Possessive Puppies

Do you have a Possessive Puppy?

Possessive Puppies have an all-encompassing focus on the thing they want

And they are keenly aware of when someone or something is moving into their space when they have the thing they really want in their possession.  The sticky issues appear when a dog perceives their space has been infringed upon. Spatial conversations need to be happening between you and your puppy LONG before he gets that bone in his mouth and doesn’t want to give it up.

From the minute your puppy arrives home, you need to be having conversations about spatial interactions

How he is to move in and out of doors/crates/cars, how he is moving into your body space, how he is expected to move away from you (yield) when you move into him and how to have him treat your own personal bubble space respectfully. Your puppy needs to know that YOU OWN YOUR OWN SPACE!  YOU own every part of your body–your hands, feet, legs, elbow! YOU own the couch, the bed, the blanket, the toys, etc.  You will happily share all these things with him over and over again throughout the day, but YOU MUST OWN IT. 

If a puppy believes he owns a thing, a person, a space, a body part, you could end up in a guarding/possessive mindset.  The only space my puppy’s own is their crate space. They are fed in their crate.  They have super high value treats and chews in their crate. They sleep and rest in their crate. These feeding and bedtime rituals sets my puppy up for the correct mindset from the start. Dogs have 3 primary drives, Prey Drive, Pack Drive and Defensive Drive.  Your dog will be in one of those drives at all times. Possession issues almost always start in prey drive with it running amok. You often hear puppy trainers say, “All bad things happen in Prey Drive.”  Not because prey drive is bad in and of itself, prey drive is what makes playing fetch so much fun.  However, when prey drive runs amok, a puppy can very quickly switch from prey drive into a defensive state of mind.  When your pups says, “I want “X”  more than you” that is when a guarding or possessive mindset comes into play.

The goal is to help that puppy move OUT Of PREY drive and back into PACK DRIVE BEFORE you hit that defensive state of mind.

Timing really matters on this.  If pressure is applied at the wrong time and in an inappropriate degree, the reaction could be the opposite of what you want. With the best of intentions and poor timing, it’s possible to accelerate that switch from prey drive into defensive drive and you can INTENSIFY the defensive/bite mindset in that moment. The goal is to catch the switch in drives BEFORE the pup moves from prey drive to defensive drive.  In simple terms, you must catch the puppy BEFORE he decides he owns “x”.  It’s a very fine line a dog handler walks, and it takes a lot of practice and learning how to read your puppy correctly to learn great timing.  We teach people daily how to read their puppy’s body language correctly, and practical things they can do proactively to keep that possessive mindset out of the equation. 

Most importantly, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure! If you have a possessive puppy, DO NOT leave toys and chew things laying around all over.  You will have specific times and places where he gets his favorite chewy, namely in his crate or other confined space like a kennel or ex pen or on a PLACE bed. You will have specific times when you play with fun toys and have a great recess time together. Recess doesn’t last all day long, right! You must have a leash or long line on a possessive puppy at all times outside of his crate or confined space. It is critical that you have the ability to guide and control your possessive puppy at a moment’s notice.  When a pup does have that thing he wants to possess, you have to make it worth his while to give it up.  Always be prepared to trade that thing he loves for a yummy treat or a game played together. By good planning, you’ll be prepared with a treat, or toy or line guidance to intervene when necessary. 

How do you get a puppy to move out of prey drive and back into pack drive?

There are many ways to achieve this goal: You MUST HAVE a leash or long line on your puppy in these situations so you can help guide and control her whenever necessary. Also, have some high value treats handy, like a hot dog. Finally, have some fun toys your puppy likes that has enough length to it, like a rope toy or a stuffed animal, that is long enough for you to safely grab one end.

Strategies to ENGAGE PACK DRIVE: 

1) Recall your puppy…the PACK UP.  Walk backwards and draw the puppy to you. Start by walking backwards a few step and at the same time draw your puppy to you. You have a leash on so you can reel him in like a fish. LONG LINES are great for this type of work.  Once puppy gets to you, reward and praise.

2) Send your puppy to place.  Here is a great article about how to teach your puppy to go to PLACE. 

3) Get your puppy to YIELD ground when you step into his space. What this means is when I’m walking directly toward a puppy, he needs to move a bit out of your way. Picture yourself walking like Moses through the red sea and the waters part. I want a puppy to move away much like those waters parting. Just keep moving and have the puppy move out of the way. Another modification is a more formal YIELD when I step into a puppy’s space and I make him sit at that moment I move toward him. I’m setting a precedent that when I step into your space in a focused way, you yield and sit and focus on me. Don’t forget to always be fabulous with gentle love & rewards, every time your puppy focuses on you!

4) MEETING your puppy’s PREY DRIVE via purposeful play. Your puppy will learn how to experience his drive in a beneficial way, and you are teaching the “out” during this play. Your pup learns how to experience prey drive with you involved, and that he doesn’t have to possess the toy when you are around.  Best of all, he gets familiar with the concept that your presence doesn’t mean the removal of the thing he likes.  We have some amazing instructional videos on Purposeful Play in our Aly’s Insider Club.

5) Use warm, engaging tone to draw your puppy’s attention back to you. 

6) Controlled motion is your friend when dealing with prey drive.  Get your pup to carry the thing he loves along with you running and moving along together!

7) Reward your puppy’s ability to focus on you.  Whenever my puppies turn their attention to me from something else, they get a “WELL DONE” from me with warm praise and worthy rewards!  

8) Shut down the silliness.  If the puppy gets too out of control, shut it all down.  And start again later. 

Final thoughts, You have to say what you mean and mean what you say! 

You don’t have to be mean to mean it, but your puppy must believe you.  If your puppy breaks the spatial boundaries you establish, whatever you do has to be significant enough that she clearly understands that a spatial boundary has been broken.  And she needs to know what she should be doing instead. 

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