Most dogs have a natural urge to protect what is theirs. Dogs can become very stingy when it comes to things like toys, their bed, food items, bones and household items.
In most cases this natural urge does not create any issues in the household because the dog either moves away from them when the owner approaches, or the urge to protect is not that strong and they willingly give up the item. Like children, dogs often need to be taught to share.
In some situations though, the urge is very strong and the dog will fight against anyone entering his space, with determination to hold onto what he believes to be his possession. This is usually where Bark Busters trainers are called in to help solve the behavior. We have lots of ways we can assist dog owners.
These tendencies to protect what is theirs can also begin when they are a young puppy and where an over-zealous owner plays chasing games with their puppy. It’s fun and the puppy appears to like it.
The Games People Play – Let’s say your puppy has a brand new shoe of yours in his mouth. You may think to chase him. In the pup’s mind that item has become a much ‘sought after’ item and if the game ends with the puppy keeping possession, then the puppy thinks his has won.
This game can turn into a slightly different game, where the puppy sees something on the ground, a sock or a child’s toy, and he sees that the human is about to pick it up, so he grabs it first and away he bounds. The chase is on once more!
Games like this have turned into a situation where an owner drops something, the dog grabs it and runs under the furniture and is refusing to give it up.
Aggression Can Raise its Ugly Head – As the puppy grows and matures, this game can turn into a serious situation where the dog begins to anticipate that when he picks something up in the home, that their human will want that item and the old game ‘of catch me if you can’ is about to start. Now the grown or adolescent dog might take things to another level, starting to growl or snap at the approaching hand. If the human quickly withdraws its hand the dog sees this as a victory. Now the dog is in control – if he growls – he becomes the king of the household.
The Moral of the Story is Obvious – Regardless of how much your puppy or dog appears to love this game, don’t play chasing games with your puppy. It is not the way to demonstrate to your dog that you are his leader.
The leader always leads. Any game you play must be a game that places you in a position of authority and where the dog takes his lead from you, not the other way round.
Always play the kind of games where you are in charge and ‘hold all the cards’, such as fetch or tug-of-war, where you end up with the item.
Vicki and Richard Horowitz, of Woodbridge, are dog behavioral therapists and trainers with Bark Busters, the world’s largest dog training company. For more information, call 1-877-500-BARK (2275) or visit www.dog-training-new-haven-ct.com.