How to Stop Toy Guarding in Puppies

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington
It’s my toy! Some puppies won’t let you near their toy – they just won’t share. Here’s how you tackle toy guarding in puppies.

Depending how large a litter he came from, your puppy may have had to struggle with his siblings to get access to food and toys. It’s common for puppies to develop resource guarding behavior, especially if they’re used to having to fight for everything. As a new dog owner, resource guarding can be discouraging, especially if your puppy growls or snaps at you when you come near. Keep reading to learn how to stop toy guarding in puppies.

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Tips for Dealing with Resource Guarding

Every puppy is an individual, so you’ll need to work with him to reduce his guarding behavior. The methods that work for one puppy might not work for another, so be prepared to try a few different things. Here are some ideas:

  • Train your puppy to have good manners. If you want your puppy to be calm and pleasant around you, even when you might take away the toy he’s guarding, you need to teach him that he only gets what he wants when he’s polite. One way is to teach him a few basic commands like sit and ask him to do so before you give him something he wants, like his favorite toy. In essence, you’re teaching him to “say please” before giving him anything.
  • Teach your puppy a cue to give. Start with something your puppy doesn’t value very much and pair it with a treat he really likes. When your puppy has the item in his mouth, ask him to give it to you and offer him the treat. Praise him for dropping the object, then give it back after he finishes the treat. Work your way up from an item he doesn’t care about to ones he does.

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  • Train your puppy to respond to an Off command. To do this, you’ll need to start by getting your puppy to jump up onto something using a treat as a lure. When your puppy jumps up, don’t give him the treat yet – tell him Off and wait for him to get down. When he does, praise him and give him the treat.
  • Condition your dog to have a positive reaction to your approach. If your puppy growls when you come close as he’s playing with a toy, you can work with him to condition a positive rather than a negative response. Start by giving your puppy a toy he doesn’t particularly care about then walk over and present him with one of his favorite toys. Do this a couple times a day for several days until your puppy responds to your approach in a more positive way.
  • Prevent the behavior by avoiding triggers. While you’re working with your puppy to reduce his guarding behavior, you should avoid things that will trigger him. If you know he’ll growl if you try to approach while he’s eating, don’t do it! Just keep working with him and take the progress as it comes.

You can modify your dog’s behavior in just about any way you like if you go about it the right way. With the right combination of praise and rewards, you can reinforce desirable behaviors like sharing and discourage undesirable ones like resource guarding. Try some of the tips above and see how they work!

Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

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