Whilst dogs are puppies they often steal things because they are investigating their environment, seeking attention from us or they want to play. If we constantly take things away from dogs and we don’t address the cause of the problem your dog may start to guard. If your dog does start to growl please respect this warning and don’t punish him/her.
The methods below can be used with puppies to prevent guarding behaviours. To start with, you need to weigh up the value. Is it something that is dangerous or sentimental? Does it really matter if s/he has said item? If not then don’t make a big deal and leave him/her to it. S/He will soon get bored of it if there is no attention.
If the answer to the above is yes then you can try one of the following. I’ve listed them as a tiered system:
1) Manage the environment
Easier said than done if you have children!! But environmental management is easier than dog management. So if your dog likes taking shoes, ensure they are always out of reach. If s/he likes stealing from the bin, could the bin be in a cupboard? etc.
2) Teach a Keep It cue
If the item your dog has ‘stolen’ isn’t of value or dangerous then could you use words like ‘keep it’ and then ignore your dog? You could also use these words when playing with your dog. So at the end of the game you say the words and either do something different or walk away. If we always take things away from dogs is it any wonder they learn to guard?
2) Play Swapsie
If you are going to try swapping the item for a toy or food then you need to ensure it holds a high enough value to your dog. If you had £1 and I tried swapping it for 10p you probably wouldn’t hand it over. However if I had £10 then we will be having a different conversation! So don’t go in with biscuits, try something with higher value like ham/sausage/cheese/dried liver etc something your dog deems as higher value than the item he has.
You can practice drop with toys initially and then try to put it on cue with an item you’d prefer he didn’t have.
Here’s a video from Kikopup to help you https://youtu.be/gZvkyAFi7tc?si=H1jhd1xtu6ZaTPEh
If you are having issues with drop when using food, have a look at this one from Kikopup https://youtu.be/_afpSZlHw5g?si=Xn5Q9acVIPPI6iVr
4) Counting Game
A really lovely game is the Counting Game by Chirag Patel. Here’s the video:
You’ll need an emergency plan, for example when your dog has managed to pick up a battery or your glasses. Is there something you know he would react to without fail? This could be running when you open the fridge door or if someone rang the doorbell?
Do the ‘thing’ you know 100% he will react to and will leave the item. Once he is out of the way and away from the item then remove it.
If you are concerned about your puppy’s behaviour please don’t suffer in silence, reach out and get help. You can always drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org