has not bitten any one but i have recently started living with them with my dog and it makes it incredibly difficult to get them to not fight or stop fighting…neither are bad or violent dogs by nature we jsut dont know what to do

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Try walking them together side by side every day for at least a half-hour walk. This will help put them in a pack mentality. Also get your dog to respect the boundaries of your sister’s dog. If your sister’s dog doesn’t like to be bothered, then don’t allow your dog to climb/jump on her, make direct eye contact, etc. And always reward both dogs whenever they are calm and relaxed.

  135. Elizabeth Engles

    I understand what I am supposed to do but my dog lets me take anything from her. She does understand that I am the boss and that can I take “her” things from her. What I am having a hard time with is that every time we try to play with the other dogs she takes the toy from them as soon as they have it. She even does this when we are not playing with them and all they are doing is chewing on a stick in the yard. She only becomes possessive when it comes to our other dogs. How do I stop it? Any advice will be greatly appreciated! Thank you.

    Elizabeth Engles

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Does she respond to a “leave it” or a “drop” command? I would practice this with no other dogs around until she listens 99 percent of the time. Then slowly add more distractions and eventually have other dogs around.

  136. I just got a new puppy he is a mutt and is 12 weeks old he learns super fast and came from a house with 5 large dogs and two sisters but when my friends dog comes over and they play he growls when sharing toys and now food. I take his toys and his food bowl away from him and make him sit for everything, he earns everything he gets I am now having him go down too but with this other dog he gets a little possessive I am very good at training my dogs and I don’t give them any slack is there anything else I can do or will it just take time. This is the first day I have seen him be like this and I do not tolerate it.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Sounds like you are doing the right thing. How are things going now? If you stay on top of it now, it will be good to get control of this before he gets any bigger/older. I would teach a drop command and a leave it command, too.

  137. I recently just bought a 2 year old boxer from someone and she is really possesive over toys and food how do i stop that when i have a toddler in the house

  138. We have a 18month old german shepherd who is generally a very placid happy dog, however, we recently got another german shepherd puppy and when we are out at the park our older dog becomes very possessive of the puppy. If another dog so much as comes near the puppy our dog will run at it barking very aggressively. We want the puppy to be able to socialise with lots of other dogs but our other dog won’t allow it. We have tried distracting her with a toy or a ball when another dog is near and initially this worked but now it doesn’t. At the moment i am putting her on the lead every time i see another dog come near but i was hoping there could be other things i can try. Any advice would be gratefully received x

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would definitely bring your younger dog to the park without the older dog sometimes so the pup gets a chance to socialize without the distraction of your other dog.

      Putting your older dog on the lead or distracting her with treats or toys is about all you can do. Unfortunately that’s hard to do in a dog park situation so you may need to set up smaller playdates with your friends’ dogs.

      1. Thanks for your advice, we are taking the puppy to the park on her own and she is happily socialising! Our older dog has completely changed since pup came along, she used to be very well behaved and training with her was going really well, but now she just isn’t interested. I do the training without the puppy around so she isn’t distracted but she just jumps around.
        Is it common for dogs to change when another pup arrives, i guess she is just showing pup who is boss but i’m worried cos pup will be learning from her behaviour!
        I used to feel very much in control of her but lately she has become like a young pup herself.
        I spend time training the pup as well and that is going very well, she is a very fast learner, but when the older one is around she kind of follows her behaviour.
        I will perservere with her of course and i guess as time goes on she may settle back down into her old ways. It would be great to be able to do some training with them both together back that proves a waste of time at the moment!
        Thanks again for your advice xx

        1. Lindsay Stordahl

          It is common for the older dog to act that way. Have you tried obedience classes? Just remember to be a consistent, strong leader to them while also being fun and positive. And make sure your older dog still gets plenty of one-on-one time with you.

  139. sharon phillips

    Hi I have a shihtzu, she is 3 years old and genarally a good obediant dog, but occasionally we will buy her a new toy,( she has a big box of toys)which she becomes very aggresive even to the point at snapping at us if we touch her, this generally only lasts a couple of days but id rather it didnt happen at all, have you any advice on how to solve this.
    many thanks
    sharon

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Keep all toys put away when not in use. This will teach her that you control the toys. Keep a leash on her when she plays so you can get ahold of her easier if she starts to get aggressive. Teach a drop command as I’ve explained in many of the other responses.

  140. Help. We have a new puppy. Our other Dog is soo sweet but now growls in a terrible way when Deputy tries to get onto my bed where Lady’s like to sit and hid her bones.

    Lady even scares me when she growls it sounds awful. I tell her no and she turns on me.

    (Does not bite anyone) She gets put in her kennel at times when she growls like that. What should we do?

    Thank you for your quick reply.

    Take care,
    Linda

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would stop allowing her and your new dog on your bed, at least temporarily. Lady sees this as her place of power. I would at least make her wait for permission to jump onto your bed after she sits or lies down on the ground first and waits calmly. If she growls at you while on the bed, give her a firm no and then push or pull her off the bed. Keep her leash on for extra control if needed. Unfortunately she will probably not make the connection if you put her in her kennel as a punishment, but you could temporarily push her right out of the room and close the door. Then let her back in a few minutes only if she has been quiet in the hall.

  141. I have a 2 year old pug/dachshund mix that is very possessive of our house. Whenever my kids have friends come over he barks like crazy and jumps on them and nips at them. He drew blood today when he bit one of their friends after they came into our yard.

    What can I do to stop this?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Keep the dog on a leash and get after him with a firm “No!” when he does this. With time, you should be able to have him off the leash.

  142. We just brought home a 3lb. Mini dachshund puppy and our 115lb. Aussie mix growls and snaps at her when she gets to close. She just wants to play or check him out and he will not allow it. Its been 2 weeks and he is not getting any better. They r always carefully monitored but he has punctured our other 11lb. Chiweenie once before and we r afraid he will really hurt the new puppy. How do we correct his behavior?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      With this type of aggression, I suggest you hire a trainer in your area to help you.

      If they were my dogs, I would hold the Aussie mix still so the little guy can sniff him over real good. I would watch the Aussie close for any tense posture, curled lips or posture indicating he is ready to snap and I would correct him with a firm “hey!” Maybe even muzzle the Aussie so they can interact closely and get used to one another – while you still supervise of course. I would also keep the Aussie leashed. Actually, have both dogs drag their leashes around for a few weeks so you can get control of either dog as needed. The little dog probably needs to learn to chill out a bit and respect the Aussie, too. So correct her when she gets too excited and bothers your other dog. Also take them for long walks together as a group.

  143. Brandy Backer

    My dog is almost 2, after my grandfather passed away she has become very obsessive and possessive over his pillow that he used all the time. She also humps this pillow incessantly, but when I or someone else gets anywhere near the pillow, she’ll growl then snap at them. It’s so embarrassing and frustrating to see her acting like this and I have no idea what to do about it. I’ve taken the pillow from her, but now she’s just acting like she’s lost. I don’t know what to do.

  144. This article was the first that came up when I googled “dog toy possessive”. I have a five year old beagle who I worry about because, while he doesn’t bite other dogs, he provokes dogs into biting him and one day I worry that he will get seriously hurt. Let me explain the situation. My dog manages to snag a ball that another dog wants. My dog will then guard this ball from the other dog and when the dog tries to snatch it away, my beagle will howl/growl at the other dog, but never bite. However, this has resulted occasionally in the other dog biting him. How do I get my beagle to not provoke other dogs into biting him?

    Also, I read the article but I can’t take toys away from him because he runs away from me and thinks I am chasing him for fun. Any tips would be so helpful!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Keep a leash on him at all times when you are home, at least for a few weeks so you can get him under control.

  145. I recently brought in my first dog and he’s a Doberman pup. Currently he’s 7 months old. At the first month of his arrival, I bought him some dried raw hide to chew . I even took it away as a test and he was totally fine with it. I taught him the command “leave” and he does what I say. Few weeks later, he chewed up all his dried hides and I didn’t had time to get him more. Eventually I gave him a raw bone with the ligaments still on that I bought from the market and I placed it a bowl and gave it to him. At first, he was really cautious as he approached it but eventually gave in and chew on it. I left him alone for awhile and later checked on him and that’s where the problem started.

    He lashed out and bit me. I assume he’s being possessive over his new bone so I told him to leave it and I manage to take the bone away from him. After that he seems to be normal again. It seems like he knew he was wrong. After a few weeks, my Dad decided to give him another raw bone (we still hadn’t got him a chew toy, so he was left with nothing to play with). The same thing happened again and this time and we locked him in his cage.

    However, the problem escalated and he lashes out very unpredictably every time anyone in my family member touches him when he has a toy. He would initially take the toy when we tell him it’s OK to do so and walk nervously around (I don’t know why and he wasn’t like this before the first incident). When he settled down eventually (with the toy near him), I patted him on the head without saying anything and he would lash out and try to attack me. We sought help from the breeder we got him from but every time he seems fine in front of the breeder. He only acts up in our house.

    Just today, I tried to correct him again by giving him a new toy hide. The same thing happened as he was nervous about it at first and when I left him alone he settled down. I went out and experimented by telling him to leave the toy and he did. But when I touched him without saying a command, he lashes out and tries to attack me.

    I am really confused on why is he doing this because he was fine up until the first time I gave him a raw bone. Help is very much appreciated! Thanks.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I highly suggest you get help from a professional trainer in your area, as a doberman is a very powerful breed and I don’t want you to get hurt.

      I would practice the “leave” command as you have been doing, but do so with less valuable items like regular toys – rope toys or tennis balls or whatever he has. When he obeys, reward him with highly valued treats like pieces of real chicken. As you have more and more success, work up to practicing “leave” with higher valued items like the raw hides. And when you have success with the raw hides, progress to the highest valued items like the raw bones. Understand that he is lashing out because he thinks you are going to take the bone away. So teach him that when he “leaves” the bone, he gets an even better reward. In the case of the raw bone, you could reward him with another raw bone or some raw meat or by simply giving him the original bone.

      I also recommend keeping his leash on during these training sessions and to practice in very short sessions (1-5 minutes) a few times every single day.

  146. My one year old yorkie poo has become obsessed with playing ball. i throw the ball and he fetches it for over an hour at least once a day, but he still sits in front of the table (where I keep the ball) and growls and looks at me. He is unhappy unless I am playing ball with me. He has no interest in anything else anymore.

    I don’t know what to do.

  147. Hi Lindsay! I am fostering a 4 year old pom/chi. He came to use obese and miserable. He has since lost the weight but is quite the barker. I do believe he has possession issues over me, and as of late, attempts to bite my daughter when she comes in the same room as me, or comes close to me. We don’t allow him on the furniture/coaches, he’s last in line to be fed/let out/walked etc. We live with 3 other dogs whom he has no issues with. Any advice with these issues would be greatly appreciated.

    I don’t know much about his background, by the way – he was an owner surrender. Considering his behaviour, he must have lived in an apt. with a single, older person.

    Thank you.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      How old is your daughter? I would have your daughter walk the dog more, feed him and do all the fun things while being a leader to the dog. I would also have friends come and walk the dog, too, so he learns that all people are fun and can be trusted – not just you!

  148. Hi,
    i have a 9 and half month old boston terrier mix, just in the last couple of days she has become very possessive over things, her cookies, ice cubes, her food. she has never been like this before. i have no idea why.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Most likely you need to step up your leadership role. Make her work for and earn everything, including attention from you. If it is a serious problem, don’t be afraid to get help from a professional trainer.

  149. About two months ago I adopted a pitbull puppy, he is now around 5 months and weighs 40 pounds. He is teething so I give him a lot of rawhides. My other two dogs got a little over weight so they are not allowed rawhides. My cocker spaniel poodle mix, he weighs about 20 pounds, goes over near the pitbull and while he is chewing his bone and the pitbull lashes out. The pitbull bites, growls, and jumps on my cockapoo. The cockapoo tries to fight back but is not nearly as strong. My pitbull is very hard to get away from my cockapoo once he gets mad and will growl at me when I try to pull them apart. The pitbull also growls when I try to take his bone or food away. It is very frightening for me to see him act like this. I am afraid for the safety of my cockapoo as well as myself. Please help me!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I see you asked this question on the forum as well, and I agree with the suggestions JC laid out for you.

      I would also make sure that all dogs understand that ultimately you own all of the toys and bones and can take them away at any time. I would make your pitbull (and all the other dogs) work for each toy/bone you give them. Nothing should be for free.

