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

ribbon-method-1
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

ribbon-method-2
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

ribbon-method-3
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
Bacon
Pekingese
10 Years
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Question
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Bacon
Pekingese
10 Years

We recently adopted a puppy (male) and Bacon has become very possessive of the puppy. At first it was just he needed to always be next to him, since the puppy was neutered Bacon has now turned towards wanting to hump him and will growl and snap at humans if they get to close or try to pick the puppy up. We have another dog (female) that Bacon did not do this with. It is too the point that he no longer eats or plays like he use to because he needs to focus and “protect” the puppy always. Any recommendations on how to correct this behavior, Bacon is not neutered so we look into having him fixed?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1012 Dog owners recommended

Hello Christine, At this point I recommend hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues and has experience both with possessive/aggressive behavior (this is similar to resource guarding, not as much protective), and who has experience with obsessive compulsiveness. I suspect pup needs a combination of their respect for you built to deal with pup's overall lack of respect for you that can effect pup resource guarding the pup from you. Pup's obsessiveness of the puppy interrupted. Low level remote collar training might be warranted in this case, so pup's obsessiveness and fixation can be interrupted without as much direct confrontation by you, along with proactively practicing commands like Out (leave the area where the puppy is), Leave It, and Place being taught and rewarded when pup obeys. So pup is hovering around the puppy, is told Out, and then corrected if they don't obey the known command, and is rewarded if they do obey. This helps to give pup structure and a clear understanding of what's acceptable and not, with the ability to calmly enforce those rules with less risk of a bite. If pup has a history of redirecting their aggression toward the puppy, or trying to control the puppy's movements with aggression, a basket muzzle should also be introduced ahead of time using treats. Check out James Penrith from Take the Lead Dog Training and Thomas Davis from the Canine Educator on youtube to learn a bite more about this type of training. Once pup's unwanted behavior is addressed and pup starts offering more acceptable behaviors and relaxed body language when someone is near the puppy, you would then also reward pup for those better behaviors, to show pup that you want more of that and help condition pup to respond in those desirable ways more often, this also helps to change pup's emotional response around the puppy, to a more relaxed, less controlling response too. Neutering may or may not help. At pup's age, I would speak with your vet about the safety of neutering. I am not a vet and do not know pup's health history, so I cannot advise on that area. Sometimes neutering can help. Some dogs seem to be particularly attractive to other dogs regardless of whether they are neutered or not. A dog can also be obsessive about many things and resource guard many things. Sometimes hormones can increase those tendencies, but often even when neutering takes the intensity of it away, making it easier to train, it still requires training and behavior modification to improve significantly. Neutering can in some cases may the training process easier though. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Walter
Mini Dahshund
5 Months
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Question
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Walter
Mini Dahshund
5 Months

Walter is becoming possessive over his other mini dachshund friend at the dog park. He is always trying to hump this dog (another male) and when other dogs come near him while he's trying to hump he growls and snarls at them. We typically pick him up and try to get him to sniff both dogs and be calm but often have to just remove him from the situation (leave the dog park completely). Is there a better way you recommend curbing this behavior?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1012 Dog owners recommended

Hello Nicole, In addition to intervening at the dog park, I would also work on teaching him Out and Leave It. If you are friends with the other dog's owner and can get together with them outside of the dog park also, I would have some play dates with the two dogs together where you practice the pups' obedience around each other, like heeling and one dog practicing stay while the other practices come, with both on padded harnesses and long training leashes so you can be ready to enforce those commands when they jump up to play with the other dog. Basically, you want to encourage more calmness and structure in their relationship with each other, whereas right now there is a lot of arousal it sounds like. You also want to increase pup's respect for you, and solidify pup listening to you around the other dog, so pup sees you as in charge so they are less likely to try to own something that you "own" while around others. This should be done in a way that rewards pup's focus on you and willingness to disengage from the other dog, not just constantly interrupting pup without rewarding when pup comes - otherwise pup may start guarding the other dog with you too. General respect building methods for you and pup to practice at home: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Come - Reel in method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall I would also interrupt any humping attempts because those will feed into pup's overall obsession, possessiveness, and arousal - it's a bit like an obsession for pup if he starts doing it and continues it for a while. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Kody
Golden Doodle
9 Months
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Question
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Kody
Golden Doodle
9 Months

My dog is good at sitting and I make him stay and sit before I give him food, but when it comes to him playing with a toy or grabbing something from the ground, if I try taking it from his mouth or even go close to the toy, he will aggressively bite me and anyone who does the same. I need to fix this fast

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
253 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Because this is a complex issue with no direct and simple answer, I am sending you a link to a very informative article that goes over this in great detail. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/resource-guarding-why-does-my-dog-guard-objects/

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Question
Nico
Dachshund mix
2 Years
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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
1012 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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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
104 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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