Dogs and Possessive Aggression

By Valdette Muller| July 2, 2018 | Blog

It is quite normal for dogs to be protective over things they see as a valued resource, such as food, toys and people.

However this is different to a dog becoming unstably aggressive towards you and other pets in order to protect what they value.

Although a dog who protects their possessions and family may be necessary for its survival in the wild, it becomes unacceptable behaviour when directed toward people or other pets in a household.

Possessive behaviour happens when your dog “lays claim” to any particular resource, such as a toy, a bed, food or you. Undesirable objects, such as rubbish that has been stolen from the garbage bin can also become “too much” of a highly valued prize for your dog.

Signs of possessive behaviour:

Some possessive behaviour may not be disruptive to you or your household. However, these small signs can grow into bigger issues.

  • Ignoring you or refusing to give up a toy or treat when asked to.
  • Snapping at other pets or humans while eating.
  • Hoarding toys or treats to a “safe” location.
  • Growling and bearing their teeth at other pets or humans while holding a valued item such as a toy.
  • “Jealous dog” behaviour such as head-butting another pet who is currently being petted by you.

What makes my dog so possessive?

Possessiveness can be a big genetic component as well, and is found significantly in certain breeds or lines of dogs such as the English Cocker Spaniel, the Border Collie, the Rottweiler, the Jack Russell and the Golden Retriever.

The feeling of insecurity can have a large part to play in possessive behaviour.  A history of deep insecurity or fear, such as the fear of losing control of a valued item or environment.

Behind a dog’s possessive impulse is an over-sensitive perception of threat or paranoia which usually can be aggravated by stress and a lack of safetydeprivation or abuse in their first weeks of life as a puppy.

How to prevent possessive behaviours.

Do not fight fire with fire:

A common reason why possession aggression escalates is because some dog owners physically punish their dogs, or try to forcibly remove the ‘guarded item’ from the dog’s possession. This in turn forces the dog to become even more aggressive, in an attempt to defend itself. Very few owners ever gain anything from head-to-head physical battles like this, other than nasty injuries, plus a dog who becomes even more dangerous to be around.

Teach from young:

Puppies need to be taught from young not be afraid of sharing their toys and food with other pets or you as the owner. If a puppy is eating, calmly approaching and talking softly while petting and dropping small food treats into their bowl may help some puppies learn that your approach is nonthreatening. Play with your puppy when they play with their toys, allowing them to fetch toys and bring them to you helps them get used to playing with others and sharing toys.

Control their environment:

The most immediate way to control your dog’s possessive behaviour is to prevent them from having access to the things that your dog guards. If your dog is possessive over “certain high-value” items, the easiest solution is to not bring those items home. If your dog is only possessive in certain situations, you can manage when and where you let your dog have valuable treats and toys. Some dogs guard their food bowl if another animal is around, but have no problem eating in a room alone.

Training is important:

Sometimes, a possessive dog may need a basic obedience refresher course. Training takes time and patience, but if you are consistent, you and your dog will breathe easier. Training your dog also teaches that all resources comes from people.

 

Sources: https://www.yourdog.co.uk/dog-care-and-advice/your-dog-training/why-is-my-dog-possessive/

http://www.rspcavic.org/health-and-behaviour/dogs/possessive-of-toys-and-food

 

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