DEAR JEANNE: My wife and I rescued a 3.5 year old Cavalier King Charles female Sadie 17 weeks ago. We don’t have much history on her, but understand that she had been in three or four different houses before us.
We really enjoyed his company and had no problems. Then on November 14th we picked up an 11 week old male rider puppy, Toby. They get along well and we feed them separately, so there are no food fights.
Lately Sadie has become possessive of some of the toys. We bought duplicates of most of them, so they would have their own. They can play with their own toys, when Sadie tries to get the one Toby has. If we give Toby the one Sadie had, she’ll try to get it back.
Is there a way to train this trait of Sadie to share her toys? Otherwise, these two big puppies get along well.
Norman and Joann Roush, Sunnyvale
DEAR NORMAN AND JOANN: While that doesn’t seem like a big deal at this point, Sadie is showing the first signs of ‘resource protection’. While it’s gentle now, it can increase to include more aggressive protection of food, toys, beds, and humans.
Before we start humiliating Sadie, we need to know that this is typical canine behavior that dates back to ancient times, when dogs had to guard their food, homes, and packs in order to survive. This behavior today is not a sign of aggression or an offer of power. It’s just instinctive.
Sharing is not a natural concept for dogs, and just like petulant toddlers, they need to be taught that sharing is a good thing. Fortunately, riders are naturally sociable and adaptable.
Many dog trainers recommend teaching your dog to share with you first. Start with a toy that Sadie does not care about at all. Have him hold it in his mouth, then place a treat in front of his nose. This should cause him to open his mouth, dropping the toy. When she does this, say “drop it”, praise her, give her the treat, and set the toy aside.
After a lot of practice, she will learn to automatically release everything she has when given the “drop” command.
Then move on to practice – and Toby – to share with each other. If Toby is playing with a toy and Sadie makes a move to remove it, call her up, praise her and give her a treat. Then give Toby a treat as well. Remove the toy from the play area, but return it soon after.
Every dog has the possessions that are most important to them. Learning to share doesn’t mean they have to give up these toys. After all, I’m willing to share almost all of my craft supplies, but no one is touching my favorite scissors.
To stop a possible feud over a beloved toy, call in the future toy thief and pile treats and compliments on the two animals. Dogs will learn that when they are together, good things happen.
If a dog catches the toy, use the drop command and offer a reward.
When giving out treats at other times, take turns determining who gets the treat first. Apparently this means a lot to dogs, who are more hierarchical conscious than we are. They take turns learning that they are on an equal footing and do not need to compete.
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