How to Train Your Dog to Not Be Possessive

Easy
4-8 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

Now that your pup is headed towards adulthood, this is the time when he starts to pack on a little extra weight and gain a few inches in height. Unfortunately, it is also the time at which many dogs start to become more possessive of just about everything. It may start out with a little bit of possessiveness with his toys, but at this point, he starts to show this same possessive attitude towards his food, his pack (family), and his territory.

To a certain extent, this type of behavior is instinctive, but if left unchecked can lead to serious problems as it progresses. These issues can include things like growling, nipping, snapping, or in the worst-case scenario, biting you, a member of your family, or other animals. With this in mind, training your dog not to be possessive is a very important task, one that could save someone from serious injury or your dog from being put down. 

Defining Tasks

Allowing your dog to become possessive can put everyone at risk, including your dog. It is a behavior that should be addressed from the moment you start feeding your pup instead of his mother. The earlier you establish your role as pack leader and his as just another member of the pack, the faster he will learn just about anything you try to teach him.

Perhaps the most important thing you need to learn before you try to train your pup not to be possessive is how to recognize the signs of possessiveness. Think of it like this: your dog won't always drop his ball when you tell him to, sometimes you have to tell him several times. But, you pass it off as just his way of playing. What it really is, is a sign of possessive behavior. Others include growling at other pets when holding a toy, snapping at other pets when eating, hoarding toys and treats, and jealous behavior. 

Getting Started

It's really not that hard to train your dog to stop being possessive if you start at a very early age. But if you have waited until your pup has started to show signs of this type of behavior or have adopted a dog who already has developed it, there are many things you can do. There are a few things you just might need to help your training sessions go a little faster and more successfully.

  • Treats
  • Leash
  • Food and bowl
  • Toys

Also, keep in mind that this type of training always goes better when you have a quiet place to train in. And be sure you have a plentiful supply of patience and time if you want your training to be successful.

Training your dog to not be possessive can take very little effort when he is a puppy. But, as he gets older and the behavior becomes steadily worse, training your dog is only going to get harder. The good news is that you can teach most dogs not to behave this way, for some it might just take a little longer than others. 

The Stake Your Claim Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
The bait
For this, you need to gather up his favorite toys, his food bowl, and food. They will be used to teach your pup patience and non-reactive behavior.
Step
2
Show
Call your dog over and show him the toy or food bowl with food in it. But don't let him touch it.
Step
3
Tell
If your dog tries to jump for the toy, tell him "No" and make him sit again. If he remains calm, go ahead and give him the toy. This shows him that nothing in life comes without a price and that he has to work for what he wants.
Step
4
Repeat the process
The hardest part is that you need to repeat this as often as you can. For example, every time you see your pup with his toy, walk over and take the toy away from him. If he growls or tries to grab it, make him sit. Then give him the toy when he has calmed down.
Step
5
Add distractions and let others help
When your pup has mastered the behavior with you, try bringing in others as distractions and keep working with him. Finally, start letting other members of the family in on the training until everyone can approach him and not have to worry about possessive behavior.
Recommend training method?

The Conversation Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Stand and question
When your dog has his face buried in the food bowl eating ,stand a few feet away and start talking gently to him. You might say something like "Hey what ya got there?" Stay put, but keep your tone conversational. Keep repeating this every few seconds until he has finished eating. Do this over the course of 10 meals until your pup remains relaxed while he is eating.
Step
2
Step up
Keep up the conversation, but today take one step towards your pup, toss a treat up to the bowl, and back off. Continue this until you are only a couple of feet away from him. Once he has mastered being relaxed at this stage, time to move on.
Step
3
Getting so much closer
This time, walk slowly all the way up until you are standing next to your dog and his bowl. Ask him the usual question, and drop a treat in his bowl. Turn and immediately walk away from him. Again, repeat for 10 meals and he remains relaxed.
Step
4
By my hand...
This time, walk up to your pup while he is eating using the same conversation. Stand next to him with a treat in your hand, bend down just a little bit and hold the treat out to your pup, encourage him to stop for a moment and take the treat. Once he takes the treat, walk away immediately. Repeat this process, bending down further each time until you can hold the treat right next to his bowl without trouble for ten meals in a row.
Step
5
The touch
Today, walk up to your pup using the same conversational tone, stand next to him, bend over, and touch his bowl while offering him a treat with the other hand. Touch his bowl every few seconds until he is finished eating. When you can do this for ten consecutive meals, move on.
Step
6
The final stage
While your dog is eating his meal, walk up to him using the same phrase, reach down and pick up his bowl. Lift it no more than 6 inches off the ground and put a treat in it, put it back down immediately. Do this several times, raising the bowl higher each time until you can lift the bowl up to waist high and can then take it and put it on the counter. Don't forget to put a treat in the bowl and return it back to the ground. Repeat this process with every member of your family.
Recommend training method?

