Q. Lately my dog has been collecting all her toys and taking them to her bed. Every time we try to touch them she gets really mad. Why is that?
DANA KOCH, VMD, MLAS
A. This sounds likes a behavioral issue called resource guarding. Some behaviorists believe that dogs, being predators, come programmed to guard resources that are crucial to their survival. In order to change this behavior there a few actions you can take:
1. Only present toys to your dog when she behaves appropriate (does not growl or follows verbal cues (sit, stay, paw, etc).
2. Institute specific verbal cues for your dog to surrender the object. Use words such as “drop” or “give”. Find objects that she does not value as much and work up to the really valued toys.
3. Positive reinforcement for not guarding toys or not growling when you touch those toys. Offer treats or other rewards for the correct behavior.
4. Consistency is important – constantly practice the same verbal cues or reinforcement methods. Give your dog time to adjustment to the new training techniques. Do not in put yourself in a position to be harmed if she is growling.
5. If the actions continue or you are concerned about safety– seek the advice of a veterinarian or trainer.