How To Train A Dog To Share Toys


How To Train A Dog To Share Toys

“I have a problem. My dog won’t share his toys with the other dogs!” If this sounds familiar, then you’re not alone. My pup Enzo definitely has had issues with sharing in the past. But, with a few training sessions I was able to teach him how to become okay with sharing.

Dogs are pack animals, and they like to have an order or hierarchy. It’s important for dogs to learn how to share toys so that every dog feels comfortable in the pack. In this post we will discuss training your pup to share toys with humans, and other animals. As well as general strategies and things you should consider when showing your pup how to properly share.

In short, you can train your dog to share toys with other dogs by following these rule:

1. Promote taking turns. When distributing toys/treats change up which dog gets to go first. You want both to understand they do not need to fight since both will get their own time to play.

2. Use positive reinforcement. When they do something right or give up the toy willingly reward them for it. When they share without any lash back, reward them.

3. Use safety measures to deter fighting. Keeping an eye on interactions between dogs in order to break up fights quickly before they start or develop.  

4. Show them how to properly give up toys to you and other dogs. It’s easier to get a dog to give you a toy then it is to another dog. Practice cues and reward training to help develop sharing with dogs.

I go into much more detail on each of these strategies in this post. So if you’re still unsure, don’t worry the rest of the post should get you up to speed!

Sharing is a great habit, even outside of doggos sharing is caring! So making sure you know the best ways to train your dog to share in any circumstance will be beneficial.

It’s important to know that teaching your dog to share with humans will be completely different then when teaching to share with other animals. Continue reading to learn detailed tips and tricks on how to train your dog to share toys among other things.

Training A Dog To Share Toys With Dogs

Dogs are territorial and when a new animal is brought into their space it might take some time for them to get comfortable. Dogs are pack animals that follow a hierarchy so it’s much harder to get dogs to share if they are not acquainted.

The ideal training environment would be with other dogs they already know and get along with. This can then be translated easier to newer doggy friends once it starts becoming habitual for them to share always and with everyone.

There are several strategies to help your pup learn how to share with dogs, even if they are relatively new friends. These same strategies can be used with food, water, and toys. So if your pup tends to resource guard then training them how to share is going to be really important to curb the behavior.

Here is how you can train your dog to share with other dogs: 

Promote taking turns

When distributing toys/treats change up which dog gets to go first. You want both to understand they do not need to fight since both will get their own time to play and eat. Fairness is really important, so make sure both dogs get equal play time and feeding. It may seem like something small but remember dogs are sensitive to hierarchical exchanges.

Any unbalance can lead them to feel as though they need to protect their resources and feel insecure. You want your dog to feel equally treated so make sure to distribute play time, treats, food, water etc. equally amongst all dogs around. This instills confidence that they will always get a turn and dont need to fight for anything.

Use positive reinforcement

When they do something right or give up the toy willingly reward them for it. When they share without any lash back, reward them. Positive reinforcement is the fundamental training principle for all animals.

You will want to avoid any hitting or negative reinforcement especially when there are two dogs. You can say “stop” or “no” if they are misbehaving and give them a little smack on the butt so they understand but that’s the extent you want to go. 

Use safety measures to deter fighting

Keeping an eye on interactions between dogs in order to break up fights quickly before they start or develop is crucial. Don’t leave them together unsupervised until they are trained to share. Otherwise things could get ugly and you want to be there to split them up and diffuse the situation.

When things do get out of control you can split them up (making sure you are not getting yourself harmed in the process) and separate them to calm down. Once they have relaxed you can let them try again. Make sure you have a plan to diffuse the situation in place before you start teaching them to share.

Show them how to properly give up toys to you and other dogs

It’s easier to get a dog to give you a toy then it is to another dog. Practice cues and reward training to help develop sharing with dogs. A great way to do this is by redirection with treats or other toys. Get one of the dogs’ attention away from the toys, if they drop their toy and let the other dog have it, give them a treat.

Anytime you see your dog drop the toy for a treat or another toy you can say the words “share” and that way over time they will learn the cue. If they are not dropping the toy for any of your redirections, it might be their highest valued toy. If that’s the case try replacing the toy with another one.

Being persistent and having patience will be essential in developing this habit. Especially if you are dealing with a pre existing habit of resource guarding. Even then, with time and practice your dog’s habits can be adjusted and re developed.

Training A Dog To Share Toys With Humans

When it comes to training a dog to share with humans it’s much easier because they typically see us as the leaders of the hierarchy. However, in some cases your dog may only share their toys with specific people because they only trust certain people with their special toys.

Just like when training dogs to share with one another we will be using some similar techniques.

Here is how you can train your dog to share toys with humans:
Teach a “drop it” command

Most dogs will prefer treats over toys, which makes it easy to train your dog to “drop it”. All you have to do is put a treat up to their nose and ask them to drop the toy. If they drop it, give them the treat. Over time repeating this action will show your dog that dropping toys when you ask will lead to a nice reward.

