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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
so, my dog is a Sheppard mix about 3.5 years old (a rescue). I've had him for a little over a year. He's generally good - I can let him off leash etc.
There's one main concern I have and that is that he is very possessive of the ball I throw him as well as other dog balls. Last time, he tried to take another dog's ball and they had a real fight. This is what prompted me to post.

How can I rid him of this behavior?
 

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I would suggest doing a search here on the forum for "guarding" or "resource guarding". You definitely want to deal with this.
How often does this happen? Does this happen at home or at a dog park? Is it with other dogs that you own, or random dogs at a dog park? Is he possessive of his ball with you or just with other dogs?

First, I would recommend NOT taking toys/balls to a dog park, especially if you have a dog that guards his things. It's just an invitation for trouble. Dogs can run and play together without toys. And, even if your dog wasn't possessive, some other dog may be....so I never like to see toys at a dog park.

Second, you can work on "trading up", which basically is teaching your dog to give up whatever good thing he has, because he will get something better in return. The way you teach this is teach the "drop" command. When he has the ball, show him something even better, like his favorite treat, maybe a tiny piece of cut hot dog, or cheese, something even better than a regular treat, and say drop. If he lets go of the ball, he gets the super yummy treat. Keep practicing.

The thing about guarding is, it can get worse, and it can make your dog dangerous when he's in the process of guarding. Any other time he could be a big sweetie, but when he's guarding a ball, and someone else wants it, he could hurt them. So, working on trading can be part of the solution, but it's even better to get a trainer's help, to make sure everyone stays safe!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the reply. To answer some of your questions

How often does this happen? Does this happen at home or at a dog park? Is it with other dogs that you own, or random dogs at a dog park? Is he possessive of his ball with you or just with other dogs?
He got in a fight only one time and it was at the soccer field, not exactly a dog park, but similar. It was with the dog who lives next door and it was his ball, not my dog's.
He's not possessive of his ball with me at all.


First, I would recommend NOT taking toys/balls to a dog park, especially if you have a dog that guards his things. It's just an invitation for trouble. Dogs can run and play together without toys. And, even if your dog wasn't possessive, some other dog may be....so I never like to see toys at a dog park.
I have changed the routine a bit. I take his ball for the afternoon walk. However, I don't let him retrieve it until I tell him 'Ok go'. He's pretty good so far. For his evening walk I just walk him on leash now. Also, I don't let him play with the neighbours dog.

Second, you can work on "trading up", which basically is teaching your dog to give up whatever good thing he has, because he will get something better in return. The way you teach this is teach the "drop" command. When he has the ball, show him something even better, like his favorite treat, maybe a tiny piece of cut hot dog, or cheese, something even better than a regular treat, and say drop. If he lets go of the ball, he gets the super yummy treat. Keep practicing.

This is exactly what I do. I give him a treat when he returns and drops the ball.

The thing about guarding is, it can get worse, and it can make your dog dangerous when he's in the process of guarding. Any other time he could be a big sweetie, but when he's guarding a ball, and someone else wants it, he could hurt them. So, working on trading can be part of the solution, but it's even better to get a trainer's help, to make sure everyone stays safe!
This is exactly what I want to prevent. So what do you think? Am I on the right track?

Thanks again
 

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sounds to me like you are on the right track. Doxie had some great tips. You may want to step up the trading game to more frequently and instead of avoiding situations use them as training aids. If you don't keep pushing your dogs limits you may never have anything go wrong again to be able to correct. Try also having a special treat to trade up with. Like freeze dried liver or something. Something he can't pass up.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
sounds to me like you are on the right track. Doxie had some great tips. You may want to step up the trading game to more frequently and instead of avoiding situations use them as training aids. If you don't keep pushing your dogs limits you may never have anything go wrong again to be able to correct. Try also having a special treat to trade up with. Like freeze dried liver or something. Something he can't pass up.
Thanks. Yeah, I agree about using these situations as training instead of avoiding them. I just don't think he's ready yet. I think it takes him about two weeks of daily training before it makes an impression. So, I will stick to that schedule. Plus I have to talk to the nieghbours. Perhaps I'll get something more yummy for him too. Thanks again
 

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Yep, sounds like you're on the right track! :)
And, I agree with you, you have to be careful not to push your dog if he's not ready. You're job is to set him up to succeed, not set him up to fail. So, practice (or "proof") a behavior a lot of times, in lots of different situations and locations, to help your dog be ready for anything! But, if you, as his owner, think he's not ready, then take baby steps! :)
 

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Yep, sounds like you're on the right track! :)
And, I agree with you, you have to be careful not to push your dog if he's not ready. You're job is to set him up to succeed, not set him up to fail. So, practice (or "proof") a behavior a lot of times, in lots of different situations and locations, to help your dog be ready for anything! But, if you, as his owner, think he's not ready, then take baby steps! :)
Thanks a lot. So, I've changed his ball outing a bit. Now, every once in a while, after I throw the ball, I'll tell him stay and I go out and get it. Also, sometimes, after he drops it, I'll get him to walk around it without picking it up. He'll give the ball about a 2 foot radius.

Basically, what I am trying to do is to get him to do is to wait until I allow it, is that correct? Ultimately, I want him to wait for me to tell him he can go see another dog for example. I don't know if that will resolve the possessiveness though.

Thanks again, this discussion has been really helpful
 

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Well, getting a dog to wait until you allow something is great! But, I don't know if I'd do that just with throwing a ball....but that's just me! We have our dogs sit and wait to eat, to go out a door, to get in the car, etc.
And, yes, he can wait for you to say it's ok to meet another dog, of course that's easier if he's on a leash... :)
 
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