      I would also teach a solid “leave it” or “drop” command. You can do this by using highly valued treats like real chicken and rewarding the dog with the chicken for dropping whatever it is he has. You can use this method to teach the dog that he gets something even better if he “drops.” This will also teach him that good things happen when you approach him while he has the bone.

      And for safety reasons, you may want to keep the dogs separated when they have highly valued bones/.food out.

  150. My sister recently adopted a Shihzu rescue dog that is eight years old. He is friendly and seemingly has an overall nice disposition. However, three days after being brought home he has shown some alarming signs of aggression. I reached for a chew toy near him. He attacked my hand and bite me. This happened twice as I thought it might have been a fluke. At this point I think the dog has some serious well formed possessive behavior. What should we do?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      As outlined in many of the comments above, I would teach the dog a command for drop by doing so in a playful way when he has less valued things like toys. When he drops, give him something AWESOME like chicken. Practice this in short sessions every single day, continuing to work with more and more valued objects.

  151. What I want to know is, what kind of mutt is Ace?? Because he looks exactly like an older version of my dog, and we’ve never known was Loomis is! Our best guess is Jack Russell/Lab.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I don’t know what kind of dog he is. My best guess is Labrador mixed with some kind of hound and possibly some type of pointing breed. So maybe Lab/dane/pointer. Your guess is as good as mine!

  152. P.S. my Lou also has aggressive issues due to past abuse. Some of your ideas are helpful in working with him.

  153. My wife and I have a new spaniel. He’s 12 months old and is possessive over my wife. He follows her around constantly an gets anxious when she’s not around. He’s ok when we hug and isn’t destructive. The only issue is when he’s in the kitchen at night as he howls and barks for ages. He’s got a crate and isn’t bothered with his kong (food or not). What can we do to calm him at night and break the possession?

  154. Dominique Maynard

    Hiya, wondering if you can help. We have a 3 year old border terrier bitch and we’ve recently introduced a new 18 month border dog into our home. the bitch Pippa is very possessive over me. They are seperated by a gate at the minute and they sit beautifully together up against it, paw through it to each other and she even sits and licks his mouth. So she is very submissive towards him. We have tried for a couple of days now to approach the gate slowly and pet the two at the same time, my partner has managed to succeed and can stand petting them together with no hassles. As soon as I walk with in a few feett of the gate she snaps and snarls at him and gets very aggressive towards him. I’ve tried gradually getting closer and closer whilst praising all the time good behaviours. However it just doesn’t seem to work. Please help, any suggestions would be very well receievd. Thank you. Dominique

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Make sure you are the one in control, not the dog. For now while you are using the baby gate to separate them, I would completely ignore the female while you pet the male. Pay attention to the female only when she is calm and quiet. Once you remove the gate, keep them both leashed so you can get ahold of them as needed. I would try tethering the female to something and doing the same as above – paying attention to her only when she is quiet. Once you can have them loose together, do not let the female barge in and take control. You decide who approaches you. You decide who gets your attention. It is something that should be earned.

      You may find these posts helpful as well:

      http://www.thatmutt.com/2011/12/07/dog-owners-need-to-be-open-to-change/

      http://www.thatmutt.com/2009/01/14/how-to-lead-a-dominant-dog/

      1. Dominique Maynard

        Thank you do much for your advise. So far so good. We have them together now when we are around (still seperated when we are out of the house). So far so good. Just a case of slowly introducing toys and treats now. Pippa is still a bit edgy and possessive in this case.

        We have also found her obsessively licking our new dog Oscars mouth, it appears to be every time we walk near him or pet him over her. Do you think this is a protective or a submissive thing?

        I can not thank you enough for you advise, we hit such a dead wall with this issue and your advise was sound and clearly worked so thank you :o)

        1. Lindsay Stordahl

          Licking another dog’s mouth is often a submissive behavior, however in this case it seems like she is doing it to get attention 🙂 Like, oh they’re looking at him so I’m going to get in there and lick so they notice me!

  155. I also searched toy aggression in dogs, and your article was the first on the list. My boyfriend and I just adopted a lab/pit bull mix around 18 months old. She was a stray, and had lived with a foster family for about 6 weeks before we got her last week. We were told that she had mild toy aggression because the foster family had 3 other dogs, and they crated her after she snapped at their dogs for toy aggression. After introducing her to our friends’ french bulldog last night, it seems a little more than “mild.” Our girl has not been interested in her toys in the least since she arrived at our home last week, but as soon as the french bulldog took her bone, she attacked her, even nipping his ear and drawing a little blood. We took the toys away, but again, Lucky (our pit/lab) has not been interested in her toys at all, especially the bone – she has sniffed and licked it a couple times, but has shown no interest in playing or chewing on it, so I don’t know if she sees it as punishment for bad behavior. We were right there, and were able to stop the aggression, hold her tightly, and tell her a firm “no” several times, but the next time the other dog tried to get a toy, the same thing happened (and we followed up with the same discipline).

    She has been a little timid since she came to us, but has been adjusting very well (we had thought). We hate to think that the toy aggression could be from former abuse or neglect, but unfortunately we don’t know much about her past. Any suggestions on how to curb the behavior without having another dog in the household?

  156. Lindsay Stordahl

    Put all bones and toys away when other dogs visit.

    I doubt the dog was abused. Toy possessiveness is quite common. My own dog acts possessive of bones as well only around other animals. Then when the other animals are not around he shows no interest in the bone. He simply doesn’t want them to have it.

    Your best bet is to practice “drop” and “leave it” without other dogs around and then slowly add more distractions. Get to the point where Lucky will drop any object on command 99 percent of the time without other dogs around. Then start practicing with another dog in the room. If you are in need of more help, don’t be afraid to contact a trainer in your area.

  157. My 5 year old maltipoo does two things. She jumps and barks when people come over then if they stay she wants to be in my lap the whole time. Hard to have people over!! What should I do?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Keep her leash on for better control. Hen, do not allow her in your lap. Does she bark or growl at people when in your lap? If so, it’s because she feels very powerful there and she is protective of that power source ( you). The behavior should stop if you repeatedly push or place her on the floor. Ignore her until she is calm. Then pet her or invite her up, but put her back on he floor if she starts growling again.

  158. louise taylor

    Hi Lindsay, I wrote in about 6 months ago at my witts end right in the middle of a court case someone claiming my Lab/Chesapeak Bay (Breed still to be verified) had jumped garden fence and bit hit. This made me doubt my dog and not trust him for 3 months. Anyway, it was chucked out of court after I took Mitch to a doggy shrink! After 2 hours of watching him, testing him, meeting other dogs, basic commands he was reported to be “A very happy dog that is happy in his own company, playfull, listens, and loves his owner, he can become frustrated easily but will work on this” so thought I would tell u after taking your advice, going to doggy shrink Mitch is now back to his normal self like he was before my dad died. The cherry on the cake was the womans story not adding up in court and classed as trying to get one over me for quitting my job on her. I am not fully trusting of my cheeky, playfull, loving pooch again and enjoying our walks together off the lead 🙂 thanks for the nudge in right direction Lindsay. Was never going to give up on him and its payed off.
    Thank you 🙂
    From a very wet Great Britain and Louise and Mr Mitch xxx

  159. So I have an interesting situation. I have two dogs, a 14-month old Aussie girl (Luna) and a 10-month-old border collie boy (Sunny). They are wonderful, crazy dogs, and they love playing and running around with each other.

    The “situation” is that Sunny only shows possessiveness with objects that other dogs have. He’s fine with resources like food and water with other dogs and is fine with everything with people. But whenever Luna (or any other dog that he’s been introduced to) shows interest in a toy or a stick, he tries to steal it immediately. Sometimes he will chew or play with it after stealing it, sometimes he will just stand over it to make sure the other dogs won’t get to it. The toy or stick could just be laying around and he could care less about it, but as soon as Luna picks it up, he comes swooping in!

    At first I tried to give each dog a toy, or have plenty of toys available for both dogs. However, Sunny will steal all the toys in sight, pile them up somewhere, and stand over them or prevent Luna from getting to them. He’s not aggressive at all, he just uses body blocks and just takes them back if Luna tries to take a toy. I have taught him “leave it” which he is good with, and when I clearly let him know that a toy is Luna’s and not his, he will leave her alone with a toy eventually (although, he is always watching her, as soon as she leaves the toy he will go get it).

    What makes matters worst (or rather, more interesting) is that Luna doesn’t really care that Sunny steals toys or sticks from her. In fact, she likes it, and uses it to her advantage. She loves playing with him, so she will pretend she’s interested in something just so she can get him to pay attention to her and chase her (she loves being chased). This is a common occurrence: I take out a toy and give it to Luna. Sunny is fine with Luna having the toy. Luna takes the toy and starts waving it in his face, will go right up to Sunny with the toy in her mouth and push it into his mouth. As soon as Sunny starts to grab the toy, she takes off and eggs him on to chase her. Sometimes she just gives him the toy. In the end, Sunny ends up with the toy just standing over it, Luna wants the toy just so Sunny can chase her.

    What I do now is keep all the toys put away. No toys or anything laying around at all. The only time a toy comes out is when I separate them with a baby gate and leave them one at a time with a toy or two. They sometimes still play with toys normally on their own. However, Luna cares about Sunny more than the toys, so she’ll just go to the baby gate and stare at Sunny rather than playing with the toy. Sunny is better about playing with a toy on his own, but he will end up doing the same. At points I get so frustrated because I have all these wonderful dogs toys that I feel are now completely useless! The only thing that I feel can coexist is the rope, they love playing tug of war with it.

    Ideally I’d be able to throw a ball to both dogs without this guarding behavior coming out from Sunny, or have a few toys out for both dogs to enjoy. Right now I feel like the toys are not toys to Sunny, just possessions.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      As long as he is not being aggressive, I guess I wouldn’t worry about this too much. Sounds like it is just a game Sunny plays. Since he steels all the toys to get attention, when he does this, you cold bring out a toy and engage Luna while ignoring Sunny. That way he is not being rewarded for the behavior, assuming the ultimate reward for him in these scenarios is his power to tease Luna.

      Very interesting!

  160. I have a 2 year old boxer lab pit, and a 4 month old weiner lab pit. my boxer is a rescue that we got a year ago. he used to be very calm and not aggressive towards anything or anyone. now that we have the weiner he has become aggressive to strangers he lunges when on walks and barks and snarles if they come to the door or even in the house. i have been telling him no and locking home up on the house when he does it. but what else can i do? i have leased him full time now when outside just in case. the weiner acts aggressive as well but gets over looked cause of the fear of the boxer. The 2 together play all the time. share food and bones and play tug a war with a stuffed animal together. (i chose stuffed animal to teach them to play easy.)

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Well, it sounds like maybe your small dog is equally guilty of the same behavior? Make sure to get control of both dogs. Is the boxer picking up on the energy of he wiener? Perhaps your attention should be directed at he smaller dog first and hen the boxer might also calm down.

      You cold try working with one dog at a time. I find that it works well to stand near the source (in this case, the yard) and teach a watch me command by using temting treats lke real chicken. Stand between the dog and whatever causes him to bark, get him to sit and make eye contact and give many small rewards. Cutting back on meals will help the dog have more interest in the food rewards, too.

  161. Dear all..
    I have a 4 year old French Bulldog. Her name is Betty and she is the baby in the house for me and my wife. Frenchies are known to be kind with children. But the last two years, and after we became grandparents to our 2 year old grandaughter the dog shows strong signals of not liking the grandchild in the house. When I hold my grandchild she jumps and barks vissously and can be so bad that i cannot even bring the dog along for a walk with my grandchild in the pram. So every time our grandchild visits or comes to stay we have to put Betty in her cage in another room. Even in the big cage she will continue to bark nonstop for 30-40 minutes. The only time the dog can come out of her cage when our grandchild is in the house is when one of us walks her (2-3 times a day) and when our grandchild has gone to bed. We let the dog out of her cage after 7 o’clock pm. Would appreciate any help on how to approach this situation.
    Just to touch in on another situation; when having Betty in a kennel for 3 days she was in the same logings as an English bulldog male. They got on beutifully for these 3 days while we were away. But when I returned to pick up Betty at the kennel and had greeted Betty first. As soon as I petted the English Bulldog male, my Betty when to attack the same dog and would not accept me petting the other dog.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Since we are dealing with a child I highly recommend you talk with a trainer in your area.

      Hoe does Betty respond if you carry around a baby doll as though it is your grandchild?

