The dog is great except for this one thing...
July 26, 2013 7:22 AM   Subscribe

Help me help my neighbor's dog (and mine) learn to share.

I work from home, my neighbor doesn't. We both have dogs (His dog, Archie a 3-year-old rescue mutt, is on the left and my dog, Bailey a 1-year-old Akita, is on the right). He was complaining that he doesn't have time to get his dog the exercise he should. So I offered to let him drop his dog off with me so they could hang out, play with each-other and I could walk them together.

The first day went great and think this might turn into a semi-regular thing a few days a week. The only hiccup is that Archie immediately claimed all the chew-toys in the house as his (there were plenty of them) and growled at Bailey when she got close (whether she was interested in the toy or not). Bailey took some exception to this (they are her toys after all). I had never seen her growl before. I could take the toys away with no problem, he'd happily give them up to me. So, for the day, I just put all the toys away and everything was fine.

Now, I could just keep all the toys put away when I'm Archie-sitting but I'd like to be able to teach them both to share. How do go about training these two to share?
posted by VTX to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Not a dog expert... what if you brought some of Archie's toys over (so it smells like him)? Or involve food some how - pass a toy over to your dog, then give Archie a treat. Once he sees treats abound he might be less territorial. And of course that you act like head dog, so Archie doesn't think he has to compete with your dog but please you.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:28 AM on July 26, 2013

Best answer: Those are adorable dogs! I love Akitas they have such happy faces.

How about playing with both dogs together with the toys. If someone gets possessive, you, as the Pack Leader can claim the toys, and dole them out as you see fit.

As long as everyone seems happy, leave them alone, when conflict arises, step in and sort it out. After awhile the "who's the alpha dog" question will be resolved. It's you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:29 AM on July 26, 2013

Best answer: Yup, you have to be a little bossy when the dogs get like this. Since the dog isn't growly when you take toys away, you're the respected authority. You just barge in, grab everything, and then make them both behave (put them in a sit or something) and hand out toys. Repeat until they get the hint.
posted by xingcat at 7:40 AM on July 26, 2013

Response by poster: My neighbor tells me that Archie does the same thing with his own toys. Any dog gets near and he growls, any human comes near and he gives them up happily. I had actually hoped that it wouldn't be less of a problem if he was on another dogs territory and none of his own toys were around.
posted by VTX at 7:45 AM on July 26, 2013

"Pack Leader"/dominance type of dog training isn't very effective. It's good at stopping immediate things, but it doesn't produce long-term changes in behaviour. You're looking for long-term changes here.

Have you learned any positive reinforcement dog training? Where you capture a behavior and give the dog a treat? If not, it's too complicated to get into here, but there's plenty of resources on it around the internet. The trick is getting Archie to do what you want and capturing the behavior, and persuading Bailey that it's OK to have some of the toys even though she's been growled at in the past. Or, you could get Archie to learn to ignore chew toys, and then teach him how to play with them properly. Be creative. Just remember to train the dog to do something else (redirection) instead of trying to teach him or her not to do something.
posted by SpecialK at 7:54 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

There is no one golden approach, so you might have to try a few ideas.

Some dogs are possessive with toys, and so the easiest approach is to not have any toys about for them to fight over unless you are prepared to supervise them. It might well turn out that the dogs work it out on their own, given some time and supervision.

This is what we have to do for our dogs with the highly coveted toys - just keep them put away and supervise them when they do get to play with them. The other thing that works well with highly coveted toys is to make sure there is one for each of them.

Also, tired dogs are good dogs - if you take them for a walk early in the day, they'll likely be too tired to put up much of a fuss over the toys.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:07 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

We have a toy possessive dog. He's not to the point at growling at our other dog, but he likes to have all the toys. We solved the problem by having too many toys for one dog to be able to guard them all. Seriously we have like 5 toys in every room of our house with lots of doubles and triples of favoured toys that solved a lot of problems and gave our other dog toys he can play with.

Now if I had a visiting dog with the problem, I'd honestly just pick up all the toys if it's only chew toys causing the problem then just eliminate those and stick to keeping out low value toys that Archie isn't so interested in hording. Two dogs can play quite happily with just each other without any toys. If you wanted to work on the problem then I'd sit the dogs well apart and hand each dog one toy and then supervise, any time Archie behaves in the manner you want and say ignores your dog and his toy reinforce that with lots of "Good boy Archie" in a calm but happy voice.

Also Pogo Fuzzybutts (Ha cute name) advice to walk them first so they are tired is great.
posted by wwax at 8:17 AM on July 26, 2013

This is called resource guarding. It's a pretty serious behavioral issue all on its own, and probably not something you can take it upon yourself to solve. I think keeping the toys put away during Archie's visits is probably your best bet.

You may also want to let your neighbor know this is happening. It's not a huge awful dangerous problem a la aggression, but it's not a great thing. I'd want to know if my dog was doing it.

By the way, dogs don't have the same concept of "this is mine, that's yours" that humans do. Even if everything were hunky dory with Archie, you really can't expect him to act as if all the toys at your house belong to Bailey and need permission to play with.
posted by Sara C. at 8:17 AM on July 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

I would be careful taking a toy from a dog who is resource guarding. He could bite or at the very least snap. Unless you know him/her well.

My dog does this type of thing with other dogs toy's. I usually pickup the toys and get them off the playing field or remove my dog if the first option isn't available.

I am not sure if sharing is a concept dogs can be taught. But that opinion is because I was never able to fully get my first two dogs to share with each other. One always slinked off with the others' stuff.
posted by cairnoflore at 9:33 AM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't take it upon myself to change this behavior in someone else's dog. This is a huge ball of wax that needs time, consistency, and the utter investment of the trainer. And all of that rightfully belongs to your pup.

I'd just put all the toys away for his visits, myself, and maybe do the research to help his owner find a trainer experienced with this issue.
posted by batmonkey at 9:37 AM on July 26, 2013

Response by poster: Archie's owner knows about the behavior and doesn't feel the need to correct it. He isn't ever aggressive towards humans, the toys can always be taken away, and it's his dog so that's his prerogative. I wouldn't really be concerned about it except that my dog decided she had to have whatever chew toy Archie was working on. If she was content to let him guard his toy while she found another one to work on I would really have an issue with it. I'm more concerned that my dog is exhibiting the same kind of behavior and since I need two dogs together to train my dog, I might as well work with Archie while I'm at it.
posted by VTX at 9:49 AM on July 26, 2013

Best answer: Teach your dog "leave it" or "Off" that way if she goes after something Archie has you can tell her to leave it and redirect her to something else. This should also stop any resource guarding on her end.

You won't want the two dogs together when you train this, rather you should start slow with your dog and once she is reliable with leave it then you can train her to leave Archie be regardless of what toy he has.

You could try to teach Archie this too, but a reliable "leave it" can be a pretty long process, and you will need to train each dog individually. I don't know if you want to invest that much time on your neighbor's dog.
posted by ephemerista at 10:33 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I took my dog to "doggie daycare" for a while. Their practice was to put all the toys away. The dogs had plenty of fun playing with each other and the humans, and there were no issues with "resource guarding" because the toys weren't lying around.
posted by mingodingo at 6:00 PM on July 26, 2013

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