If your dog is a little more difficult you might have to use human food like chicken to get their attention. Some dogs value their toys over some treats so make sure to know what your dog values most, and use that to get them to drop the toy. In addition, if your dog loves a specific toy more than anything, practice with other toys first.

Associate toys with training

Another great way to slowly encourage your dog to share is through constant training using toys. This will get your dog used to you touching their toys and sharing. Not to mention over time your dog will become desensitized to people touching their stuff.

One thing you will want to avoid is making your dog think he has to fight to protect his food or toys. Make sure to always return their toys after you take them when they are behaving well, and have specific feeding times so they don’t have to worry about going hungry. 

Reward your dog for allowing people and animals near their favorite things

A great way to slowly encourage your dog to share is through constant desensitization towards people touching their things. The goal is to make your dog understand that when people touch their toys or food, good things happen.

So in order to develop this, anytime your dog allows people near their toys or food reward them with a treat. It’s best to start this with people your dog is more familiar with before bringing a complete stranger into the mix.

Use positive reinforcement

If you follow the steps above you will automatically be using positive reinforcement. The reason I added this to the list is because you want to make sure you only use POSITIVE reinforcement and avoid negative reinforcement or punishments.

There are many studies that have been done on the most effective forms of training and positive reinforcement was always number one.

These strategies should help you train your dog to be much more generous and willing to share their toys.

Understanding Your Dog’s Value Hierarchy 

It’s important to know what toys and items your dog values the most. With this information we will be able to properly show our dogs how to share in any situation. This needs to be considered whenever you are trying to get your dog to share. If you are expecting your dog to give up their most prized possession to another dog, think again.

Until your dog is fully trained to share, do not expect your dog to want to give up certain toys. When you start training your dog to share toys, start with toys lower down their value hierarchy. My pup Enzo loves his Zippy Paw plush toy and it definitely sits at the top of his hierarchy for toys.

Luckily for me, my dog loves food more than anything which made it easier to train him share toys among other things.

Benefits To Training Your Dog To Share Toys And Other Items

Overall when you think about good characteristics to have as a human, sharing comes to mind. The ability to share with others improves interactions and makes for friendly environments. With our furry friends it’s not different, sharing is extremely important to instill in your dog for many reasons.

Learning to share will have a positive impact in multiple areas especially in regards to their behaviour and sociability with other animals and people.

Here is a list of some major benefits to training your dog to share:

Reduce Aggressive Behavior. Most aggressive behavior in dogs comes when resource guarding. If your dog can learn to share this will reduce the overall aggression of your dog when it comes to protecting their toys, food or water.

Reduce Chance of Injury. Lower aggression and you are going to indirectly reduce the chance of injury. When a dog knows how to share there is no need for fighting over things, which means less risk of injury.

Prevents Escalation. When a dog is taught to share their belongings it trains them to be less reactive with people and other dogs. What might normally cause a dog to react negatively will be less likely happen when a dog has been trained.

Easily Introduce New Friends. Whether it’s bringing new people or animals into your home a dog that can share is going to make this very easy. If they are used to sharing they won’t get upset or mad that you’re bringing new friends around. As long as you’re making sure to still give them the attention they need, of course!

Reduce Jealousy. You’ve probably seen the videos of dogs that get upset when someone hugs THEIR human. Or when you’re paying more attention to something other than them. Sharing will reduce this behavior but for some dogs they will always constantly crave your attention no matter how sweet, kind, and willing to share they are.

These are just a few major benefits that comes after you train your dog to share toys as well as other items, but there are a ton more! Remember, this habit will have effects in many different areas in their life all of which will help them become a better, healthier dog.

FAQ’s

How Do You Introduce Toys To Two Dogs?

In short, you should only introduce toys to two dogs if both dogs know each other, have no history of resource guarding and are comfortable sharing. If these conditions are met, give them the toy and let the two dogs play together. In most cases, the dogs will be more interested in playing with each other than with the toy alone.

If the dogs start fighting over the toy and things get intense, it’s best to just remove the toy. Something to keep in mind is knowing what normal play looks like. Some bigger breeds like German Shepherds, Huskies, and Rottweilers tend to play more aggressively then other breeds. If things get out of hand, separate the dogs, and take the toy away.

Why Won’t My Dog Share His Toys?

In short, your dog won’t share his toy because he is resource guarding and the resource is his toy. This is completely normal in dog behavior as they have inherited programming from their ancestors to protect whatever they consider valuable to them. 

Guarding resources when dogs were not domesticated was essential for their survival. The typical had a short supply of resources and were always on the lookout protecting their stash. This is inherited programming and explains why resource guarding in dogs is so common.

Other posts you might find interesting:

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Alec Littlejohn

Founder and Reviewer at Pawscessories. He is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! He grew up in a family of vets and to this day he helps out around the family clinic and shares his learnings on Pawscessoires. Learn more about Alec's story here

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