      It sounds like she is very possessive of you, and the best thing to do is start giving her more boundaries even when your grandchild is not around. For example, teach a solid down/stay so Betty will lie quietly across the room from you instead of being right by you at all times. Another example wold be to stop allowing her on the furniture. Also, do not give her affection when she is jumping up and demanding attention. Make her at least sit and relax first.

  162. Hi, I’ve got two 5 month old male chihuahua/yorkie mix. Lately my smallest one Remus has become very aggressive towards my sister’s 4 month old male lab (Marley). They used to get along fine however he’s always been a bit nervous around him. He gets jealous when Marley plays with his brother Sheldon and always barks at him. If Marley comes near me he’ll growl and bite so I’ll move Remus away from me but last night and this morning he’s started growling badly and snapping. We guess Sheldon might be the catalyst as they both want to play with him but we wonder if Remus is suffering a bit of “small dog syndrome” and is intimidated by Marley’s size. Even walking in a group if Marley comes near he’ll get very tense. We will be getting my boys neutered next month and Marley the following. What can you advise?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Does Remus act the same way if you remove sheldon from the situation?

      I am guessing Remus is a little insecure around Marley and also possessive over you and his brother. When he growls or snaps, I would either tether him or put him in another room. If he barks or cries, ignore it. Once he is quiet for a minute or two, bring him back. Repeat as needed. It will also help if you keep the overall excitement levels down among all the dogs while they play. Encourage quiet playing and take breaks or distract the dogs when the play gets loud or rough.

  163. Hi Lindsey, i have a 4 year old yorkie, Ellie, who has recently made friends with a lovely 7 month old schnauzer, Amos. Amos comes over to our house quite often and the 2 play brilliantly together sharing toys. Today for the first time, we visited Amos at his house. When Amos brought a toy in, quite happy to share with Ellie, Ellie took it and didnt want to share it. She was growling at Amos every time he tried to play with her and the toy, then she went for him. We took the toy away and she was fine, although Amos was still quite upset with her!!! How come she is ok to share at our house but not at Amos’s and what can we do to rectify this???

    Many thanks

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Probably because she viewed the toy as extra special and valuable since it was new to her and she viewed it as a prize, especially since it was covered in the other dog’s scent.

      Practice reinforcing a drop command at home and elsewhere as I’ve described in my other responses.

  164. Hi,
    So I’ve seen bits and pieces of what problems I am having. We have 2 dogs, and just got a puppy. Sarah(FS), 6yr mutt and Duke (MN) 3yr rottie/mastiff/collie mix. The puppy (8wks old), Mable(F), is a great dane/shepherd mix. Mable is extremely laid back. She does not jump on Duke or Sarah and has not been “irritating” them. Sarah plays with her a little bit and then leaves when she doesn’t want the Mable around her. Duke is the problem.
    Duke seems to be very possessive of the people he’s been around, me, my husband, my sister, my son, etc…..he growls when Mable is simply just laying at our feet and not even paying attention to Duke. When he growls I give him a firm “No, leave it” as I tug his leash and pull him away from the puppy and distract him with something else. We are only going on our 2nd day having her and I know this will take lots of time. Mable is completely submissive of him and doesn’t seem to understand Duke when he’s growling at her. Duke has had an issue in the past with my moms MN hound mix, Boomer. They would fight and we had to keep them seperated. With Boomer though it was a dominance issue and Boomer and Duke would both be the instagaters and take turns. We took them and worked with a trainer, who believed that they would most likely never be able to be in the house together supervised because of the fighting that they had already done and he said it was a learned behavior.
    So I am wondering if we stay on top of his growling and correct him since the puppy is submissive, would we ever be able to correct his behavior? Or would Duke never except another dog into the pack….Thanks

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Have things improved or gotten worse?

      When he growls, does he seem to be guarding you or a certain person or a certain space? If so, I would remove him from that space. Tether hi a few feet away in the same room, if needed.

      Hopefully he is just getting used to the puppy and is teaching the pup some boundaries. (I am uncomfortable with you playing by me, please move). Remember, it is good that he is growling and not actually snapping. If it does lead to a snap, the pup will quickly learn to give him more space.

      1. Hi,

        Yes things have gotten much better. Snapping has happened a few times, but not recently. I think it was just the he needed to get used to another dog in the house.

        Thanks!!

  165. Hey my dog has the same traits, he is often very possessive of things like socks or shoes. The problem I have though is that I am afraid to ‘claim’ it in such a situation. the last time I tried doing something like that, I got bitten. My dog is pretty large and I do not want to invoke a one on one because of this. What should I do in such a situation?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Prevent the situations as well as you can.

      Then, in controlled, play settings, work on drop and leave it in short sessions a few times per day. The reward for drop should always be bettervthan whatever he has. So if he drops a toy, he gets a piece of chicken or whatever you want to use. Keep it fun, and practice enough until your dog almost always responds. Then proactive with higher valued items like dropping a rawhide.

  166. Hi Lindsey,
    I currently have 3 year old Siberian Husky and 2 month old German Shepherd mix. My husky is very possesive of any bone or toy in the house, I tried taking away all the bones but she still guards her favorite “hiding” places they she would normally put bones. She has already gone after this puppy a few times for even coming near her bones. But she has no problem when I take something from her, she will even let me take a bone out of her mouth while she’s chewing. She knows the “leave it” command but I can’t seem to get her to stop guarding certain parts of my house. I don’t want to have to get rid of the puppy, what can I do to correct this?
    thanks

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would prevent the problem all together by only giving them bones while in their crates or while supervized. Take the bones away when you can’t supervize and don’t allow them to hide the bones.

      You can work on the problem by setting up controlled scenarios where you leash the dogs, give them each a bone, and then reinforce the drop and leave it commands. Also have them each work on drop, and then backing away into a down/stay command, leaving the bone in place. You can then take one dog at a time, leashed, and approach the other dog’s bone. Give highly valued treats to both to reward them for being calm and to reinforce leave it. Do not allow any staring from either dog. Make sure they are calm when you release them. These types of exercises teach self control, while reminding them you are in control.

  167. I’ve been through extensive training with my first Frenchie from when he was a puppy, so I know how to do this with a balanced dog. What do you do when you’ve adopted a Frenchie (with their stubborn temperament) and they immediately growl when you reach for the toy or food bowl and have a history of biting?

    I know how to use a shock collar safely, but I’m concerned about the shock triggering more defensive/aggressive behavior. He is deaf, and doesn’t easily trust his surroundings, so I’m concerned about traditional training methods. I don’t humanize him and think he’s mad at me – I do know better than that. My only concern is him biting, even though I’m not scared of him. He’s usually a SUPER sweet dog – only food and toys elicit this type of aggression.

    Thank you!

  168. Oh, and I tried a spray bottle of water to “snap him out” of his aggression and bad behaviors. He’s fine with that and learns fast, but when aggression appears, he becomes VERY aggressive and has once tried to attack the bottle. Like I said, I’m not scared of him (I rather found it amusing that he was so annoyed by the bottle, except that I know past trauma caused this), but I need to make sure he is safe for visitors that *would* be scared of him.

    Ok, that’s really all this time. 🙂 Thank you so much!!

  169. So I have a 3 month old puppy, (German Shepard cross). Ive been working with him non stop, since the day he arrived. There has been this instance where he just shown aggression /possesiveness over his food) I went to feed him and I put my hand calmly to move some bits back in the dish and out of know where he growled and got a hold of my hand. I admediatly pinned him down making him lay on his side holding his neck down.. I was told to do that to show dominance .. And said No! Took his food away and put him in his kennell. I do not want him to continue this behavior .. I don’t want anyone else getting hurt. I didn’t see this coming, this pup only listens to me. Can sit,lay down, shake both paws and loves cuddling.. He didn’t get any slack.. And didn’t give me aggression over toys.. Just the food dish.. I don’t know where that came from. Please help me. I need a safe way to get him out of possessing over the food dish. I need help please. I love this dog.

  170. Hi Lindsey,
    I have a new rescue dog. A 4 yr old Dalmatian. He is very sweet in almost every way…but one. Since the day he came I have been the alpha and he responds well to that. I can take toys or food and he knows “drop it”. The one thing that is the issue is he is very possessive/aggressive around other dogs and the cat. With other dogs it’s when a particular toy is involved. If he has it and the other dog wants it he growls and snaps. I have since learned not to have toys around when other dogs are visiting. He will play with them fine until the bone or toy is involved.
    Today was the escalation with the cat. Usually they sleep on the couch together but are not ‘friends’. They tolerate each other. Today he was on the couch and the cat walked up up and suddenly he leaped off the couch and attacked her. She defended herself and got away when I grabbed his collar. Neither dog nor cat was hurt, but she did lose some hair. I think I was more upset than either of them. I am just not sure what to do. He follows my commands for everything except when he is ‘defending’ his toy/bone/ball. I can take his food dish away and I can take all the toys away while he is holding them in his mouth and he doesn’t bother me. Any suggestions?

  171. My dog has recently become extremely possessive over tennis balls at the dog park. If someone throws a tennis ball, she’ll go after it. If they arrive at the same time and both go for it, she freaks out and goes after the other dog.
    This has created extreme anxiety for me to return to the dog park but she needs the socialization.

    also, can you give us some tips on how to curve my dogs aggression when another dog comes over to the house?

    some background. Nola is 3 year old pitbull. Trained extremely detailed. She knows numerous commands, including wait which we use daily. She waits for her food, i can take anything away at any time, and she knows i’m the pack leader. She is the only dog at home but plays well with other dogs, as long as there are no tennis balls involved.

    any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

  172. Sophie Talbot

    Hi,

    I’m fostering a 7 year old male neutered Patterdale terrier until he can be rehomed. He’s possessive of his toys, particularly anything that squeaks and his tennis ball. We’d really like to play fetch with him – he loves running after the ball, but he won’t always bring it back, sometimes looks like he’s bringing it back then deliberately stops short or long of us, lies down and turns his back with the ball between his front legs. He doesn’t seem to understand ‘drop it’ or ‘leave it’. It feels like he’s been taught that his owner should fight him for the ball but we won’t grab it whilst it’s in his mouth which is what he seems to want us to do – that or chase him for the ball. How can we get him to understand that fetch is a good game? Help!!!!

  173. I have a 9 month old cocker spaniel female and she is very possessive of socks, cloth and bones, she growls like crazy and my family can’t even walk near her when she’s like that (which is hard to walk when she hides stuff on the stairs) I have to train her fast or else my mom will get rid of her!!!!

  174. I have a 4 year old boxer that is very possessive over toys and bones. The problem that i have is that he is in a household with 4 other dogs as well. I have taken all of his toys away from him. That was the biggest mistake that I have made now he gets other things to play with such as socks, shoes or anything that he can through in the air and catch. How do i reintroduce toys to him so he can play with out any aggression? I am completely lost on what to do and if he does not change I am going to have him put down before he hurts someone. Any help on what to do would be greatly appreciated. He is part of my family and i do not want to have him put down but I can not have a dog that is aggressive.

  175. Hi,
    We have had a besenji-lab mix (best guess as she was a rescue dog), for about a year now. She is between 2-3 years old, very sweet and a quick learner when she wants to be. She knows come, sit, git, wait…in fact, the day we picked her up I discovered she knew sit in sign language, so I don’t even have to say it. The first day we had her we took her to Art Walk, she was calm, ignored other dogs, and handled a little two year old that ran up and threw her arms around her (before I could stop her) by sitting and letting herself get hugged. She plays with the new puppy next door, a lab mix, in both our yards without problem.