The Desensitization Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
The leash
Hook your pup up to his leash (a long leash or extending leash works best).
Step
2
Rolling, rolling, rolling, rawhide
Give your pup a nice rawhide to chew on and leave the room. Give him time to get into chewing on it.
Step
3
Come on back
Time to go back into the room with one of his favorite treats in your hand. Walk towards your pup, but stop just before he decides to growl at you. Toss the treat so that it lands near his head. Walk away from him.
Step
4
No, no don't leave me!
The idea is that you want your pup to think, "No don't leave me, I want more of those yummy treats!" Remember you must use a treat he values more than the rawhide he is chewing on.
Step
5
Repeat
The rest is up to you, repeat this training on a daily basis over the course of several weeks until you (or anyone else in your family) can approach him without him reacting. Once you have trained him not to react over a rawhide, he should associate this behavior with his food bowl and his toys.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
zoey
mixe shepard
2 Years
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Question
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zoey
mixe shepard
2 Years

My dog is not possessive towards me - it's with other pets - she thinks everything is hers and will attack our other dogs for just getting near things - tried to kill a much smaller pet for no reason - just being near a water bowl. Need help or I will have to get rid of her.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
706 Dog owners recommended

Hello Dolores, So sorry you are dealing with this. Unfortunately correcting that issue is beyond the scope of my writing here. You need a professional trainer or behaviorist with significant experience dealing with aggression. I would have to be there with you in person to effectively and safely help you with this. The fact that she has tried to kill another pet makes this very serious. What you can do in the mean time is to get her used to wearing a basket muzzle and keep that on her whenever the other pets are around. This will protect them and allow you to safely intervene if she tries to attack them. This will also allow you to safely correct her bad attitude and reward her tolerance of the other pets. She also probably needs to be put on a strict obedience and manners protocol to adjust her attitude, so that she views you as the leader and is not trying to control the other dogs. You can also reward her through the holes of the muzzle any time that the other dogs are around and receiving something that she wants and she is being tolerant. Lastly, she will need to be corrected for the aggression in a safe and effective way that communicates clearly how she should behave instead, so that she is learning alternate behaviors, such as laying down calmly instead of going toward another dog out of aggression. For that process you will need the help of a trainer who has experience working with high drive, reactive, and aggressive dogs. Someone who handles breeds commonly used in the military and understands drive training and combines both positive reinforcement and fair corrections is what I would recommend you look for in your case. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Millie
Working show Cocker Spaniel
3 Years
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Question
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Millie
Working show Cocker Spaniel
3 Years

