Small dog’s possessiveness

A woman named Ellie wrote a comment on this blog where she explained how her Yorkie named Gemma was acting aggressive towards other dogs.

I wanted to share Ellie’s example because it tells a lot about the complex relationships we form with our dogs and how this is not necessarily good.

Ellie explained how every time she tries to pet another dog, Gemma growls and snaps at that dog. This is a problem because Ellie wants to get a second dog, and Gemma’s behavior would make that difficult.

She asked for advice on how to fix this problem.

I wrote back and told Ellie that it doesn’t sound like Gemma has an issue with other dogs. Instead, it sounds like Gemma has an issue with possessiveness. Gemma may be a bit insecure or fearful, but she feels secure and safe near Ellie. So, like many small dogs, she wants to guard her “power source.”

I told Ellie to take more control of the situation. She should learn to block Gemma from getting in between her and another dog by putting her arm out or giving a firm voice correction. I told her that she gets to decide which dogs she gets to  pet or hold. Gemma does not get to decide.

I told Ellie that she should consider putting a leash on Gemma, tethering her to a chair and ignoring her while she pets another dog. I told her to invite Gemma back once she is calm and quiet.

This is the kind of advice I give out all the time.

In these situations where a small dog has total control, the owners are usually offended by my suggestions and never visit my site again or they thank me for my tremendous help. It’s an even split.

Ellie did neither.

Here’s what she said (I edited her comment for grammar and length):

Thanks for your reply. Sounds like good advise, but don’t think I could do it. Gemma is a proper baby and absolutely adorable. Everyone loves her. I’m worried that with this method she will feel pushed out. She’s like that with my hubby as well, but not so nasty. I may just have to resign myself to just her. I can’t have her upset. Thanks so much again. 

You can read the whole conversation here.

It’s too bad, really. Gemma would probably feel much better if her owner would take more control. And it’s a shame if Ellie can’t get another dog.

But I don’t see this kind of honesty often, and it was a nice surprise.

I appreciate when someone admits she is the only one standing in the way of change. This is rare.

I also appreciate when someone disagrees with me but delivers her argument with genuine kindness. Also rare.

Most people choose to blame others – in this case, it would be the dog. Or, they get angry and deny the problem exists (forgetting they found my blog while searching for advice).

I get to hear about people’s “dog problems” all the time.

These problems are rarely “dog” problems at all. They are almost always human problems.