    We walk often and lately I have noticed her tugging more on the leash when she sees another dog, taking more interest. I usually draw her in close and at times make her sit till the other dog passes. At times we have allowed the dogs to meet, taking cues of wanting to play, and mostly she does just want to play and sniff. What I don’t like is that she is her pulling away without my permission and not listening. I have to force her to sit at these times with my hand.
    The other problem is she has become more possessive of our yard and sidewalk. She is a rare barker, but the hair will stand up. We tell her shhhhhh, if we are on the deck when she does this. We have a large back yard, but no fence and today my son was taking her out to the bathroom at the very back of the property, when she shot off like lightning to the front yard. There was a dog on leash passing by. She immediately engaged, nipping the ear which drew some blood. It ended quickly as my son pulled her back and the other dog’s owner pulled his away. This is the second time this has happened. How can I get her over this? We can’t get a fence right now and the back yard is where we play fetch and she runs; but she can run to fast to the front if someone is passing. She doesn’t get enough exercise by just a morning/evening walk, so it would be a shame to have to take her on the leash to the back yard. Seems like she is unlearning good behavior around other dogs…at least certain dogs, and around what she considers her space. My larger concern is that she will and may already consider the entire beach her space as we walk there every day as do many other dogs. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  176. here’s my situation.. I’ve just got a black lab( 2months ago, he will be turning 5 this xmas).. and this dog will fend for his “bone”… I had the joy of getting seriously bitten by removing him from the bone.. maybe I didn’t do it right.. but I wasn’t my dogs.. boss…:( he’s also very protective of the unknown!!! new people, knock at the door.. if someone will approche him to grab at his collar he will snap… I love my new dog.. he’s obediant, when told to sit and stay, sit laydown, he follows at my feet “when no one else is aroud”… what do you suggest i might do to improve his behaviour?
    much appriciated

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Work with him everyday on a drop command and a leave it command as explained in my other responses. For the other issues, I would desensitize him to having his collar grabbed. Simply grab his collar every day and then give a treat.

      I also suggest group obedience classes to get him used to others. Look into classes that focus on achieving the canine good citizen certificate. The CGC program helps dogs learn to accept friendly strangers touching them an so on. Also make sure to go on lots of walks. You could give him his favorite treats whenever you walk by strangers, or recruit people to walk by you and drop treats or to come to your door and drop treats. Make sure they know not to reach out and pet him at this point, until you know your dog is comfortable with it.

  177. We are looking into adopting a mastiff mix and I just found out that he has toy aggression but not food aggression. The foster parent has been addressing the possiveness with toys, his toys are in a seperate room and does not have unlimited access to them. This concerns me as we have a 5 and 7 year old who have toys and stuffed animals which at times are all over the house. Is this a deal breaker or am I over reacting. We’re talking about a 100 plus lb. dog.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Hi nancy. What did you decide to do? For me, this would be a deal breaker. There are other mastiffs out there that need homes but do not have aggression issues.

  178. I have a 3 year old german shepherd collie mix who just recently became possessive of her food and toys. She doesn’t growl at us but if the other animals walk by she will go eat her food,bark at them, and sometimes growl. She knows all the leave it command and I make her sit before she gets anything I don’t know how to stop this behavior
    -Melissa

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Since she is ok with you approaching her bowl, you could build on that. Put leashes on all your dogs for more control if needed and while the collie mix is eating, approach her bowl and drop some yummy treats inside like real chicken. She will associate good things with you approaching instead of neutral things. Then, do the same thing but approach her with one of your other dogs. This will help her associate positive things with the other dog approaching.

      You should also practice taking her bowl away and having her back off, lie down and stay on command. Reward her with extra yummy treats. While she is staying, allow the other animals to walk by her bowl. Keep rewarding her with treats for showing calm behavior and self control. Do be careful, you want to make sure she is calm when you release her. Do not allow her to stare down the other animals.

  179. My dog gets aggressive with other dogs at the dog park all the time. She has got better and knows the leave it command, but if i toss the ball and another dog goes after the same ball she will growl and eventually fight the other dog for the ball. I no longer bring her toys to the park and she is now exhibiting this behavior with toys that are not hers. She loves to play fetch and the other dogs want to play rough house. She doesn’t like to play rough house with the other dogs and it just creates a environment where I have to be careful with certain dogs and avoid tossing the ball near other dogs. i need some help.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      You shouldn’t have her at the dog park for now. Since she knows the leave it command, work with her on that with only one other dog around rather than a full dog park of dogs. Keep her on a rope so you can get control if needed.

      Would you be comfortable trying a shock collar to correct the behavior?

  180. We recently bought a 9 week old puppy and she has a terrible problem with going after my young kids and biting at their legs, arms, etc. We have tried many different things to stop this behavior, but she just looks at us and barks and then goes right back to pestering the kids. How can we stop her from biting them so she wont grow up to be a biter? Any suggestions? Thank you.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      A lot of puppies do this. I suggest ending he play session whenever she displays any unwanted behavior. Simply say calmly “too bad” and eiher tie her somewhere or put her in her crate or room. If she cries or barks, ignore her. After she is quiet for a minute or two, let her back out again. Repeat as necessary.

      You can also give her appropriate things to bite and carry in her mouth and engage her with those items. Praise her when she does this. It would also be good to encourage your kids not to run when the puppy is around, easier said than done, I know, but puppies naturally want to chase whatever moves.

  181. Hi, great web site, very informative!
    I am very experienced with large bully breeds. I volunteet for several chicago rescues. But I’m having a difficult time with a 18 month bullmastiff, male, 145lbs. Im petite, 120lbs. He came from spending his life on a chain being beat on by his previous owner. He has improved drastically. Current issues in having trouble correcting; guarding toys (i am currently following your tips above) he is so possessive that he is now guarding me. He snapped at my 15 yr old nephew who was visiting for sitting next to me on the couch. He got on the couch, stood over my nephew and them snapped at him ( not making contact) He also stands stiff over my other dog for approaching me for attention. And previously attacked my other dog over a toy. (he only receives toys in his crate now) but he caused a serious bite to the other dog.

    Please help….

  182. I’m trying to get my 12month old Rotti out of the chewing mode so I bought her new toys n bones; I can’t get near here now when she has them. I’m scared the way she’s acting that I’m going to get bit. I can’t bend down to grab it. She’s never acted like this. She’s out of control. Right now she has a bone in her crat and I scared to try to get here out or even grab the bone. What should I do?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      You can either ignore her until she comes out on her own. Or you can bribe her with a higher valued bone/treat. After that I suggest you start working with her on a solid drop command as well as leave it as I’ve explained in other responses. You should probably request help from a trainer in your area, too.

  183. Hello, I was Googling this topic & found your article. We have a 2 yr old German Short-haired Pointer, she is a good dog and trains really well. She knows the command “leave it” and we say “go” to ask for some distance. She will walk away from everything asked of her (food, toys, bones…) except when we are playing outside for a while with a ball. She will leave the tennis ball and go up to a point. It can be very sketchy as to when that point is. But we need to really run her and it is the most effective way to do it. Today I had to run her, feed her, & get to work. After she ran & dropped the ball a few times she randomly decided she would not drop the ball. I waited (trying to be calm & assertive, with up-right body posture) after 30 min. she still wouldn’t drop the ball. So I took it out of her mouth. She growled at me so I said “No”. Then she lunged at me, grabbed my shirt & ripped it. It seems her reaction to the ball is getting is worse. It is as if she has an alter-ego. It is frustrating and I just don’t know what more to do. I have tried offering her favorite treats, a different toy, and deli meat in exchange…she wants nothing to do with it.

  184. Hi.

    A few months ago, my housemates and I adopted a dog from our local dogs home. He’s a Blue Heeler, a truly gorgeous dog, who had the manners of a saint when we first got him. He was involved in a dog fight with a larger dog (who we had also adopted, but quickly sent back). He now has a companion, a 10-12 week old Boxer puppy.

    Butch, our Blue Heeler, has been nothing but fine with Tyra, our Boxer, but he doesn’t do well with other dogs. Even before Tyra – in fact, Tyra is the only dog he gets along with.

    Before we got Tyra, he’d started to jump up on us and nip at our hands and faces. Of course, we’ve told him off repeatedly for it, but nothing we do seems to work. We push him away whenever he jumps up or climbs over us, but nothing much changes.

    It has gotten so bad that he can’t be near other dogs. We take Butch and Tyra to the dog park on the nicer days and Butch has started growling at a dog that comes anywhere near us, especially the girl he was brought for. We’ve tried socialising him with the dogs we know in controlled areas, but he’s taken to marking his owner and nipping at her when a dog comes near.

    He has such a sharp, pitchy bark that alternates between his deep growls whenever another dog comes into sight. We’re not sure what to do, the things we’ve tried haven’t seen to help, and we really don’t want to have to give him up because we can’t stop his possessiveness.

    Thank you.

    1. This is a great article on how to deal with possessiveness, but I wish I had seen this comment earlier.

      Seriously, I don’t understand how you people can consider yourself dog owners if you adopt a dog and “sent it back.” If he gets into a fight, maybe you should be spending time training both your dogs. A dog isn’t an object you can return because it’s not working the way you want it to. It is a living thing. If you aren’t willing to take the time to train your dog, don’t bother getting a dog. I volunteer at an animal shelter and it pisses me off when people “return” or as you say “sent back” a dog. These animals already have been through enough by being surrendered from their original owners and living temporarily at the shelter, but to be adopted into what they believe will be their forever home and to be “sent back” is the worst. Not only have you “sent back” one dog, but planned to give up another? I’m going to say it again: If you aren’t going to bother to take the time to train a dog, then don’t get one!

  185. Hi, since my last post my dog has began snapping at me for attempting to remove him from the couch, another time for trying to remove a piece of plastic from his mouth. I am making him sit for attention, food, to go outside, etc…he must earn everything. He is also tethered to me on leash in the house so i am able to correct him safely without getting snapped at. Do you have any other suggestions? He is 18 months old, bullmastiff, rescued from abuse/neglect case. He is fearful outside of noises, people… Charges and jumps around barking and lunging if he sees a dog. He goes from fearful outside…tail tucked, running for the house… Then once inside he acts as though he is the king of the house. Dominating my older dog, demanding attention, etc. any tips would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi Charlie,
      I have a rescued (abused) pit bull, I fostered her when she was 4 months old, ended up adopting her and now she’s 2.. She came to me completely fearful of everything, especially people.. It’s been a long road rehabilitating her and I still have some troubles.. They best way I found in training good behaviors into her is by always using a positive approach.. I use a ton of treats and always reward her for good behavior.. If he has something you want use a treat to distract him then when he releases it give him the treat. I always have a pocket full of something.. Most of the times dogs want to do good.. The more you remind them by rewarding for the good behavior, the more good behavior they want to show.. You should always try and keep it fun and light.. If you see him starting to do something you don’t like, in a light fun way ( using treats) distract him. When you have his attention, give him lots of treats. If he likes food you’ll be amazed at how fast they learn. Most importantly, if he was abused, like mine was, you shouldn’t discipline with a loud or negative approach. My dog just seems to get more stressed out if I get loud or aggressive with her.. I have a 3 yr old boxer I can pick up by the scruff and stare him down and it works like a charm I get my point across. But the pit bull is different her fears and anxieties run deep so that approach just puts her into a more stressed out state of mind.. Also, lots of exercise helps.. A tired dog makes a dog. Well, good luck Charlie… I would love to know how he’s doing, I noticed your post was from a while back..This is my first time to this site..
      Kelly

  186. Hi, we have a 7yr old boy who is absolutely perfect never been possessive. now we just bought a pup who was showing possessiveness over my sons dummy nothing over food or any other type of toys. so we followed your steps on how to stop it and in the first 5minute session i seen a big improvement by the end.. fingers crossed for the future. thank you

  187. Hi,

    We’ve just welcomed a Springer Spaniel puppy, who is roughly 4 months, into our home. She’s an absolute doll and I’ve been taking things out of her mouth repeatedly – she hasn’t cared. But today, I gave her a raw hide and she went to town with it – I could tell she was enjoying this chew more than anything else we’d given her. So, I tried to take it from her and she gave me a growl in return. I did not ask the puppy to “leave it” because I have a two year old – I want anybody to be able to take something from the dog’s mouth without having to say anything. After the growling incident, I’ve been practicing taking the raw hide right from her mouth any time I please..and then giving it back. I’ve also rewarded her with a favourite treat if she lets me take the chew without a growl.

    Is the right course of action or should I be insisting she drop it on her own, without me going in and taking it?

      1. Thanks, Lindsay – really appreciate you took the time to respond. We love this little girl already and want to nip this problem ASAP. I must admit I’m a little frightened when she growls at me but know I must get over this as she is no dummy!

        1. Don’t hesitate to have a local trainer help you. I would also practice taking things from her in different rooms, on different floor surfaces, on and off the furniture, on and off her dog bed, etc. Just get her used to having things taken away in different settings. Sometimes do so while standing. Sometimes lying down. Sometimes reaching over her. Sometimes reach for her quickly. Sometimes slowly. Just keep rewarding her by giving her treats or giving the raw hide back. Keep it fun and keep the energy happy and relaxed.

          1. We are taking her to obedience school but the classes aren’t until Saturday and I felt I couldn’t wait until then to get advice – I’ll ask them though, for sure.