Millie is not silly. I would say she is a clever dog. I don’t mean that in a big headed way just that she loves to help and do things with you and for you. She will fetch the post , fetch my slippers after a walk and lots of other things. Which should make this easy to sort but I am not sure of the correct way to deal with it. She for some reason will get possessive of objects around the house. My daughters slipper or a small item of clothing or certain shoes. She will take it and growl when approached. How do I approach her to retrieve the item correctly and then try and prevent it happening again.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
706 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jackie, First of all find a thick padded jacket, some thick gloves, small, easy to eat treats, a properly fitted pinch collar, a six foot leash, and several different long toys and items that your dog likes to varying degrees. Put the pinch collar on her and show your dog one of the items and let her take it into her mouth while you are holding onto the other end while wearing gloves. After a minute, tell him to "Drop It". If she obeys, then take it away and hide it behind her back, give her a treat, and then immediately give her another toy that she likes even better and repeat the same thing with that toy. If she will not drop the item, then press your fingers into the back of her mouth where her jaws meet one another with your gloved hand. Doing this should cause her to open her mouth up. If she snaps at you and acts aggressive, then give a quick tug on the pinch collar with your other free, gloved hand and tell her "Ah Ah!". When she lets go of the item, either willingly or when you open up her mouth, then give her a treat and another toy in it's place. Practice this until she will always let go of the item that you are still holding onto without aggression when you tell her to "Drop It". When she can do that, then practice giving him an item and letting go of it in between "Drop It" commands. After you have practiced all of this and she will consistently let go of any item you practice it with, then when she has something that she should not have, put on your gloves, grab another toy and a treat, and practice the same routine with her, trading her the new toy for the item that she has. If she tends to run away from you when you go to her, then leave a six foot check cord attached to her buckle collar while you are at home to supervise her, until she learns not to run away. A check cord is simply a leash without a handle, that is less likely to get caught on things. It is very important to always trade or reward dogs for giving you items, even if you forced her to give it to you. This helps to build trust, and a lack of trust and respect can lead to possessiveness. It is just as important to stand your ground in a safe way with a dog that tries to use aggression to get what she wants. If your dog nips at you in order to keep a toy, then backing away from her and letting her keep the toy teaches your dog that aggression is effective at getting her what she wants. You should always be extremely careful while addressing any form of aggression though. Which is why you need padding and gloves to protect yourself from a bite. The padding allows you to follow through on insisting that she gives you the item. The leash and the pinch collar also allow you to give a slight correction without being right in her face if she protests you taking it. The goal is to prevent the need to correct her all the time by practicing the "Drop It" command with your dog and rewarding her compliance with treats and toys, so that she will learn not to feel the need to protect her items from you in every day life. If you are still having issues after trying these techniques or feel uncomfortable doing any of this, then look for a local trainer in your area with lots of experience dealing with aggressive, fearful, and reactive dog behaviors. Do not trust someone who tells you to simply take items from your dog all the time without also giving an item back to your dog. Taking items from your dog all the time, without rewarding your dog for it can actually make possessiveness worse. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Maverick
Labrador Retriever
2 Years
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Question
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Maverick
Labrador Retriever
2 Years

My dog has began to growl at me when he is in our bed if I try to talk to my boyfriend. It has only happened twice but I want to do everything to make it stop before it gets worse

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
706 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ashlee, First, it's always a good idea to hire a professional trainer who specializes in aggression and will come to your home to guide the training whenever dealing with aggression. It sounds like pup is resource guarding people and possibly the bed. Begin crate training pup and pup is no lonher allowed on the bed. Period. Pup sleeps in the crate now. It is generally fine in most cases for a dog to sleep on the bed if everyone is sleep fine and there are no associated behavior issues, but when any form of aggression/possessive behavior is present the bed is immediately not okay anymore. Also, work on some less confrontational ways to build pup's over all respect for all the humans in the house. Pup is being possessive of you guys and the bed, which essentially means that he thinks he owns people and things and is trying to control who interacts with 'his' stuff. His entire attitude with you needs to change, but that should be done with calmness, consistency, and boundaries to best avoid a bite. Place - work up to pup doing 1-2 hours on Place at a time. You can give a food stuffed chew toy on Place, but building that level of calm respect and impulse control is important, and Place is a very good, non-confrontation, calm way to practice that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Crate manners - this should be practiced often outside of bedtime too. https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-the-crate/ Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method (Walks should always look like him walking slightly behind you, nose at your knee. When there is respect issues, pup doesn't get to lead the way and things have to be structured): https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Working and Consistency methods: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Off - getting down from furniture - practice this to teach it, then keep a drag leash on pup to calmly enforce it when he won't obey after the command is know. Pup may need to wear a basket muzzle while out of the crate for a while if he displays any aggression when you try to enforce commands - work with a trainer on how to safely implement the training best of their evaluation of pup in person: https://wagwalking.com/training/get-down Decide what the boundaries in your home need to be right now with him and enforce them very consistently. Follow through on commands that you give - which might mean having him wear a drag leash around the house so that you can calmly pick up the end of the leash and lead him somewhere when he ignores an Out, Place, Come, ect...command. Not giving him food, affection or toys without him performing a command like Sit first, and definitely not giving him what he wants when he barks, nudges, climbs into your lap uninvited, pushes his way into somewhere, ect.. Making him wait patiently for your "Okay" before eating his dinner (or hand feeding and making him work for each piece by doing a command first if resource issues with food crop up at all), and waiting for "Okay" before he can go through the door to go outside - just teaching him to be respectful of your instruction, space, and leadership with a calm and confident attitude on your end. The best way to gain a dog's respect is also with a no-nonsense, super calm, confident attitude. Acting angry, loud, feeling sorry for pup, or indecisive are less effective. When you give a command, expect pup to obeg and be ready to very calmly enforce that command with consistency (with the proper safety measures like a drag leash or basket muzzle in place where needed to avoid a bite) Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Barry
Border Collie
11 Years
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Question
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Barry
Border Collie
11 Years

