In a past post, I wrote about how to deal with food aggression. Today, I will talk about TOY aggression. Both are types of resource guarding in which your dog is exhibiting signs of aggression towards humans or other pets that approach your dog when it's in possession of something highly desirable. At first, this can seem somewhat tame and a little bit annoying, but if not dealt with, it can lead to a dangerous situation for all humans and pets involved.
Signs That Your Dog May be Resource Guarding:
When you (or another pet) approaches your dog when in possession of a prized object, do they:
- Refuse to give it up when asked?
- Hoard all toys and treats sometimes hiding them?
- Exhibit jealous behavior like butting another dog out of the way when you are petting the other dog (Congratulations! You are the prized object!)?
If you answered "Yes" to any of these, your dog is exhibiting signs of resource guarding. At first, some of these may seem cute (jealous behavior) or just downright annoying, but if you don't deal with them as a serious issue, you will have a serious issue on your hands. It can escalate very quickly.
Reasons Dogs Resource Guard:
- Resource guarding is a natural instinct for dogs when they need to express anxiety or fear over a perceived threat. Do you have multiple dogs in the house? Is there anxiety and stress within the "pack"? Is one dog constantly "bullying" another dog? These are all things you need to observe within your household. It may also have to do with two-legged family members and not just other animals. Assess the environment.
- Medical Condition
- Poor socialization as a puppy
- Genetics-- resource guarding can be a normal behavior for specific breeds
- Pack order behavior-- Again, this plays in to assessing your environment and the stress within your "pack" (human or animals). You should be the "pack leader" in your household and it's your job to maintain a calm, stress-free pack. Even though dogs do not speak human, they do pick up on our emotions. If you are feeling angry, stressed or depressed, your dog will pick up on this. They may not know the "Why" for these feelings, but they know something is not right.
Ok, so now that we have all of this out of the way and may have identified the problem, what do we do? There are specific things your can do specifically for food aggression. You can read about that here. But, today we are talking about TOY aggression.
- First and foremost-- YOU ARE THE BOSS. That does not mean you become the pack bully. That means you are the one in control in a calm, assertive manner. Before you give your dog anything, whether it be food or a toy, have them work for it. This involves placing said object on the floor and standing over it. Have Fido either, sit and stay, lay, roll over, shake whatever you choose as long as they are not running towards the object and trying to grab it (or gobble it!) as fast as they can.
- Teach your dog how to "drop it" and "leave it". Training a dog these manners are a must. Someday, they could potentially save your dog's life.
- Prevent access to prized object that your dog constantly hoards and causes aggression. Just don't bring it home. Or if you do, your dog should only have this object when by themselves in a calm quiet place like their kennel. Honestly, this tip really doesn't solve the problem. It just kind of masks the problem and makes your life easier for the time being.
- If you are in the moment of your dog hoarding something, cause a diversion in order to get the dog away from the object. This can be something like ringing the doorbell, a ride in the car, or going for a walk. You could also give them a really enticing treat. If you do go the treat route, make sure you slowly lure the dog away from the prized object a good 15-20 feet before giving the treat. Do not give it to them right by the object!
All in all, always remember that children should never be involved with "helping" a dog that is aggressively hoarding. If it gets to the point in which your dog is growling, snarling, snapping, lunging and biting, you need to get a professional dog behaviorist to help.