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Linda Simon
Linda Simon,
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 5638
Experience:  Locum veterinarian at Panacea pets ltd
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He has done the basic training/ sit,..leave it,..down,..he

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He has done the basic training/ sit,..leave it,..down,..he is is fine when he has his own toys,..not when he has a chewy bone,..or a denta stick,..he is only quite aggressive when he gets a sock,..

Hi there, you are through to Dr Linda. Just a few minutes while I type my response.

Just to confirm, we are talking about a young dog who has become possessive around socks?

And with other things, e.g. food, he is fine?

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

This behaviour is what is known as 'resource guarding' and can be very common in pups between the ages of 4 and 12 months. It is something that their wild ancestors would have done to defend themselves and prevent other animals from taking their food and resources. Of course, it's not acceptable for them to be aggressive, so we need to address this issue in our pets.

As it is just the sock, it may well be that this is something you have taken from him in the past as he was not meant to have it. Due to this, he is worried you are going to take it again and so over-reacts and becomes defensive. It's likely he doesn't do this with his food as you don't take it away and with his toys as if you do take them, it is simply to play with him! He has thus probably learned that someone coming near him when he has a sock means the sock is under threat. (If you never took a sock from him, perhaps double check with other family members if they have. Or, think back to perhaps when you were getting dressed and had to take the socks when he had them or wanted them).

The most important thing here is to try and not let the issue escalate. We do not want to shout at him or punish him for the behaviour as this can increase aggressive tendencies. Instead, we want to reassure him that his resources are safe. Thus, any item he has that he is allowed, he should be able to keep. However, if he has something he shouldn't (such as a sock!) we need to encourage him to share.

Rather than take the item from him, we should swap it from something of higher value e.g. some chicken. He then learns that when he gives up the sock voluntarily, something good happens. Accompany this with the command 'drop' and over time you simply saying drop will mean he will release the item without being defensive.

This sort of behaviour modification does not work overnight and takes a lot of repetition and patience. Initially, you may have to keep your distance to avoid any fear/freezing/growling etc on his part. Throw the chicken at a safe distance and allow him to come and get it willingly.

Ideally, we would teach this 'drop' command and willingness to swap with items he is not possessive over as it prevents confrontation. This means that the behaviour is already learned when it comes to those items he does not like to share.

It's also worth mentioning that we should avoid this situation in the first place when we can by e.g. using a covered over clothes hamper so he does not have access to socks.

This article is certainly worth a read:

It is also worth mentioning that when training any dog, we want to set them up for success.

Building confidence and trust reduces behaviours such as resource guarding.

Continue with the basic training you have been doing and consider adding in e.g. agility classes, further training classes to stimulate his mind,

Do also ensure he is receiving enough exercise to prevent frustration.

For some dogs, particularly if they are testing boundaries, natural daily calming supplements and plug ins such as Adaptil can be especially useful to create a calm atmosphere and make them less likely to act out.

Do remember with any training, the whole family need to be on board and doing the same thing, so the dog is not getting mixed signals. So if he 'steals' a clothes item from someone else, they must not chase him or try to grab it! Instead, they need to practice the 'drop' and swap.

As a final note, resource aggression can sometimes be tricky to eliminate and it is never wrong to get outside help. A trained behaviourist can come to the home to assess him there and give tailored advice for your specific situation. For example, they may notice that he does not have a 'safe space' that he can go to without being disturbed to comfortably enjoy his treats/toys, so might recommend a bed in an area of the home that others do not go. It is all about living in harmony and avoiding conflict :)

Linda Simon and other Dog Training Specialists are ready to help you

Thank you for the kind accept and please feel free to ask any further questions you may have.