Possession Prevention in Puppies
By Anthony De Marinis, CDBC, CBATI, VSPDT, TTWC, VSA-DT
Possession behavior, also known as “resource guarding”, is a natural survival behavior that all animals display, including humans. These behaviors can be normal and mild, but they can escalate and become quite dangerous if not addressed appropriately. To learn more about resource guarding, take a look at my blog post Resource Guarding In Dogs.
For new puppy owners, it is of utmost importance to prevent possession problems from occurring. Many owners and even some professionals are under the impression that we should show our puppies who is the boss by sticking our hands into the puppies food bowl while they are eating or reaching over and grabbing a bone out of the puppies mouth. However, this is false. In fact, this can actually cause resource guarding behaviors to surface or get worse over time. This is because a puppy can learn that when they have an item in their possession (such as a bone or food in their dish) and a person approaches them, they need to guard the item because it was taken away from them in the past. Instead, what we want to do is teach our puppies that our appearance is not a bad thing.
Helpful Video: Here is a a video I created with my puppy Journey, to help teach you how to implement a simple resource guarding prevention exercise.
Prevention Plan Tips
Here are some things you can start doing to prevent issues from occurring. If you are currently dealing with resource guarding issues, I suggest hiring a behavior professional so that you can properly get these issues addressed. I also provide virtual video consultations for those who are not local to me. If you would like me to help you, feel free to visit my website, The Gold Coast Dog
- Do not reach over to the puppy and stick your hands in the food dish, especially while the puppy is eating
- Do not pet or touch a puppy while eating out of the food dish or chewing on a bone
- If a puppy growls do not get loud or physical with the puppy as this can cause them to defend themselves, making things worse over time.
- Do not grab or flip your puppy over to show that you are the boss.
- Do not chase your puppy if they have an item in their possession. Instead try trading with higher value food such as boiled chicken breast, Happy Howies Meat Rolls, cheese or something of value.
- Do not tease or provoke the puppy
- Understand Canine Body Language: My last piece of advice is to learn about canine body language and communication. All dog owners should learn and understand this regardless if their dog has a behavior issue or not. Here is a helpful article by Victoria Stilwell on Canine Body Language. Also read my recent article on how dogs interpret human body language on my blog.
About Anthony De Marinis, CDBC, CBATI, VSPDT, TTWC, VSA-DT
Anthony De Marinis is the owner of De Marinis Dog Training & Behavior on Long Island, NY. He provides private in-home training and behavior modification solutions using positive reinforcement-based methods. He also provides video consultations remotely as he has many clients across the United States. Anthony has 6 professional certifications which include: Certified Dog Behavior Consultant from the International Association for Animal Behavior Consultants, Certified Graduate of distinction from the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training & Behavior, Certified Behavior Adjustment Trainer, Certified Victoria Stilwell Licensed Positively Dog Trainer, The Third Way Certified Trainer and is a Fear Free Certified Animal Trainer. Currently, Anthony has a young Australian Kelpie named Journey. They are learning about agility and nose work together. You can visit Anthony’s website and learn more about him and his services at: www.demarinisdogtraining.com