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

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 Trainier
78 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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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 Trainier
78 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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