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Dealing with a Possessive Dog


I have a rottweiler/german shepherd mix and she is very friendly dog. I recently bought her a big raw hide bone in which she was very anxious when she received it and travels around the house with it in her mouth. I have noticed that when she has it in her possession she is kind of possessive and doesn't want anyone to take it and in a sort of way "guarding it." Yesterday, she was "guarding her bone" and my 3-year-old son went to play with her as he usually does and she jumped up and nipped him in the face. Needless to say I was irrate and jumped at her and scolded her and spanked her and she avoided me as I notified her of my discontent in her actions. She did not even come in the room where I was and knew I was angry with her. My question is, what should I do in regards to this type of behavior as my wife and I are concerned that she may try and bite our son again and it could be more severe. He has complained before to my wife but she blew it off as there was no evidence of her biting him and she also likes to play bite when you try to put her outside or when you're playing with her with one of her toys, but this time she left a red mark that immediately swelled up. Will this type of behavior continue or can it be broken with training. Please advise as I was even thinking of giving her away but she is such a delight to have in our home. Thanks, Darren

First off, I would not give her rawhide bones anymore. Guarding bones falls under the category of "resource guarding". Dogs can view all sorts of things as resources like: you, comfy sleeping areas, food, toys, personal space, etc. If that particular bone was very high-value to her and she guarded it, but normally does not guard items, I wouldn't worry too much but would take steps to work on her guarding behavior. If she guards numerous things you'll need to work hard, immediately, to fix it. Having a small child in the house makes it a lot more dangerous and they should NEVER be left together unattended. Working with a trainer or behaviorist on this problem is a good idea. They will help you recognize the signs that she is uncomfortable so you can get her (or your son) out of the situation before it escalates. There is a great book by Jean Donaldson called "Mine: A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding" that tells you step-by-step how to work on it. Some people find it a bit overwhelming, but the author makes sure that you never progress faster than the dog can handle. Resource guarding is a "fixable" problem, but it will take effort.