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How to stop a dog from guarding food or toys

Note: If your dog is displaying signs of aggression around food or toys, I recommend you contact a trusted trainer in your area.

Dr. Patricia McConnell had a great post on her blog “The Other End of the Leash” last week about how to deal with a dog’s possessiveness using desensitization and classical conditioning. It’s worth reading if you have a dog with possessive aggression of food, toys, space or whatever it might be. Instead of teaching the dog “drop” or “leave it,” (which I highly recommend you still do), you are conditioning the dog’s response to someone approaching the object of value.

My mutt Ace practicing "leave it" instead of showing possessiveness

The basic idea McConnell describes is to find something your dog likes even more than the object she guards. So, maybe your dog guards rawhides, but she likes pieces of hot dogs even more. What you would do is set up a scenario where the dog is likely to guard a rawhide. With your hot dog bits in hand, you would then walk up to your dog but stop well before she starts to guard the rawhide. Toss her a piece of hotdog and walk away.

You want the dog to think, “No! Don’t walk away!” McConnell wrote. Then, very gradually, you decrease the distance over several short sessions over several days until your dog is OK with you approaching her while she has a rawhide. Then you also need to condition the dog’s response to someone reaching for the object. You would do this by bending down near the dog, dropping a hot dog bit and standing back up. Eventually, you will move your hand closer and closer until you can safely remove the object and give the dog something even better in return.

You are not training your dog to respond to a cue, McConnell wrote. You are conditioning an internal response to someone approaching something the dog cherishes.

This is certainly not the only way to deal with a dog’s resource guarding, but I like the approach and thought many others would find it helpful.

How do you deal with resource guarding?


Thursday 12th of October 2023

Thank you for this information. Very helpful.

Deborah Lee

Thursday 30th of June 2022

Please could you give me some advice my jack Russell bites your feet when you come in the garden or house when you walk it's that bad I've had bruised feet my partner has ended up with a swollen toe from him bitting our feet we have tried everything he's been to a trainer he knows no and leave it but still does it also he still bites he's just over 7mths we can't stop that either I had quite a few dogs before and never have I had problems like this I can't break any advice would be fantastic , thank you x


Monday 19th of December 2016

I have two 6 month old huskies we got them at the same time and they are from the same liter. They are starting to get possessive when we give them new toys. It is really becoming a concern. i hope this helps any other tips?


Saturday 15th of October 2016

How do you combat possessiveness if it's directed towards other dogs and not humans? It's also over the chair and a blanket instead of food or treats. He's a little bully pit who was rescued from a horrid life and we know that he's having issues adjusting...don't know how to help him :( He plays with the other dogs and life is great until one of them walks by his chair or blanket.

Alisa Osborne

Wednesday 21st of September 2016

I have 3 dogs and even though they are not showing signs of aggression. Two of them are very possessive of balls when we throw them in fields. to the point they run off with them and try to chew them to bits. I can eventually get them to leave them with treats (the dry kind) but it is tiring as it takes a while and spoils the fun .