Toy Aggression is a behavioral issue we deal with a lot in Cincinnati.
First, we will start with prevention, to ensure you never have this problem with your dog.
Anytime we do our puppy training classes, I always tell the owners to get their puppies used to them taking away their toys, giving them back, etc. So, as your puppy is playing with a new toy, bone, Kong, etc, I will just walk over to them, take it away from them, praise them, and then give it back. This gets your puppy at a young age conditioned and used to you taking things from them, I talk about this in my Pack Leadership blog, as well. Essentially what you are doing is desensitizing them to people taking stuff from them while they are small and manageable, that way they think nothing of it when they are older and larger.
Also, what I’m a huge advocate of that most people do not do is I always recommend keeping all toys put up. Meaning, if you come over to my house, you will not see one dog toy on the floor. I only get out a toy (tug or a ball) when I’m working with my dog and he is doing well on obedience, then I use the toy as a reward. This does two things: 1) It helps build his drive for the object and 2) It teaches him that all of the toys are MINE and he only gets them when I give him access to them. I talk about building drive in your dog in my blog “Should I Play Tug With My Dog?”
Dogs who are toy aggressive see these toys as THEIRS and “you” are trying to take away THEIR toy. This is a very bad state-of-mind for your dog to be in. That shows that they do not respect you as the owner of these objects nor do they respect you as the pack leader.
Lastly, get your dog some obedience training so they have a solid “out” command or “leave it” command and you have control over your dog’s movement. Now, you can eliminate the issue by telling them to “out,” calling them away from it, and picking the toy up.
So, in summary: start desensitization work with your dog to get them used to you taking things away, find an obedience trainer to gain solid control over your dog, teach the dog that the toys are YOURS and not theirs by limiting their access to them, and start incorporating all of the pack leadership things discussed in the blog above.
My Dog Has Toy Aggression, Now What?
Your first course of action would be to find a qualified dog trainer in your area. As I tell people on a daily basis, “You cannot fix any issue in a dog that doesn’t listen.” To me, obedience and control over your dog is paramount for fixing almost any behavioral issue in your dog. As I’ve said before in another blog, “I have never seen an amazingly obedient dog with major behavioral issues and I have never seen a dog with major behavioral issues that was amazing in obedience.” Generally, all of these things go hand-in-hand. Obedience is a natural confidence builder for a dog, as well as a natural pack leadership bolsterer for you.
Now that you have control over your dog and you are working on the pack leadership issues that you have, now we can concentrate on correcting the behavior.
Here’s where it gets controversial, in my opinion, most dogs with aggression issues have to have a correction for the behavior! We work with 65 dogs per week, many of which went to some “positive reinforcement, clicker and treat, give him hot dogs until he’s full and falls over” trainer. Once they paid money, wasted a few weeks of time, and received no results, THEN they called us.
I think that dogs, much like humans, have to have a balanced approach of training. There has to be positive and praise when a desired behavior is achieved, and there has to be a correction for an unwanted behavior such as your dog trying to bite you or someone else. You cannot raise highly intelligent kids solely based off of positive reinforcement and ice cream, so why people think you can dogs is beyond me. As I say, the most confident and obedient dogs in the world are military, police, and ring (Mondio, ScH, French Ring) dogs, right? Not ONE of them solely use positive reinforcement. End of debate.
So, while working with your toy aggressive or toy possessive dog, there has to be a correction for the unwanted behavior and positive reinforcement for the desired behavior. This will help teach your dog what is acceptable and unacceptable. Find a qualified trainer to work with your dog on these issues, do not try to fix this on your own.