First of all, recognize that you have an obligation to prevent problems by using good management of the environment. A puppy sees the whole world as her chew toy. You need to puppy proof the area where your young dog will be, and to provide appropriate chew toys for her.

This is a prevention exercise. If your dog is already having a serious resource guarding problem (growling or snapping when you try to take something away), you will need professional help.

You need to set up a training situation. We will be "trading" using object exchanges.

  • Have your dog on leash and stand on it, keeping your hands free. Give your dog an item that is fairly low value (to her, remember value is determined by each individual dog). It can be a toy or household object. Even if she doesn't take it in her mouth, lay it in front of her.
  • If the dog has in the past taken objects and run away, keep your hand on the object the first few times. Or use a less desirable object to start.
  • Put a yummy smelly treat at the dog's nose, wait for the dog to drop the object, reward the dog with the treat, and give the object back to the dog. Repeat several times.
  • When the dog starts dropping her object when you move the treat toward her nose, add the verbal cue "Give" right before you move the treat toward her.
  • After several successful tries, put the treat in your pocket and use it as a reward after the dog gives up the item.

Practice this dozens of times with different items and in different locations. Gradually increase the value (to the dog) of the object or toy.

You want your dog to learn that when you take something away, it is a GOOD THING. She will get something even better from you, plus get the item back again.

After you have built up several days (or even weeks for some dogs) of successful exchanges with objects of your choosing, you can progress to taking away something the dog is already playing with. If the toy the dog has is special to her, you will have to increase the value of the reward. This calls for leftover chicken or smelly cheese. Be sure to give back the toy after you give the reward.

If one day the dog has something which is dangerous and you can't give it back to her, be sure to give her several high value food rewards, then replace the forbidden thing with an interesting chew toy.

Some smart dogs start bringing things to you when they want a treat. When the dog does this, stop giving treats for a while - but praise for giving up the object. Most dogs will stop picking up everything they find.

You need to keep practicing object exchanges for the life of the dog to keep the dog's attitude willing.

While you are working on teaching the "Give" command, use careful management - that is, control of the environment so the dog does not steal anything you do not want her to have. This means putting things away - you have to train yourself in addition to training your dog! If you aren't careful you will set your dog up to fail. We need to always build on success.

If your dog is growling or you do not feel confident working with the dog, please get help from your instructor before doing any of these exercises.

Pat Scott is a CPDT "Certified Pet Dog Trainer" and a professional member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.

Pat first got interested in dog training back in 1985. Over the years she has been involved in several types of dog activities including den trials, lure coursing, tracking, training a service dog and a hearing dog.

Currently her main dog hobby has been training for and entering obedience trials. Her dogs have earned many titles, ribbons and awards. She also teaches classes focused toward pet owners. Her goals in teaching are to solve or prevent behavior problems, and to help build a strong mutually respectful relationship between owner and dog, using dog-friendly methods. She does not teach competition classes but she can refer interested people. 

Pat can be contacted vie e-mail at patscott@k9webs.com.

You may also visit her web site.

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