            Thanks so much for the guidance – awfully nice of you. She is only possessive of raw hide chews – she doesn’t mind me taking anything else.

  188. I have had my dog for about 5 months she is about 14 months old and she is a rescue dog. I have tought her to drop her toys and get use to my hands being near her face. I got her a natural bone from the dog store one morning that had some beef left on the bone and she was making a mess so I went to clean it up and move the bone and she got very protective of it so once I finally got the bone I threw it away. It’s been about 2 weeks and everytime I feed her now she is very protective of her good growls and snaps and I can’t even get near the bowl to take her food away to discipline her. She always sits for me and waits to eat till I tell her to do so. She is a pitbull whippit mix so she has a bite behind her so I need this to stop. Any suggestions?

    1. Do you use a verbal release command like “ok!” when you allow her to eat? Does that command send her into an excited state of mind? Try being more calm about releasing her, and maybe dropping that verbal cue all together. Just kind of motion with your hand that it’s ok for her to move towards the food and eat.

  189. We have a 1year old ,female boston terrier,she was a rescue, that will not release green tennis balls she has a death grip on them, other toys fine ,but tennis balls no way..How do we solve this situation

  190. I have a 3 year old rottie. She is very protective of her toys. I can tell her to drop it and she will. I can also take it from her mouth. I did give up on raw hides because she would lay with it across the room, stare and growl while guarding it. I tried over and over again but she got “ugly” with them, so now she doesn’t get them. The next problem I have is we inherited an 10 year old dog after my mother passed. That shouldn’t have mattered because we were already living together when the puppy was brought into the home. The rottie however gets defensive over her hedgehog with the other dog. The other dog doesn’t play with toys and has never tried to. Where is her aggression coming in? Our pecking order goes, My husband, Myself, My Daughter, the cats, the older dog, and then the rottie. I always feed the older dog first as well as treats, etc. I was wondering how to handle her so she doesn’t get more possessive. If I take her toys and put them up won’t that make her more protective of them, fearing they will be taken away? Should I just take all toys away (but that won’t solve the problem will it?)? I have read not to discipline her for growling that its good that she alerts instead of just biting (she has never offered to bite/snap). She is well socialized, I have worked at kennels (where she has grown up). I often take her toy and make her leave it, making sure she gets a cookie instead. She often wants to take the toy outside and with a quick command of drop it she does. I have worked very hard to train her since I got her at 2 months old. She was last puppy left (the lady was going to keep her). She was outside the pin because the lady said “mom and dad” were not letting her eat. We also have “food aggression” its more of a grump. She will “grump” at the cats but will back down if they want water while she is eating at her food station. I have and do stick my hands in her food and pet her every time I feed her, but to no avail she still “grumps”. She is also possessive of me at times, I am clear to be stern with her (keeping my place in the pack). My husband says its because I lay in the floor at times with them. Could that be? Long story short, she hasn’t done more than grump, although was nervous about the whole raw hide thing. She has always “had” so its not like these are new items. I was told to make things so they are “normal/everyday” this would make her less aggressive over them, but its not working. I would like to correct this behavior because I know it could lead to worse behavior. I like most pet owners would like to think she just “grumps” a lot, but I know better. Please help. I love her dearly. I have had a Rottweiler before. She was 12 when she passed suddenly. She too had a few issues as a pup but we easily over came them using the advice I have read on this site. The only thing different I did was once upon growling at the baby I took my flip flop off and Whooped the dog,(Not screaming but sternly telling her NO BITE) Anything to do with the mouth (including growling).. I use no bite. I whooped her until she growled at me, then i whooped her butt for that. She was a young dog when that happened ( Not advocating beating your dog, I scared her worse then I hurt her…I am a softie) She was the best dog I ever had. I mentioned that little tid bit because I was also told some breeds need to be forcefully put in their place in order to establish pack order. I hope you can offer some help. Sorry about being all over the place. I am disabled and I had to come back to this post several times to be able to post it. Thanks bunches,
    Elizabeth.

  191. I have recently adopted a Dane/Cane Corso mix, he is about a year and a half old and has been blind since birth. He is an amazing animal and other than the odd bump into objects, he navigates quite well. However he is very, very possesive of his toys when other dogs are playing with him. I had a basketball that was another dogs before I adopted him and he had no problem playing tug of war with the other dog with that ball but it quickly was destroyed. I bought 2 new balls and gave each of them one however when the other dog came near his new ball he was down right nasty toward him and was not going to have him share this ball with him. Any suggestions? He will allow me to take it from him if I distract him with a treat though and I can take his food away or any other toy.

  192. ‘It’s also a good idea to take your dog’s food away while he is eating.’

    If I did this to my dog, my hand would be ravished to pieces. He has been very good at learning patience when I put the bowl down, and touch the bowl, he used to bark and demand his food and try to bite me if I put the bowl down too slowly. In only a few days he learned to go down and wait a few feet away for his food, but I could never take his food away while he is eating it. He is a pekingese, a stubborn little lion, and has been a pain for 10 years, but I know it is MY fault, for being ignorant with understanding dog behavior. My neglect is unacceptable, and I am trying to turn it around, but could I have some pointers on to stop my dog barking aggressively every time somebody goes out the door, and being angry if I try to take his things away? I don’t show fear anymore and insure him I am the alpha, but he is still worked up and the vet said neutering him won’t make a difference. I have started using a choke collar but since reading your article I am going to buy a pinch one.

    I have been a terrible owner, but I’m trying to turn it around, even though my dog is old now, he’s still the same aggressive way, but I’m not giving him up or putting him down, he isn’t that bad and I know he can change. He probably does need special training, but I can’t afford it so advice would help a lot!

  193. Hello I’ve got a 12 month old lab and he’s very clever and has learnt everything I’ve thought him with ease. I made the mistake of getting him into playing with sticks and he’s now not really happy on his walks unless he’s got a stick in his mouth. I’ve now noticed that he doesn’t like to leave it when I say so and he thinks its a big game to not listen to me. I have now started to trade the stick for a ball which he is really enjoying and drops when I ask him but tonight on his walk we went for about 1 1/2 hours and he played with his ball all the way until the last 5 mins he dropped the ball and grabbed a stick ….. We got back to the car and he wouldn’t come to me or leave the stick it took me 15 mins to get him to leave the stick…. In the end I had to go into the bush and grab a bigger stick…. I tried to ignor him but that didn’t work… Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

  194. I have a foster pit. He’s very sweet. He recognizes that all people are his master and allows them to take things from him. But he is food and toy aggressive with my dog. I feed them separate and make him work for food and treats. But if he’s playing w a toy and my dog comes to close he “attacks” often pining my dog down and they get mouthy. I need to know how to stop this and what to do when he does this bc I’m afraid I won’t get him adopted out if I don’t. Thx

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Have you been able to find him a home?

      I would do the things I’ve suggested in the other comments – work on teaching a solid “drop” command. Start with easier situations with him (trading a “boring” toy for a piece of chicken) and slowly progress to more challenging situations such as dropping a bone. You want him to become 99 percent automatic with drop on command without distractions. Then start working on this with another dog around.

  195. I constantly hear that aggressiveness shouldn’t be allowed but no real advice as to how to stop it. People are told never to hit a dog, always praise, blah, blah, blah but no real advice how one does stop it. My dog became possessive of my daughter and wouldn’t even allow you to go near her luggage. He was so nasty, baring his teeth and growling, I simply left the room. Shouts of no did nothing. He is a rescue and I hate to return him to the kennel but have to admit I’m bit afraid of him when he does this. Other times he is very sweet and loving. Rescue mags refer to this as a “sharp-shy”, and again, say it should be corrected. How?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I would keep a leash on the dog so you can physically remove him from whatever he is possessive of. It it’s your daughter, then prevent him from guarding her by tethering him to a chair or door on the other side of the room. This is a case where it would be wise to hire a trainer to observe the dog and offer you some suggestions. Is this a large dog or a small dog?

  196. Thank you so much for your reply. This is a small dog – a Chion. Part chihuahua and part papillon. Very cute and sweet at times but never know when something might cause aggressive behavior. The daughter has left so that is no longer a problem but other signs come up when grooming or correcting. I will talk with my vet next visit. Cannot afford the dog whisperer.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Yes, trainers can be expensive. It’s worth it though, if it helps you prevent a dog bite. But I understand.

      Definitely keep his leash on when there is a chance he could become aggressive. Muzzle him when grooming if needed for now. I would use a firm “no” when he becomes possessive and then push him away from whatever he is possessive of with your body or feet. For example, if he’s on the couch and getting possessive of you, simply nudge him off the couch. Don’t reach out with your hands if you think he could bite. But if you firmly nudge him away, you can teach him the behavior is not acceptable. If he’s possessive over his bowl, that’s when you would nudge him away using your feet with shoes on. Don’t kick him, simply say “no” and firmly but gently push him back. When he’s in a calm, relaxed state, that’s when you can give him access to what he wants again as a reward.

      Do be careful when dealing with an aggressive dog no matter what the size!

  197. We just adopted an adorable pug-beagle mix from a local shelter tonight, and he was the sweetest little thing when we were with him in the observation room at the shelter. Once we got him home — after buying him some treats and toys at the pet store — he was mostly fine, but when we gave him a squeaky toy and tried to play with him, he became very possessive, even aggressive, snapping at us pretty violently. I know training is the best solution, but aside from the occasional class or course of classes at a pet shop or the like, a trainer is probably outside out budget (yes, I know we should have budgeted for it, but I was honestly not anticipating this need since I’ve helped train my family’s dogs for years). I imagine the same advice applies as I’ve seen above — nudge him away from the toy and the like — but none of the dogs I’ve trained before have ever exhibited aggressive behavior, so it’s a bit daunting for me. Any advice is appreciated.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Practice a command for “drop” but in a playful manner so it’s fun and non stressful for him. Use highly valued treats as his reward. Figure out what games he likes. If he likes to play fetch, for example, then you can really use that to reinforce the drop command. Keep his leash on when you do this for more control. Practice every day for short sessions. Put all the toys away when you aren’t playing with him. Also work on establishing consistent rules overall with him. Don’t be afraid to hire a trainer to come in the future if the problem escalates. Also talk to the shelter about it, maybe they experienced the behavior with him and could offer some tips. Maybe they’d even help with training for no cost.

      Best of luck, and congrats on the new pup!

  198. Hi!
    We’ve had our Shiba Inu, Kobe, for just over 2 months now and he is 1 year old and 9 months. He has a great personality, very sweet, calm and is not possessive with his regular toys. However, once he obtains a random object he takes a liking to or an object of great value, that is when he shows possessiveness. Once it’s in his mouth, he tends to go under furniture where he would continue to play with it. When we get close, he would growl and has once bitten when we got too close. He is fear aggressive and I’m not sure if these two behaviours go hand-in-hand.

    This happens when we give him a new toy too. And of course, we make him work for it before we hand the toy to him by making him do some tricks. After playing with the new toy for a bit, he then proceeds to go under furniture and become possessive like with other objects.

    I know that it’s common in his breed to think “mine” but we simply cannot allow him to take whatever he wants.

    Not only that, he likes to play tug-of-war and is very stubborn with dropping the toy.

    This has been a problem from the start and we’d really like some advice on how to correct his behaviour. We may consider a trainer but I’d like to do what I can before having to do so.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Some of my suggestions to the others should apply to your dog, too. Mainly, teach a solid command for “drop” during play and build from there.

  199. Hello,
    We just rescued a Corgi. He is 4 or 5 years old. He is usually very sweet but when we try to water our plants or vacuum, he attacks the hose or vacuum. Bites at them. Is there a way to get him over this. Evidently he was kept in a yard and not in a house for at least two years or more. He remains agitated for a long time after doing what he does. It takes him a long time to calm down. Other than that, he’s a great dog.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Can you kennel him when you do these things? He might be trying to “herd” the vacuum and the water hose, or he might be fearful of them. My dog also tries to bite the hose, and in his case it’s excitement and a fixation.

      If you sincerely want to break him of the habit, figure out the exact point where he starts to become aggressive. For example, if he is calm before you turn the vacuum on, but goes nuts when it’s on, then work with him around the vacuum while it is off. Walk by it, practice obedience, etc. Then you might progress to working with him in one room while the vacuum is on in another room, and so on. Keep pushing his limits while setting him up for success.

  200. Hello,

    I am really hoping that someone can help me with my issue. It is causing me great distress and embarrassment.

