Is Your Dog Possessive Over their Toys?

Dog Playing with Pink Toy on Bed

It’s normal for puppies to be a bit possessive over their toys, but when this “greediness” becomes a habit that follows them into adulthood it can be a big problem.

While possessive behavior stems from a dog’s natural instinct to express fear or anxiety over a perceived threat, we as responsible pet parents need to deal with the condition before it gets out of hand.

Read on for some informational tips to curb a dog who is possessive over their toys.

What Does Possessiveness Look Like?

Possessive puppies’ can exhibit nipping, growling and snatching at the toy when you try to remove it from them.  Yet as a pup grows and the behavior becomes more ingrained into his personality, it can become more violent. Symptoms can include:

  • intense growling
  • raising of the upper lip
  • aggressive barking, snapping and lunging
  • biting
  • frenzied behavior when the doorbell rings

A combination of the above behaviors can begin to occur in other situations—for example, someone approaching the dog’s yard or territory—this can easily become a problem for you and your dog.

Two Boxers on Couch with Toys

What Causes Possessiveness in Dogs?

We mentioned earlier that possessiveness in dogs can stem from their natural instincts, but there are other conditions that can contribute to the problem. These include:

  • underlying medical conditions
  • poor socializing as a puppy
  • sexual maturation
  • inbreeding
  • environment 
  • pack order behavior
  • genetic (or normal to the particular dog or breed)

Be sure to rule out any medical problems that may be causing your canine to act out before you try to solve its possessive tendencies.

Chihuahua Surrounded by his Toys

How to Combat Possessiveness in Dogs

Experts are at odds by whether possessive tendencies can really ever be “combatted” in an adult dog. However, they agree that most of the time possessiveness over things such as toys and food can be corrected, controlled or prevented.

The following four points outline some expert’s tips on how to deal with a possessive pooch.

1. Introduction of Good Things to Come

One of the important ways to deal with possessiveness in canines—especially at a young age—is to let them know good things come when a human approaches their food or toys.

According to Cesar Millan, dog training guru, pet parents should use their hands to fill the dog’s bowl with food at mealtimes. If done when your pet is a puppy, it teaches him that when a human “competes” near their feeding bowl, something positive will occur.

This can also be done in training sessions by using a high value treat and placing it towards the bowl or when your dog is playing with his favorite toy.

2. Food, Treats & Toys Must Be Earned

This next tip may be difficult for some pet parents, but it is important if you are going to combat your pup’s possessive tendencies. Food, treats and toys must be earned meaning that your dog or puppy must perform a task before the reward is given. It can be as simple as making your pooch lie down, sit or shake a paw.

This lets your dog know it is not okay to take whatever he wants and that he must work for food and rewards.

In turn, this helps the dog develop self-control, respect and good manners.

3. YOU Are the Boss!

When dogs are being possessive there is a power struggle going on between you and your pet. In order to stop this misbehavior, YOU must be the boss.

This doesn’t mean you hit or yell at your pet until they comply, but rather before rewarding your pooch with food, treats, or toys, you ensure he recognizes that you are the owner—not him.

One tactic that experts recommend is to have your dog wait before allowing him access to his food or belongings. This can be done by standing over the food bowl or item confidently, and not allowing your dog to run for it until he has sat and waited patiently for your permission.

German Shepherd Swimming

4. Teach the Commands “Leave” & “Give”

It’s paramount that all puppies and dogs are taught the “leave” and “give” commands. These are not only helpful in curbing possessiveness, but also very handy if your dog has something in his mouth he shouldn’t or is about to grab something potentially harmful to him.

Once again we look to Cesar Millan for his expert advice on how to perform this task. He states you can teach a dog to respond to the “leave” command when he already has a possession in his mouth. You do this by holding out a treat, then saying the command “leave,” as he lets go of the item and walks towards you, reward him with the treat for his obedience, then remove the item as quickly as possible.

“Give” is another useful command for combatting possessiveness in your dog. Once again, when your dog has a toy in his mouth gently take the toy in your hand without trying to pull it away. Now 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 give him back the toy.

Don’t stop there. Here are the Top 10 Things to Teach Your Dog.

Hire a Professional Trainer

Not all possessive behavior may be able to be combatted through the aforementioned techniques. If your dog is extremely aggressive and shows signs of growling, snapping and biting, then you may want to enlist the help of a professional trainer. These good folks can help you identify what is “eating” your dog and give you a solid plan for easing his tension and aggressive nature.

Two Boxers on Couch with Toys

Possessive Pooch Prevention

It is best to train out possessive behavior in your dog when he is a puppy. This includes using the above tips, socializing your dog to many different situations and having him thoroughly checked by a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health problems.

Be consistent in your training and you will soon have a canine companion that is gentle and happy to give over all his special toys.

Do you think your dog may have ADHD? Check out What is ADHDog? A Solution to Your Hyperactive Dog, That’s What!”


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