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This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

Aggression is a serious behavioural problem in dogs which can lead to them becoming social outcasts within the home, or even result in euthanasia.

Dogs can become very possessive over food, toys, bones or other objects that they are in contact with such as owners slippers or shoes. Some dogs show this behaviour from an early age, when it can take the form of a game - these dogs will growl threateningly, and with objects they often present it to you, then run away to hide it and guard it, and bring it back and start the process over again. Unfortunately, in adult dogs this is definitely NOT a game, and if you attempt to remove the food or object concerned from the dog's possession it is likely to bite you.

Children should never be allowed to put their hands or faces near to dogs demonstrating this type of behaviour. This behaviour is particularly common (and is like an instinctive response to stealing) during feeding, so children should never be allowed to approach dogs that are eating.

Management of dogs with this behaviour is as follows :

  • Discourage this type of behaviour in young puppies
  • Take your dog to training classes to learn the discipline of fetching objects and giving them up to  you. Once the training is working use any objects that your dog likes to guard in the training classes.
  • To separate a dog from an object attempt displacement behaviour - offer the dog a distraction which it likes such as "walkies" to stop it's behaviour
  • Remove the objects from the dogs environment. However,  they will often "adopt" other objects as replacements.

Last updated : March 2013