    I have a 5 year old, female Cavoodle (cavalier x poodle). She has honestly always been an amazingly easy going dog. I hardly had to train her as a pup. She seemed to know that weeing was for outside, learnt to sit instantly etc.
    She has always been great with dogs and throughout her life has lived with other dogs very well. At the dog park or on walks on and off the lead she has always interacted well with any dog.

    However, in the last 4 months she has been very different. On walks she will approach other dogs and wag her tail, start the sniffing routine and then ‘go for them’. Growling very aggressively and even going on top of them so that they can’t really fight back. As far as I can see there is no attempt at biting.

    She has also been getting very possessive of food in her mouth. Growling at first but she will even go to snap. She has never bitten or done this before.

    I can not think of any traumatic event that has happened to her this year to spur this on. I am very concerned and will do anything to try and stop this.

    I appreciate any advice.

    Sincere thanks,

    Claire 🙂

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Have you changed in the last four months? Maybe gotten more lenient on rules you used to have for her? Or maybe you have been more stressed for some reason? I would try to pinpoint what has changed with yourself.

      You could try getting her into some basic obedience classes so she can practice calm behavior around other dogs in a controlled environment. Maybe set up some walks with friends who have calm, laid back dogs that will not react to her even if she shows aggression.

  201. My daughter Sarah (12 years old) has a one year old Weimaraner. He is mostly a good dog but occasionally becomes possessive of things. When given a raw hide or if he has a sock on his bed he often clenches his jaw and it is impossible to take it away or even trade him for something better. We have just taken those things out of his world for the most part because we don’t want a fight to occur. We have tried to trade him for something better, but there are some times that he is so possessive that nothing will work. Any advice would be helpful.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      As I’ve said in many of the above comments, what I suggest is to teach the dog a solid command for “drop.” You have to start out with lesser valued items that the dog doesn’t care so much about – items that he will drop for a piece of food. Then progress to the more difficult items once he will obey 99 percent of the time with the more “boring” toys.

      Work on this every day in a few short sessions (five mins or so). Keep it fun and light. Eventually it should become automatic and eventually he should be able to drop on command even when he has something highly valued, like the socks or raw hides in your case. Best of luck. And don’t be afraid to hire a trainer if you need extra help.

      1. Thanks Lindsay. We started yesterday and he is already doing better. Your advice was very helpful. So helpful I made everyone in the family read it! And I am talking to a trainer as well. We will get him in some classes to help him.

  202. Hi Lindsay,

    I have a question about my 3 1/2 year old dog. She is 40 lb mutt and is so incredibly sweet with people. She loves adults, children, etc and we have never had a problem with her being aggressive towards people. However, she gets quite toy and food aggressive around other dogs. She is very good at home. I always make her sit and wait before she is allowed to eat her food. She is great at fetch and will almost always drop her ball or toy when I tell her to do so. We also have a cat at home and they get along very well.

    My boyfriend’s parents and sister both have dogs at their house, and we will usually bring our dog with us whenever we visit. I also take her to work with me on occasion and some of my co-workers bring their dogs to the office, as well. It is only around other dogs that she will get aggressive over her food. She will also take toys away from other dogs, and snap at them if they try to take them back. It worries me because she does not usually growl at them, she will simply snap to show that she is unhappy about them being near something that she considers to be “hers.” I am not sure what to do about this, because it is not often that I am able to create a circumstance that brings about her aggression, and I do not want to put another dog in danger of getting bit just to try and train her.

    We also take her to the dog park and she gets along very well with the other dogs until a ball or other toy is introduced.

    Any help or advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated!

  203. Lindsay Stordahl

    Practice a solid “drop” or “leave it” command in situations where she will obey 99 percent of the time. Then slowly increase the difficulty by increasing the distractions and using more highly valued items.

    Eventually you should be able to build up to the point where she will “drop” and “leave it” even around other dogs. It’s just a matter or working up to that in controlled environments.

    Don’t hesitate to get a local trainer’s advice if you think it would help.

  204. Hello I’ve recently acquired a pit bull puppy and she can be very loving and sweet when she wants to be. She sits and waits for her food and she is a very smart dog. However she is extremely aggressive and pocessive of my daughters food and toys. I can take anything from her but there are times when she will lunge and growl bearing all teeth. She is only 10 weeks old and its already terrifying! She turns into a demond when I correct her,She seems to be very stubborn and unruly and I work with her everyday with minimal results. My daughter is two and I’m very worried she may get worse! Please any advice will be great!!!

  205. Hi,

    My husband and I adopted a german shepard, border collie, husky mix about 5 months ago. She was just about 8 weeks of age when we adopted her. When we first started to feed her she woud growl when we would come around her bowl. We tried to correct it but nothing ever came of it. She also displays this when she is given bones. Of course her teeth aren’t as sharp but she has a much stronger jaw. We started training at 6.5 months of age. The trainer wanted to see what we were talking about and it didn’t go as planned. We try to approach her bowl when she eats and toss in treats as we approach and to make her look up when we call her name, which doesn’t happen very often. However, we can hand feed her with no problem. I believe this is no transissioning over to her toys. When she was younger we would consistently display us taking her toys when we wanted and she wouldn’t care but she has started to change her thinking. Tonight I approached her with a treat in order to take the toy from her. When I gave her the treat, all was well, but she didn’t want me to take the toy. She growled and tried to walk away with the toy. She a grabbed her collar just to keep her near me and told her to leave it. She did leave it, so I took it from her for a few seconds, praised her and then gave it back. Does this seem appropriate? She is also displaying that she doesn’t always want us to pet her when she is laying down. Should we only pet her when we call her? My question comes into effect when we have kids and they want to pet the dog when she is laying. We plan on brining in a trainer to our home to help us out because she acts completely different at trainings. She loves to play with other dogs and will bring the toys to us when we play fetch but not when she is just laying on the ground chewing. What else should we do?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Having a trainer come to your home is a good idea. I am glad you are going to try that.

      I would definitely work on teaching a solid command for “drop.” You can follow the suggestions in this post: http://www.thatmutt.com/2012/11/14/dog-toy-possessiveness-teach-the-drop-command/

      In addition to that, keep working on her obedience in general. Is this a dog that will walk nicely on a leash? Will she sit and stay for up to 10 minutes or more on command. Does she come when called? Is she respectful of you when you walk through doors or does she pull like a maniac? Working on her general obedience will help build a better relationship. She will be more aware of you, more respectful, and she will develop more self control.

      Best of luck to you.

  206. Hello. My wife and I are having some trouble from our 6 year old westie’s behaviour toward our 12 year old yorkie. The yorkie had been in our house for 6 years before we brought the 3 month old westie home. Our male yorkie is very large for a yorkie, about 12 pounds, and the female westie is a little on the small side, being about 14-15 pounds, so they are roughly the same size. From early on the westies’ personality has overwhelmed the quiet and retiring yorkie, although we’ve made it very clear to both dogs that the yorkie takes presidence. Lately the westie has been attacking the yorkie without any apparent provocation, and we are afraid she might hurt him badly when we are not home to break up the fight. Both of us work, so the dogs are well used to our absences. What can we do to stop her from attacking him? Any advise would be appreciated

      1. Hi, we rescued an intact male crossbreed, he is a wonderful dog, no issues at all. he is about 5 yrs old .3 days ago we brought female crossbreed home for a home visit with a view to adopting her. She is very friendly with myself, partner and everyone she meets, seems good with kids and other dogs whilst out walking. She is around 10 months old. She sits, stays and gets treats for this good behavior. One downside to her and could make the difference to us adopting her is that she ’rounds our other dog up’ she snaps at him if he attempts to go into the house first, she is clearly making him feel uncomfortable, he seems scared to move as each time he takes a step forward she gets into his face and snaps. He avoids eye contact with her but just wants to get passed her without conflict. I am worried that if left alone there will be bother. She does listen to me but when he takes astep she does it again, please help as she seems a great girl with thus one issue, thanks.

        1. Lindsay Stordahl

          The main thing is to be a leader to both dogs in a fun but consistent way. Work on obedience skills with both dogs and look for ways to make the new dog wait such as having her sit and stay before going through doors. Also have her sit and wait before meals and so on. Make sure you decide when she approaches you for attention, and don’t let her bump your other dog out of the way. Here are some ideas:

          http://www.thatmutt.com/2009/01/14/how-to-lead-a-dominant-dog/

          1. Thanks so much, Molly (new girl) has settled in now, must have just been the newness. Both dogs happy with eachother, playing with toys together and eating out of the same bowl! Fabulous! Xxxxx

  207. I have a 3-year-old English Cocker Spaniel who has possessive issues. He used to live in a household where he and his “brother” would constantly fight over dominance (same breed, same age, both male). My mom (previous owner) hired a specialist, and he said there’s not much we could do because it would only get worse – and it did. I’ve had him for a little over a month now, and it’s gotten much better; however, he’s starting to show signs of this possessisveness when our cat either gets near his food or near one of us. I do what you recommend daily – he waits for his food until I give the “OK”; he waits to leave the door and come in the door until I give the “OK”; same with allowing him on our bed. I’m not sure what else I can do. He gets along with other animals, as long as he doesn’t have to “share” a home with them. I need to nip this behavoir in the butt before he hurts the cat. Please help!

  208. We have recently gotten a black lab chow mix and other than chewing stuff up recently he is an amazing dog. Today we got him a rawhide treat and the first time I went to pet him while he had it he growled at me and even snapped at me. I took it away from him and gave it back to him repeatedly and he responded positively so quickly that no one even realized he had misbehaved! I was told it was wrong of me to take something of his but reading this made me confident that I am training our dog right!

  209. Hello, we have a Jack Russell Terrier, she is a rescued dog, 6 years old, surrendered when she was 2 years old, and then at 6. Her behavior shows symptoms of being abused. She is afraid of other dogs and she shows it by barking at them and pulling towards them. She gets into a trance where she doesn’t hear us, we have to basically pull her away, it has been 7 month with us and sometimes she seems to improve and other times is back to that trance. Same thing happens when she gets possessive; there is nothing that will get her attention (treats, food, leash, nothing) because she gets into that trance and there is nothing we can do to get her out of that.
    We exercise her twice a day for about an hour each time. We play with her at home. We have a cat (they don’t get along but with supervision they ignore each other). The cat is downstairs and she upstairs.
    We have created situations where the dog is likely to become possessive and she does, we will give her the sit command, she will sit but continue the attack (we use a leash to hold her).
    We have considered giving her back to the shelter, but I think we were her last chance.

  210. I have a 2 yr old pitbull that my husband and I raised since she was 10 weeks old. She is not possessive with toys with people. For the most case, she knows to “drop it” or “leave it” when we tell her to. We socialized her very well, and she loves running around and playing with other dogs. We just recently had a situation at a park. Another dog picked up a stick. I saw my dog staring at it, and I saw her body tense and her teeth start to show. Before I could get over to her, she had already lunged at the other dog. The other dog didn’t want to give up the stick, so it turned into a little quarrel that we had to stand in between to break up. She didn’t hurt the dog or make contact. Then 5 mins later, her and this same dog were running around playing, of course no sticks around! My question is, what should I have done the instant I saw her body language change when she saw that dog with the stick? She was so focused on it, I feel as though she would have not responded to a “leave it” command. How should I correct this?

    1. I try to get the dog’s attention away from whatever she is fixated on by making an interesting noise like “Hey! Look here!” Or clicking my tongue. Or if I can, I put my body between her and the object of fixation to get her to look away for even a second. That brief moment typically defuses the situation.

      If you are too far away, obviously those things may not work. If you can get her to always come when called or to always sit on command from a distance, those two things could help you gain control in those rare situations. I know it’s hard to practice around real-life distractions, but you can get pretty creative.

  211. Hi there,
    i have a 1 year old boxer/staffy cross and have had him for around 6 months now. He came from a large family with small children and other dogs/bitches in the litter. my partner said he was the larger of all the dogs so this may be why he has become so dominant?
    Initially he was great was my nieces and nephews and would welcome strangers into our house. Now however, he seems to have developed ‘possessiveness’ over me. He will allow my partner to sit next to me but would be clearly unhappy with other people sitting next to me- even people he has known since we bought him.
    just the other day i was sitting next to my partners male friend and casually chatting and all of a sudden he lunged at him after staring intently at him. i have never encouraged such behaviour and hate that he has developed this. i have since bought him a muzzle and always put him on the lead when around my small nieces.
    i correct him when he did this as did my partner and my partners friend. i think its becoming more apparent that he is either ‘protecting me’ or ‘claiming me’ i’m not sure which one?
    Should i be doing anything else to stem this behaviour? – ive been told I ‘baby’ my dog and yes i do give him lots of love and affection.
    any suggestions would be welcomed. – if it helps i have just had him neutered to combat this problem?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      This is a serious problem, and I think it would be best if you contacted a trainer in your area to come help you.

