Possessive Dogs

Recently I have had several owners contact me about their possessive dogs. This problem is usually described by the owner as the dog growls whenever it steals something and the owner tries to get it back. So I am going to give you some tips to prevent this situation and some advice on how to deal with the situation when it does arise.

It must be noted that the gun dog breeds are particularly prone to possessive aggression as they have been selectively bred to carry things in their mouths. With this in mind it is important for all owners of gun dog breeds to leave a couple of articles around the place for the dog to pick up when it greets you.

  • Play with the puppy/dog with several different types of toys, toys can be anything that the dog wants.
  • When the dog steals something, wait a minute or so. Do not react immediately because if you do you are teaching the dog to steal for the attention it receives as a game of chase ensues. Never ever chase a dog. It has four legs you only have two
  • Initially ignore and then if you feel you cannot ignore the situation, either distract the dog with another play article or offer it a tit-bit.
  • The easiest way to prevent possessive aggression is to teach the dog to trade it’s possession for another, therefore it does not need to worry about loosing the prize, instead the dog receives a greater prize. Therefore it learns to come and show you what it has stolen in order to trade up!
  • Yes this is rewarding the dog for stealing. However I would much prefer my dog to show me what it has stolen, than go off and hide with the item, which may be fatal to the dog or very valuable to me.
  • By teaching the dog that fair exchange is not robbery, you are laying the foundations of a dog that will happily come to you and give you what it has in its mouth in exchange for something else. Otherwise known has a retrieve.
  • Please remember that it is a very natural behaviour for a dog to explore the world through it’s mouth, so it is up to you the owner to remove potential valuable/ harmful items and also to provide the dog with plenty of interesting safe items for the dog to explore and chew on. A dog can only steal what you have neglected to put away.
  • Never ever pursue a dog if it goes under or behind something, as in the dog’s mind, it has won the game of possession and will growl to defend it’s prize.
  • If this happens leave the dog alone, momentarily and try and find a tasty morsel and throw it away from the dog so it has to leave the item in order to get the food. If the item is not important or dangerous to the dog, just leave it alone. Do not create a situation where your dog has to growl at you. If you react… You are teaching the dog how to be aggressive!!!
  • Never ever slap a dog for stealing, teach him to retrieve instead. For this you must always have two toys/items. Both articles should be of equal value to the dog. Remember fair exchange is not robbery.