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If you live in a multi-pet household, then you’ve probably seen this many times. You bring new toys into your home and both dogs want the same toy.
Since you’re here you’ve likely experienced this and are looking to find out how to keep your dogs from fighting over toys and probably a few other items.
Dogs can fight over a multitude of things for different reasons, most of which are driven by normal canine habits.
Depending on your dog’s breed and personality there are specific dogs more inclined towards aggression than others. Even the nicest dogs can turn aggressive given certain circumstances.
This can be a nightmare to deal with leading to yelling, screaming, and pleading with your dogs to play nice.
You might be at the point where you don’t remember the last time they didn’t fight over something…
Here’s the good news, you can completely achieve a calm and happy house where all pets are content.
Let’s dive further into why your dogs are fighting over toys.
Firstly, we need to figure out why your dogs are being possessive over toys in the first place. We need to dive into the mind of your pups.
Are they fighting with intent to harm? Or are they trying to solve a conflict without harm?
If we think back historically, dogs are the direct descendants of wolves.
Wolves are raised in packs. And two animals from the same group fighting could deeply impact the group since they are all dependent on one another to survive.
Thus, they had to find a way to solve conflict without harming one another. Now, dogs are no longer wild animals, however, the instinct not to harm each other should still be there.
As puppies they learn early on how to interact and socialize with their “words” rather than hurting one another.
Why Is Your Dog Possessive Over Toys?
There are many reasons your pup can become possessive over toys and other resources.
Although this is a useful habit for a wild animal, it is not needed in your home and needs to be managed before it becomes a serious problem.
Here are a few reasons your dogs are fighting over toys:
Some pups learn resource guarding at a young age from their mothers or brother and sisters. Even puppies a few weeks old can show signs of resource guardian over food and toys.
Shelter Dog Syndrome
Dogs that spend a large majority of time in shelters can sometimes develop problems with possessive aggression towards toys and food.
This is definitely not uncommon as other shelter dogs are seen as competition.
Territorial Aggression / Asserting Dominance
If you have a single dog in your home and you introduce a new dog to the mix this can cause sudden changes in your pup.
Aggression over food and toys may begin to occur and is not uncommon for the first little while of adaptation.
There always needs to be a pack leader and hierarchy. If the dogs in your household haven’t established a stable hierarchy, they’re going to keep fighting it out until they agree.
Furthermore, dogs are territorial so when you throw a new dog into the mix, your pup starts to see this new dog wandering all over their territory without permission.
This issue can be particularly noticeable with instinctually territorial breeds like Schnauzers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Rottweilers, and Bull Mastiffs
What can often start out as a friendly play can quickly escalate into something much more nasty when dogs get overstimulated.
The Danger Of Dogs Fighting
If you are constantly worried when the next fight will break out it can be tough on everyone in your home.
If this is the case you are probably in desperate need of a solution.
Dog fighting looks intense and aggressive, it’s because they usually are.
Regardless of if the dogs are well matched in size or not, fights can lead to serious injury, costly vet bills, and in worst cases death.
When the risks are that high, you understand why a solution is a MUST.
6 Steps To Keep Dogs From Fighting Over Toys
Here are a few steps you can take to control dogs fighting over toys and anything else.
Step #1: Develop a plan!
Have a plan in place to avoid fights from escalating.
A great option is to train cues that tell both dogs to pay attention to you. This can be easily done with special rewards for following your command cue.
Have a secondary plan in place to interrupt dogs fighting should it actually occur. A good idea is to have something that will make a loud noise handy.
That way if a fight breaks out you can make a loud noise to distract your dogs from each other. Then, immediately redirect them to another activity.
Step #2: Supervise
If you are noticing certain toys and items are causing fights make sure to supervise your dogs when they are around these things.
Now since you created a plan in step one you know exactly what to do when aggression develops.
When fights do break out interrupting them with loud noises typically works. If however it does not, you can try water, or throwing blankets over them.
Don’t physically separate them unless you have to. In some cases you may just have to keep them separated when playing with toys.
Step #3: Determine if they are fighting or if it’s just a friendly wrestling match
You can typically tell by body language if it’s a real fight or just a friendly engagement. Dogs use teeth (and growls) to play, so it may seem more aggressive then it actually is.
Are your dogs rigid and stiff, or more relaxed, bouncy, and tail wagging?
If they seem more intense, stiff, and rigid it’s likely an actual fight.
Step #4: Train basic obedience commands
Teaching dogs basic commands can help give you more control over these types of situations. A great habit to get into is rewarding your dogs for calm behaviour.
The earlier you start this type of training the better. Commands like “Gentle” and “off” can be great for taking control of situations.
Here is an example, when you first bring out toys make sure both dogs are calm, sitting and waiting for your command, reward them for doing so.
If they start to get aggressive with each other, remove the toy. This should be something you do even when letting them outside or eating.
Step #4: Desensitization and counterconditioning
If we want to create permanent fixes we need proper training for each dog. The best way to explain how desensitization and counterconditioning can work is to give an example.
To start, get one of their secondary toys (not their favorite). Then place the toy in one hand and a high value treat in the other hand.
If they want the treat, they will have to release the toy to you. Once they finish eating, they get the toy back.
Keep repeating this exercise as often as possible, and eventually work your way up through the ranks of toys until you reach their favorite toy.
A key to this exercise is to make sure the treats are more valued then the toy. Over time, you’ll eventually create an association with giving up the toy with something good happening.
Step #5: Spay/Neutering
Spaying or neutering can be a great calmer. You can notice a large drop in aggression with dogs after they get fixed.
It may sound like an expensive and dramatic solution, but unless you are a breeder, it can be the fix you need.
Step #6: Consult a professional trainer
Professional help will always give an edge when it comes to keeping dogs from fighting. If you have tried it all yourself and cannot solve the problem, getting some professional help is the best way to get guaranteed results.
So there you have it! How to keep Dogs from fighting over toys is now accomplishable. It is no longer a helpless situation, you now have some guidance to solve the situation.
Keep in mind that no technique will be effective overnight. It takes time, dedication and patience.
As with anything, it’s a process but you WILL gain control and once you do, all the effort will be worth it.
I hope you found value in this information! Please share this post so we can help other dog owners solve this issue and keep our dogs of the world safe.
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