      I have written a post on how to stop a dog’s possessiveness over the owner. It is geared at small dogs, but the same applies to larger dogs. Definitely try to be a stronger leader to your dog. Work on overall obedience skills so he will obey things like down, stay, come 99 percent of the time. This will help you maintain more control overall.

      http://www.thatmutt.com/2012/11/28/how-do-i-stop-my-small-dog-from-guarding-me/

  212. I currently have two dogs – a female bichon x shitzu (13 months) and a male cocker spaniel x toy poodle (1 1/2 years) – who get along really well.

    We have had Ollie (Spoodle) for a year now but he has just recently (within the last few months) started to get aggressive. It started with bones. If we gave the dogs a bone of any kind Ollie would get aggressive about it and towards anyone who came close to him. He also had the habit of taking Jojo’s (the Bitzu) bone off her but she is a very placid dog and would just let him (looking a bit sorry for herself afetrwards haha). As a solution, we decided to just stop giving them bones. I realise this is not really a solution but we decided to just try and avoid the situation where he became aggressive.

    A couple of weeks after we banned bones in the house, Ollie managed to get hold of a chocolate bar (just a snack-sized one so it didnt harm him). We tried to get it off him, but he got incredibly aggressive and tried to bite my eldest daughter. We growled at him and locked him outside until my daughter had calmed down. After this incident he seemed fine. Until a week ago.

    All of a sudden he is aggressive about anything he should not have. If he finds a sock, a cardboard box or a plastic lid etc, he will become very aggressive towards anyone who comes near him. He deffinately knows that he is not allowed the objects, as he runs away as soon as we see him and trys to hide. I have noticed that he is most aggressive with my youngest daughter (16), who is probably the strictest with him and doesnt let him get away with anything. However, it has gotten tot he point where she is afraid to approach the dog if he has anything in his mouth (inclding toys which he has never been possessive over).

    I am not sure what to do about him. I thought of getting a proffessional, but those in my area seem to be so expensive and I just can’t afford one right now. I am so scared that he will bite someone some day.

    Other han the aggression he has a really sweet personality. He loves everyone and is a very active dog. Although he does have terrible seperation axiety – maybe the two issues are linked?

    Both dogs have been sterilized if that makes a difference?

    Thank-you in advance for any help you can give me.

  213. My three year-old labrador retriever, Bella, can be possessive over her ball. She is perfectly fine when we are walking to the park where I throw the ball, and she is perfectly fine when I am actually throwing the ball (she can be a bit over-enthusiastic, but I correct it right when it happens and she is fine after). When I stop playing, I say “all done” and put the ball in my pocket. I then put her leash on, and I start to walk her home. However, she doesn’t agree. She will jump up on me continuously and has nipped me once or twice. She doesn’t seem aggressive, but I don’t want it to transform to that. Would anyone know how I can stop this behavior?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Work on general obedience overall so she is more respectful and views you as the leader. Does she sit on command at all times? Does she come when called?

      When she jumps up at you like that, you should firmly tell her no. Put her leash on before you anticipate the behavior. Let it drag on the ground, but put your foot on it. If she jumps, the leash will automatically correct her.

      Also, try telling her to sit or heel and reward her for that behavior.

      Have you taught her a command for “leave it”? That is an absolute must for a retrieving nut! 🙂

  214. I have a 2 yr oldmale and a yr old female Boston terriers both are unaltered being a breeding pair eventually when she has matured. I know alot of the makes aggression is due to him being unaltered, but the issue I have with him is his possesiveness with bones he will share food , toys, humans, but not a bone, I have paid for multiple training sessions and it doesn’t work I do the training at home multiple times a.day with the leash on but with the leash on he eats through it I also don’t leave it down because of his aggression but when it is put up he becomes obsessed with it . I am at my wits end, but still working through it. He knows and does all commands leave it, drop it, sit, stay, down, off etc. but if anyone has any.insight or new or different ways to go.about this I am open to suggestions and need some help please.

      1. Yes I have and he will sometime exchange the bone for a treat but not always, we work on this daily. He is only obsessive and possessive over bones nothing else. He will drop or leave anything else too.

  215. I have a 13 pound terrier mix, Winston. He was a stray I gave a home to 6 years ago. He is a great dog and I love him. He has this issue with my adult son. He will growl at him and wag his tail as if playing. My son feeds him and gives him treats with no problems. But, when my son walks by him while he is sitting next to me, he will growl and sometimes show his teeth. He has snapped at him also for no apparent reason. But the tail wagging is confusing. I have used words such as no or quite, I have removed him from my lap and placed him on the floor. Do you have any advise?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I hope this post is helpful to you, Valerie: http://www.thatmutt.com/2012/11/28/how-do-i-stop-my-small-dog-from-guarding-me/

      A wagging tail does not always mean playfulness or happiness. You may be interested in my post on how to prevent a fearful/stressed dog from biting: http://www.thatmutt.com/2012/02/13/how-to-prevent-a-stressed-dog-from-biting/

      These posts are, of course, geared to a general audience and every dog is an individual. You may want to hire a trainer in your area to come to your house and offer some ideas.

  216. Hi,

    I have a 4 yr old border collie/terrier who is aggressive towards baby objects and anything he can get his paws at. What I mean is that if there is ANYTHING laying around that is small he will grab it. Just a few minutes ago, there was a stuffed toy for my babies’ play mat that I took off to encourage my baby to play with it, and I left it on the top of my couch while I went to go change him. I come back and the dog jumped on the couch and got the stuffed toy. Its like tooth and nail trying to get it out of him, I have tried bribing him with his favorite treat .. cheese. He wouldn’t let go, but he’s also done this with pacifiers, rags, q-tips, sponges, socks, so its not just the babies things. I do not believe its jealousy and this dog has been doing this now for about 2 years.

    It all started when we got him one of those MASSIVE dinosaur bones when he was about a year or so old, and we are able to put our hands in the dogs food bowl, cuddle, play, and one day my boyfriend went to move the bone because he was right in the middle of the door way to the kitchen and the dog bit him. We threw the bone out and never got another one… but its gotten way worse over the years, and I don’t know how to correct him. At age 4… is it too late?

    He knows alot of commands, and he has no problem doing them, even the drop it command, but when he gets a hold of something and he see’s that we see it, he grabs it and runs with it to the corner of his crate and we can’t get it unless we tip the crate up to slide him out of it and lock it, then he just goes to a corner and growls and stares at you.

    I am afraid that one day the baby is going to have a toy and would want to get it and the dog is going to bite him.

    When the dog is good, he is very very good, but when he is bad.. hes a real jerk.

    Any suggestions would be great. He’s snapped at me before, and hes bitten my boyfriend about 3 times now trying to get objects from him. We have recently had to get the pliers to get one of the pacifiers out of his mouth… I mean this is getting ridiculous… 🙁

    I love my dog to death, and my boyfriend doesn’t want to give him away and neither do I, but who would want a dog like that??

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Because there is a baby involved, I think it would be a good idea to hire a trainer to come help you. It’s important to observe the dog in this case rather than give advice over the internet. I wouldn’t want to make assumptions and suggest something without seeing the dog and end up putting the baby in harm’s way.

      As far as teaching a more solid “drop” command, I recommend this post if you haven’t read it already: http://www.thatmutt.com/2012/11/14/dog-toy-possessiveness-teach-the-drop-command/

      Best of luck to you!

  217. Anthony Colorado

    This was a great read. We have two dogs we’ve had since they were puppies and I’m big on a dog being well trained and behaved otherwise why even have a dog if you aren’t going to take the time to make his company enjoyable? So my border collie (Greysie) and my tripawd mastiff mutt (Thor) are both very well behaved non possesive or aggressive and don’t mind sharing I have done as you said take things away to show that you can. That they aren’t entitled to anything unless me or my wife say so. So besides getting over excited and giving excess love when we comed home they are amazing dogs. We have recently taken in a rotweiller mix as a foster giving him a loving temporary home and giving him medicine until he’s able to be adopted. And iv been putting in alot of time training to loose leash walk sit lay down because I want him to be adoptable because he’s a beautiful sweet loving dog he’s just noy very well behaved and he’s very strong….and if he even thinks you have a toy in your hand he spazzes out and he doesn’t know hisb strength and he is very possesive with toys and I’m using this technique that you have here and he’s not picking it up as fast as I would have thought which wouldn’t be a big deal if he wasn’t so strong. But he’s only that way with my others dogs…he isn’t like that with me or my wife. He’s only about a year so I know he’s young enough to learn. Do you happen to have anymore advice on training a dog in fixing possesiveness of toys and also controlled chewing…he’s destroyed all of our dogs toys so I don’t even give them cuz I’m afraid they will fight with him and he will hurt one of them….and even if they didn’t fight he will just chew it to pieces. Any advice helps…I wanna help this guy find a good homr that treat him good and appreciate his training. Thanks!

  218. I’m in desperate need of help. Two weeks ago I adopted an English Bulldog from a rescue. He really is a sweet dog and loves to be petted and scratched, but has horrible possessive behavior. It took over 16 hours to get him out of my car when I got him home. He LOVES being in a car. I pulled the collar off his head trying to get him out. If you get near him to attempt to get him out, he attempted to bite. Finally, I pulled another car beside my car to show him the inside of that car and thankfully he jumped out and both doors were shut and he was fine, not aggressive anymore. We haven’t attempted a car ride again, but now the issue is our couch. In the mornings he will growl constantly at my husband for just looking at him while he’s on the couch. He doesn’t growl at my kids or myself. My husband has never tried to remove him from the couch, so I don’t know where the aggression comes from. He did charge my husband a week ago after he wiped his mouth off after eating. I noticed later that he has tooth decay on his front teeth. I’m guessing that my husband accidentally hurt him, which caused him to charge. My husband ran to get away, it was very scary. Afterward he was fine and wanting my husband to pet him. I don’t even know how I’m going to get him out of the car to get him to a vet for his teeth.

    Please help with suggestions. I’m afraid the rescue will put him to sleep. He’s a sweet dog, but is majorly possessive with cars, the couch and toys. I’m afraid he will hurt my husband at some point.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      This aggression sounds very serious, and I think it would be a good choice to hire a trainer in your area. I am worried because you have kids.

      I would definitely keep the dog’s leash on at all times so you can pull him from the car or get control of him when needed. I would also stop allowing him on the couch at all because it triggers the aggression.

    2. Hi ive just read your story ive 2 british bulldogs an 19month old female and a 3year old male roxy is a fantastic dog but cooper sounds like yours but worse he is possessive of everything the sofa toys tv tv remote everything in the house hes bit my husband a few times when hes took the sky remote off him or what ever he sets is sight on weve tried everything and even had him to the vets but nothings worked i know males r more possessive than females but he goes 2 far i will never get shut of him i luv them so we after put up with hes ways if u find a cure please let me know we have spent a fortune but nothing works good luck tina x

  219. My husband and I took in an abandoned intact male Bassett Hound mix a few months ago. The other night my husband took the blanket out of his kennel to wash it, and had it lying on the floor in front of the dryer. One of our cats walked up to sniff the blanket, and the dog lunged at the cat from 10 feet away and bit the cats head leaving a coupe of good punctures, and just missing one of his eyes. We have four other dogs, and 9 house cats, as well as a 6 year old daugter. I have trained many rescue dogs before, but none this possessive. This dogs grumbles about absolutely every command, but does it anyway. We finally trained him to “wait” until we release him for his supper, and we have been working on ” leave it”, with no luck. If he refuses to listen to a command, a quick spray with a water bottle works wonders. I’m afraid we will now have to look at re-homing him, as we just cannot take any chances with our daughter or our other pets. Any ideas?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I agree. Don’t take any chances with a young child in the house and so many other animals. Of course, it will be hard to place him with a rescue group because of his aggression. But I hope you will be able to find someone with experience and no other pets. Best of luck.