I foster an 11 year old border collie male that collect toys on his bed and will growl and bark loudly when I try to take them. He stole a roll of paper towel and will not stop growling and barking because I was close to him. My question is how am i suppose to react when he does that? Should I scold him and force him to leave the bed?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
92 Dog owners recommended

Hello, this could be resource guarding. The fact that he growls and barks means to me that you should assess whether the item really needs to be taken from the dog. For the toys, I would just let it be. Guarding is often a natural behavior and unless the item Barry is guarding is dangerous, I wouldn't cause tension over it. For an item like a paper towel roll, it is not ideal, so you could try and trade the paper towel for another item, such as a treat. The best solution with a dog that likes to guard is to dog-proof the home so that he cannot get anything that will present a danger to him. Put things out of his reach (like remote controls, medication, food items, trash cans, etc). If you don't want him guarding your shoes or purse, keep them in the closet, and so on. I would not scold or have Barry leave the bed because the situation could escalate. You don't know his past and it's best to try and work with him as best you can without confrontation. You can work with Barry on the guarding issues. There are excellent tips here:https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-dog-with-guarding-issues. Read the guide all the way through and there should be tips that will work with Barry's personality. The Avoidance Method may be a good one. All the best!

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Question
Nico
Dachshund mix
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Nico
Dachshund mix
2 Years

My dog has started to show possessiveness over his humans and treats with other dogs. It mostly happens in a certain part of a park we go to, but also happens when interacting with other dogs at restaurants or in our apartment building. Right now it is just growling and snarling, but we want to stop this before it goes further. This is not against humans just other dogs.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
706 Dog owners recommended

Hello Robyn, Possessive behavior of people is in part often related to a lack of respect for you, so I suggest working on pup's respect for you in general too. Check out the article linked below and the three methods I recommend following. Respect and consistency: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you I also recommend working on commands that will build respect, increase listening to you, and help you manage pup's behavior better. Work on pup's heel, Come, Out, and Leave It commands to give you better control of the situation and communication with pup, plus pup working on their self-control and calmness. When out with pup, especially practice a structured heel to get them into a calm, more respectful, following mindset with you around others. Come: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Heel - Turns method - start with pup on leash and once they have mastered that, use a long training leash and gradually practice this around distractions like dogs on the long leash too, so that pup feels off-leash but you can still enforce the command until they are consistent at it. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - leave the area command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Working with a trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression, and comes well recommended by their clients, I also recommend desensitizing pup to other dogs being around you and food while they are present. This is going to look like rewarding pup for calm responses around other dogs in these situations, starting at a distance pup can tolerate with the trainer's well mannered dogs, and gradually decreasing distance to mimic the real life scenarios pup encounters as pup improves. Pup will need to be carefully interrupted, ideally remotely for safety reasons, whenever they display any possessive behavior - as soon as subtle signs of it show up, not waiting until pup reacts strongly, and there will need to be safety measures like pup being on a back tie leash to that they can't get to another dog and aren't close enough to a person to redirect any possible aggression toward the person - which is someone some dogs do when aroused even if they are normally completely fine with people. The risk of redirecting is one of many reasons to hire professional help for this part, but also be aware of that possibility while practicing other training at a distance from other dogs. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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