How to Stop a Dog From Growling Over Possessions

by Mary Lougee
    "You can't have this, I'm recycling it."

    "You can't have this, I'm recycling it."

    Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

    Your dog may display growling over possessions, especially coveted items that he should not have and does not want you to take from him. Possession aggression or resource guarding stems from wild ancestors who were competitive for food and nesting sites. With proper training, you can transform your growling, guarding four-legged friend into a sweet dog who allows you to take his possessions without a sound. Your pooch will learn that you are not a threat and he will be calmer to provide you with extra cuddling time together.

    Toy Aggression

    Step 1

    Walk into a room armed with tasty dog treats where your furry friend is playing with or chewing on a toy or bone. Walk toward him while holding a treat out so he can see and smell it. Strong-smelling beef or chicken treats work well for this training technique.

    Step 2

    Toss a treat close to his nose when he growls as you approach him. Repeat tossing the treats to him as you move closer. He should allow you to come closer to him each time to receive a treat that is higher in value to him than the toy.

    Step 3

    Hold a treat out in your hand near his nose when he allows you to stand next to him. Remove the toy or bone from him quickly while he occupies himself with the treat. Give him lots of praise for not growling and several treats. Your pet will soon realize that you are not taking anything from him without replacing it with something that he perceives to be of a higher quality item.

    Step 4

    Pick up all of your dog’s toys and bones. Place them in a basket and set it up high, out of reach from your dog.

    Step 5

    Give your dog one toy or bone to play with if he comes to you and wants a toy. This exercise shows him you’re the boss and the toys actually belong to you, not him.

    Step 6

    Pick a toy up if it is just lying on the floor and your pooch is not playing with it and has no interest in that particular item at the time. Place the toy back into the basket.

    Food Aggression

    Step 1

    Walk by your dog’s food bowl several times a day and drop a small dog treat into it. He will come to realize that you give him rewards in his dish and will allow you near it to receive them.

    Step 2

    Place his empty dog food bowl on the floor while holding his food in a separate dish or bowl. Remain standing and tell him to “sit.” When he sits and is quiet, pour his dog food in the bowl and remain standing near it. If he is growling profusely, walk away from the area. The idea is to desensitize him to your presence near his food, but not to get hurt.

    Step 3

    Grab a handful of treats and toss them into or near his bowl as you approach him while he is eating. Toss additional treats to him as you walk closer to him each time. Continue becoming closer and providing treats until he is quiet when you are next to him and his food. Eventually, when your dog is calm and eating, pet him with one hand and drop treats into his bowl with the other hand.

    Step 4

    Call your dog to you while he is eating with a fragrant dog treat in your hand. Give him the reward when he comes to you. He will realize that you are not trying to steal his food and that it is OK to leave his food bowl during mealtime. Most humans don’t care much for kibble anyway, but he may not know that.

    Step 5

    Sit on the floor near the food bowl. Hand-feed your dog a meal by giving him a handful of food at a time, but do not put food in his bowl. This shows him that you are the owner of the food and are allowing him to eat it. He must see you as the pack leader to stop growling over possessions.

    Items You Will Need

    • Dog toys and bones
    • Basket
    • Dog treats
    • Dog bowl
    • Dog food
    • Leash (optional)

    Tips

    • If you have a large or very aggressive pet, place a leash on your dog before he plays with toys or has a meal. Have a helper pull him away from a toy or his food when you tell him “give it” and pick up the toy or food dish.
    • Teaching your pet to stop growling aggressively over possessions allows you to take harmful things from him when he is chomping on them.

    Warnings

    • If you adopt a dog with severe aggression, enlist the help of a professional so you don’t get hurt.
    • Squash possession aggression at an early age with a puppy. It may seem cute to hear him growl and guard things, but the problem will grow if you don’t' squelch it quickly.
    • Never threaten or scream at a dog who is guarding items. This will only make his aggression become worse. Instead, train him to give up possessions without growling.

    Photo Credits

    • Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Mary Lougee has been writing since 2004 and specializes in pets with publications in "Modern Dog" and "Pet Planet." Lougee gained extensive pet knowledge and expertise in care and rehabilitation, built a farm, and cares for rescue animals from small to large. She holds a bachelor's degree in management.

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