  220. Hi… great stuff… question though, will this work on newborn pups? The mother is very aggressive and don’t want us to touch the puppies. We cant arrange the puppies and there are times that the mother is stepping on the pups accidentally and we cant do anything because she’s so aggressive.. 🙁

    Any suggestions please.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      You know, I don’t have experience with mother dogs and newborn pups. I probably shouldn’t be giving advice on this. I know it is normal for a mother to show some defensiveness around the pups, but I’m concerned to hear she is not letting you near them.

      You want to be able to handle the puppies to get them used to different people. And the mom would probably even appreciate a break from them! Hopefully she’ll allow you to handle them soon. How old are the pups?

      In the meantime, you may want to consider talking with a trainer, breeder or veterinarian in your area who has experience with this exact issue.

  221. Hi, I’m in need of an advice urgently.
    I’d a 9 mths old male mix breed puppy (large size) and he’s quite spoiled.
    Recently i’d rescued a terrier mix adult and intend to adopt him.
    Things had been going on fine for few days. The puppy became more well behave after the older dog is in the house but 2 days ago they started fighting until there is blood as the older dog stole the treat of the pup.
    Since then, the older dog don’t allow the pup to come near me. Whenever my pup comes near me, he will growl and try to bite/fight.
    My pup always try to stay out of his way but it’s hard to maintain having both of them at home.
    Should i give him up or is it possible to teach them to live harmoniously? Can i let them both be together when i’m not at home or do i have to keep both of them in separate rooms even when i’m not at home until they learn to live together?
    Please advise… i hate to let either 1 of them go.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I recommend you hire a trainer to come help you, as it’s way too difficult for me to assess the situation through a comment online. Yes, it is very possible to work through these issues. It takes some time, structure and patience.

      Definitely don’t leave them loose together when you are gone, at least for now, and especially not with any treats or toys out that they could get possessive over.

      Both dogs need to learn some solid obedience skills. I recommend teaching them both to respond to the down/stay command where they will stay for up to a half-hour. With the older dog especially, you should be able to tell him to stay while you interact with the pup. You should be the one to decide who you pet and interact with. Your older dog does not get to decide.

      Try keeping them on leashes for now for better control. Use a baby gate to block off certain areas and to separate them at times for sanity’s sake.

      Those are just some brief tips. Best of luck to you, and I’m happy to hear you rescued the terrier mix.

  222. I have a 4 year old Akita male and am his 3rd owner. I got him when he was about 1.5 years old. The dog came with a toy that he is possessive of. We can take it and everything else away from him at will without a problem. If he feels that you are beneath him in the food chain, I can see that he would resist.

    The real issue is that when I have him out for a walk and off leash he will fight with other dogs over a ball, any ball. He steals the ball or toy from the other dog and when the other dog wants it back it’s game on. This has happened 3 times total, but it has been twice in the last 3 months. We now avoid other dogs when they are playing with balls at the park. He is a well behaved dog and does what I ask of him when I ask it. I don’t cut him any slack. If we do have a problem while we are out, I put him on a short leash and we march directly home and into the backyard he goes; on ignore. That seems to be the most effective way to change his behavior.

    I can’t have him scrapping with other dogs till he learns that fighting over toys is not acceptable though, so I really don’t know how to address this. Surprisingly he is a submissive dog and is not dog or people aggressive although he was when I first got him. I don’t think that he got out much in his prior life.

    Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. It would make both our lives better.

  223. I have a 10 year old border collie that I have had for almost all his life. He is very well behaved for the most part. I would have to say he is a pretty strong willed dog and definitely needs the consistent boundaries and routine that I have provided for him. In general he is Is ok with people and other dogs although not really interested in interacting with them. He is quite work oriented and very much a one woman – or perhaps I should say family dog. Any of the members of my family can handle him just fine and with most others he just ignores them or tolerates being petted if I ask him to. However from time to time and generally with men, he lunges and snaps if I speak to them. As long as I don’t acknowledge their existence he doesn’t bother with them but even if I make eye contact and just say hi he will silently lunge forward and actually go for the groin! He has bitten several times though never broken the skin and always in the same place – upper leg and going for the groin. He doesn’t do it with women but one room mate I had got growled at very deeply when she bent over him and wanted to hug him while talking to him in a cooing voice. I made him lie down and submit to it and he was so upset that he wet himself. After that I just got her to throw a ball if she wanted to interact with him and he was fine. Her husband could do anything with him..but the woman – not so much. If I catch him in time he will lie down obediently but I can tell, he is really troubled if I am talking to a man that isn’t family or living with us. I live on a farm where there are lots of workers and he knows them but still objects to them talking to me or me talking to them. And if I’m not around – no problem. He’ll even let them in the house if they need to get something and I’m not there. I have sort of managed it all these years but I wonder if I am missing something….

    1. It almost sounds as though he is possessive of you, doesn’t it? Or, he could be simply fearful of men or responding to an uncertainty you are feeling around men.

      I really don’t think I should be giving advice over the internet on such a serious issue – the dog lunging at people, I mean. It’s hard to say what is really going on without observing the dog.

      Have you hired a trainer to come and observe your dog?

  224. I have a 2 year old yellow lab. He is very possessive of my bedroom. He sleeps in our bed. I never wanted him to sleep in my bed but my husband allowed it. Deezle will become very aggressive and he does try to bite my husband when he tries to enter the bedroom. Deezle is very close to my husband. My husband is probably his favorite person. I dont understand why he has suddenly become so aggressive.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Sorry to hear of your troubles. I would definitely consider hiring a trainer to come work with you, as these things can escalate and I don’t want your husband to get hurt. Personally, I would not allow the dog in your bedroom any longer. That’s your choice, of course, but I would have the dog sleep in a separate bedroom or in a kennel. Teach him that the bedroom is a privilege. He can only come in with permission. At the very least, make him sit and stay in the hall for a few minutes before he can walk through the door, and keep him off the bed.

      Best of luck to you! Try not to take the aggression personally. Dogs will become aggressive/possessive over food, toys, people, space, or anything. They can bite one second and be your best friend the next. Don’t take it personally, but do take it seriously.

  225. I have a 6mo old mini labradoodle. Thinking it would be good for her to have a pal I adopted a rescue 2yr old mix. I should say my labradoodle, Ellie,is a female spaded and Whistle is a male fixed. Whistle doesn’t play much but is the best dog anyone could want. Ellie is very playful and jumps on him and I’m waiting for him to say “enough” but it hasn’t happened. I buy bones for each of them. Ellie will not let him have one she takes it away all the time. The only way Whistle can chew in peace is when I crate him. Ellie is truly the dominant one. How can I get her to let him have anything without her taking it away from him.

  226. Yes and I do that but when I’m not watching she just goes over to him and takes away anything he has and Whistle never seems to object at least not that i’ve seen. When I look there is Ellie with all the chews. I do want to mention that I do not buy rawhide (I believe that is dangerous for them) I buy a product made in usa that is made of tendions etc and doesn’t shred. Ellie is really a sweet pup and I never thought she would be a bully 🙁

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Oh poor Whistle, haha! I can just picture it. I’m afraid I’m not going to have much advice other than to put them in their kennels when they have their chews. Just be happy Whistle doesn’t put up a fight. I’m hoping someone else will share a better idea.

  227. Hi. My boyfreind and I got a pitbull named scooby almost a year ago. And hell be two in July. He came in to a family that had three other dogs before he came in, and he gets along great with two of them. He doesn’t get along with Casey a little Japanese chin, small breed.. shes older and is blind and deaf, but when scooby came into the house she could see and would growl at him whenever scooby would jump in to my boyfreinds grandpas lap or lay down near him. Scooby now growls and barks at her when she walks around when hes eating or when shes walking around the house and hes in the living room. Hes never bit her or hurt her, but could her growling in the beginging could have made him not like her and mean towards her?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Yes, he could be acting defensively since she showed possessiveness of your boyfriend’s grandpa. I wouldn’t think of it as “mean” when we are referring to dogs. They are just reacting to the moment and being dogs.

  228. Really great article! I have a 1 1/2 year goldendoodle that I got as a puppy. She has always been super sweet and had never showed any aggression what-so-ever until recently with balls and other dogs at the dog park. She loves to play fetch and its gotten to the point where she becomes obsessed and gets that crazy look in here eye. It used to just be with her own ball which I quickly learned to take away if another dog was around. Now it is any old ball or even sticks- as soon as she sees that another dog wants it she will get super possessive. If I remove it from her mouth and another dog is around she will snap at the dog. I am worried that she might eventually bite one of them or start a fight. She has been going to the dog park since she was 16 weeks old and not going to the dog park isn’t really an option because we live in New York City and she needs to run for exercise. She also has many dog friends there that she plays with on a regular basis and I also think keeping her socialized is important. She has always been the submissive type so I’m not sure where this is all coming from. She usually has no problem dropping the ball for me when we are alone, so I am not sure how to train her since she only has the aggression with other dogs. I have tried to get her to drop the ball with another dog around with a piece of cheese- a high value treat for her- but that didn’t work at all. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I wrote a post about teaching the drop command. Since your dog drops things pretty well when it is just you around, you will want to slowly increase the challenge for her. If she drops a boring item 99 percent of the time, start practicing with something more difficult such as raw hides or bones. Practice in different situations and environments and with other dogs around in a controlled setting if possible.

      By making it more and more challenging and rewarding her success, it should eventually work at the dog park, too. I recommend walking or running with her for ger primary exercise until you get this habit under control. You know what’s best, but I would hate for her to growl at the wrong dog and get attacked.

      http://www.thatmutt.com/2012/11/14/dog-toy-possessiveness-teach-the-drop-command/

      1. Thanks for the great advice. I started practicing the drop-it command in other areas and at home with various toys and the her favorite- an orange rubber chuck-it. I have since completely stopped playing fetch with her which I think has made the balls a bit less interesting to her. I took her to the dog park with no dogs present a few times and practiced with drop-it and leave-it, till eventually I felt confident enough to bring her there with other dogs. So far her interest in the balls has dropped by a huge amount. If she starts going up to a ball I will tell her to leave-it and about 80% of the time she does. If she does happen to get it in her mouth I will take her to an area where there are no dogs and try to get her to drop-it. I have since totally stopped trying to pry it out of her mouth with other dogs around since that is what seemed to be causing the most aggression. If she still wont drop it we will leave the dog park immediately, I will remove the ball from her mouth, and immediately go home. Not sure if Im doing everything right but it seems to be working for her so far. I think just down playing how awesome the ball is (no fetch, not letting her play with them at the park) has really helped. I have also noticed she seems to be enjoying her time more with the other dogs now that shes not so obsessed and and ball crazed. After she leaves them alone enough times she eventaully totally forgets about them. I definitely think there is hope! Thanks again, this is all super helpful!!

        1. Lindsay Stordahl

          So glad you are seeing progress! I’m hoping your comment will give some hope to others who are struggling.

          1. recently my almost 2 yr old lab has been behaving the same. My neighbor was dog sitting and came over with 2 new smaller dogs and Henry my dog loves other dogs. In the beginning if JUne he got into some rat poison and the doctors orders were for him to not be active so I kept it really low key for a month. I would take him to dog parks in the past and he was never interested in balls at the parks. A couple times multiple dogs will play fetch and Henry would join but was never showing signs of possessiveness- for the most part he would rather go find dogs to run around with rather than even paying attention to balls or toys. But last week one if the dogs was playing catch and Henry joined also but when they both reached for the ball Henry growled/barked and took it and ran off. It worried me because I always keep a close eye on him with other dogs and that was a first. It happened a free throws later and I corrected him instantly every time. He still plays nicely with the same dogs if there’s no fetch involved. Henry did the same thing yesterday. I want to start bringing him to the parks again. So I will def try everything. We need to work more on leave it. Henry usually does a good job with leave it unless its a stick but its just something I need to work with him more on. Henry is such an active dog and loves to run- it will be hard to contain him esp at a huge dog park where there is often several balls being thrown around. I’m afraid he could hurt another dog like you said or do it to the wrong dog and him getting hurt.

  229. I have a rescued pitbull/lab/great dane mix and I am having some problems with him. First of all I know I am part of the issue, so I just want to say that straight away, but that is why I’m seeking help. He growls/snarls and tries to bite when he is around his food (or even his food bowl) and also when he is chewing on bones. Whenever he does this I reprimand him, say “bad dog”, and maybe flick him or something. When I discipline him he gets scared and then tries to defend himself and bite more so needless to say, it is a vicious cycle. I don’t know how else to train him because since I got him I have been taking his food away randomly and taking bones as well to try and show dominance. I am apprehensive about trying to give him treats as a distraction because wont that only reward poor behavior? He knows the com