When your dog gets attached to a toy

My Dog Growls and Protects Toys

One of the most common concerns I hear expressed is that a dog growls and becomes possessive of his toys. When this happened at my house, my daughter looked for effective solutions because she wanted her dog to have toys without concerns that other family canines would become overbearing.

What we learned was pretty simple, and it worked for us. First, we removed the most coveted toys. Then we put out several more toys than dogs. Now our dogs play harmoniously with toys when they are together. Sometimes I even see them sharing a toy in a game of tug or chewing on opposite ends of the same toy. There are always more toys than dogs.

At Pets In Need, we have seen loving dogs become very possessive of pig ears and raw hides. We stopped allowing their use at the shelter and advise people not to use either product due to the protectiveness they may cause. In addition, there have been reports of serious digestive problems caused by these products.

If you have a dog who growls when you try to take a toy, the growling could be a warning or it could just be the way some breeds communicate verbally. In either case, the dog is probably holding on tightly to the treasure you want to take. Offer her a tasty treat as a trade. Repeat this often until your dog gets used to getting a special treat when she gives up a treasure. Over time, she will start to automatically give up her possession and look to see what you have to offer. When she is dependable with the exchange, add a verbal signal such as “give.” You can gradually exchange tasty food treats for hugs and praise.

You don’t need to worry about spoiling a dog with treats and praise, because they cannot be overdone. If you are concerned about calories, reduce the mealtime feedings or give your dog her total daily ration throughout the day as treats. Carrots seem to be popular with most dogs and can be added as low calorie treats.

Hand-feeding your dog throughout the day and making her daily ration rewards for good behavior is a great way to keep your dog stimulated and interested in pleasing you. You’ll probably enjoy being the dispenser of the treats as well as the good behavior your dog will display to earn her treats. After your dog starts to learn this reward system for good behavior or for repeating exercises you have taught her such as sit, down or roll over, don’t be surprised if she starts to offer you behavior just to see which one will get you to supply a treat. A co-worker reported that her young dog rolled over four times in a row to please her and to show how well she had learned that new trick.

Dogs love unconditionally and delight in pleasing their caregiver. Reward the behaviors you want repeated with generous praise and treats. Your best friend will repay you with love and loyalty. You’ll both be winners.

Founded in 1965, Pets In Need receives no federal, state or local government support.

Published in the San Mateo County Times, May 18, 2002

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