As your puppy becomes an adult dog, he will probably pack on a few pounds, sprout a few inches, and cool some of that frenetic energy. You may also notice an increase in possessive tendencies — what started as possessiveness of toys has escalated to a possessive attitude towards food, territory, and family members.
While this behavior stems from a natural instinct to express anxiety or fear over a perceived threat, it can lead to serious problems in the future — possessive dogs may eventually resort to growling, snapping, and even biting to keep other humans and animals away.
So it’s crucial to address the behavior in its early stages, making it clear that you’re the Pack Leader. Here are a few tips on how to prevent and correct possessive behaviors:
Introduce the promise of good things
One tactic for putting a stop to protective tendencies in a dog is to teach him that good things happen when other humans or animals approach their food or belongings from a young age.
Use your hands to fill your dog’s bowl with food at mealtimes, so the puppy learns that when others come near their feeding bowl, something positive will occur. You can also bring a high value treat toward the bowl with your hand while the dog is eating.
Reward patience and good behavior
You can help your dog develop self-control, respect, and good behaviors by teaching your pup that food, treats, and toys must be earned.
Before serving meals, handing over treats, or giving up toys, have your dog perform a task, such as sitting or lying down. This lets your dog know it is not okay to take whatever he wants, and he must work for food and rewards.
Before giving food, treats, or toys to your dog, ensure she recognizes that you are the owner — not her. One tactic for asserting ownership is to have your dog wait before accessing her food or belongings. Stand over the food bowl or item confidently, and do not allow her to run for it until she has sat and waited patiently for your permission.
Teach “leave” and “give” commands
You can teach a dog to respond to the “leave” command when he has possession of something in his mouth. Hold out a treat, and call out the command “leave” as he lets go of the item and walks towards you. Reward him with the treat for his obedience, and remove the item as quickly as possible.
“Give” is another useful command for combatting possessiveness in your dog. You can teach your dog to give when he has a toy in his mouth. Gently take the toy in your hand without trying to pull it away. With your other hand, show your puppy some treats. When he lets go of the item to take the treats, speak the command “Give”. Reward him with the treat, and let him have the toy back.
When to consult with a trainer
It’s important to remember that the aforementioned tips should only be attempted when your dog is exhibiting mild possessive tendencies. If your dog has escalated the behavior and exhibits signs of aggression, such as growling, snapping, or biting, do not attempt to correct this on your own. Consult with an expert, who will be able to help you determine the root of your dog’s possessive aggression and develop an effective training program to combat it.
What are the things, spots, or persons your dog is possessive over? Tell us in the comments.