toy possesion/agression problem with Max

Discussion in 'Dog Training Forum' started by artstudent, Dec 20, 2004.

  1. artstudent

    artstudent New Member

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    Hi folks,

    I've finally come home for the holidays and had decided that I would spend some quality time with my family's dog max (boxer/lab/chow mix). When I was last at home, I played with Max using our basketball (he's always played with a basketball since he doesn't have any other toys) and had no problems, he'd sit on command, I'd kick the ball, tell him to "get it" he'd run after it try and grab it with his mouth and growl at the ball then break and sit when told for me to kick the ball again.... I decided that I'd get him some real "dog" toys to play with over the holidays and with that in mind, came home with a tug toy, nobby squeaking ball, and a small round bouncing ball.

    The problem started when I brought the toys out for the first time yesterday...He wasn't interested in the tug toy at all, but chased the nobbly squeaking ball quite enthusiastically, whining at it and not caring when I took it from him for him to chase it. When I brought out the smaller (would fit completely in his mouth) bouncing ball, however, he refused to drop it or let me take it from him (I will admit that he's never had much practice with "drop it" and even less since I haven't been home)...he then started to growl over it and even snapped at me, he even refused the standard "bait and switch" when I offered him a biscuit. Since removing the toy was out of question, I pulled him into a standing position and ran him around the yard on the leash (he promptly dropped the ball). I decided that the best course was to stop the fun since he wasn't playing by my rules. Today I decided to give it a second try, using the nobbly ball once more. He sat before I released the toy, waited for me to tell him ok, then went after it...then he did the same posessive growling behavior, refusing to drop the toy and once again I had to use the leash to pull him away from the toy and decided to put him back in his pen...

    This has all been quite disturbing for me, considering that we've had max for ~6 years and never run into this before...of course, we've never played using toys of this kind before either. Is he now trying to push dominance, when he's never done so outright in the past, or is he just being posessive? What worries me, is the prospect of him trying more violent behavior in the future since I'm unsure how to correct him for his current posessive problems...This is especially troubling since he's ~90lbs and could seriously injure someone. During both of the instances he had on a buckle collar and a long "training" lead....I am not sure whether trying the situation again with a choke collar (so I could give an actual correction) would be beneficial or if it would cause more agression. For now, I think the toys will stay put away until we get this problem settled.

    I'd greatly appreciate any suggustions,
    Thanks,
    Artstudent
     
  2. robsbargains

    robsbargains New Member

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    when sadie, my dobermann/shepherd cross was young, i'd never let her play with toys unless i gave them to her...but more importantly i never tried to fight her for a toy - if i wanted it, itwas MINE and i would be brisk and remove it. Now your problem sounds more serious cause of her age.

    If i were you, i'd try using keys or chains to startle her when you want the toy back. I would say..."drop it" and toss the keys at her snout as she holds the ball. But the TRICK is that she not see you toss the keys - so maybe a second person can help in that regard...but it's important she not associate the keys with anyone. So that person could remain hidden or just be walking by when you say "drop it". The other important step is that you not reach for the toy until it's on the ground. If she tries to grab for it then use the keys again at her snout - timing is critical for this to work. When you toss the keys it will really startle the dog, which is good...but no need to throw it hard. The keys should only be used for correction when she doesn't "drop". Eventually as she gets it and drops it freely you can start rewarding her and reinforce the positive behaviour but i suggest not rewarding her until after you've reached down for the ball on the ground in front of her...and above all, don't get upset - anger just pushes the dog to be more aggressive...Choke chains are another means of proponing aggressive behaviour.

    One more point: it would be ideal if when you get the ball from your dog succesfully, that you give it back to her soon after....stagger the times that you keep the toy from her so that a) you control when she gets the toy (not her) and b) the toy isn't gone forever when you take it away - she WILL get it back if she's good.


    These are all just my rambly opinions...good luck :)
     
  3. Renee750il

    Renee750il Felurian

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    Rob's got good ideas. You can substitute a can with some dried beans, coins or small rocks in it and shake it to make noise. Dogs typically don't like this noise (but it doesn't work with Filas - lol). Be very careful about snatching the ball. Make Max sit before you take it.

    You're doing the right thing by ending the fun when he won't play by your rules. It does sound like he is being more possessive than assertive, especially since this kind of toy is a whole new experience for him. Since he refused the trade for a biscuit, I'd say he really, really loves his ball! You might even try getting a second ball. Throw the first, then call him back and when he gets near, throw the second [identical] ball. It might help him get a better idea of how this game is played, and that giving you the ball doesn't always mean the end of the fun.
     
  4. Sakasha

    Sakasha Sheltered

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    I agree with Renee, and I'd also like to share some advice of my own.

    Since Max has never played with these kind of toys, it is possible that his possession problem has just never had an outlet before, explaining why you have never noticed this behavior in the past. I would try getting a few more toys, identical to the ones you already bought him, and perhaps a few tennis balls too.

    Next time you and Max play, try initiating a trade. Have him sit, throw the ball, and when he returns, hold out the second (identical) ball. Then give the "drop it" command. As a rule, the toy in your possession should be more enticing than the toy Max already has. If he still refuses to drop his ball, you could try coaxing him with a snack; treats obviously don't seem like an "even" trade to him, so try other things (peanut butter, cold cuts, little slices of chicken ...).

    If, or hopefully when, Max drops the ball, praise him, then immediately throw the other ball. He needs to understand that as long as he learns to share, playtime will continue. However, if he refuses to "drop it", do not take the toy away from him. Simply end playtime, and return him to his pen (with the toy). If this happens, wait until he has lost interest in the toy before taking it away. By taking the ball away permanently, while he still wants it, you are simply affirming his fears - giving the ball to you means playtime is over.

    If none of this works, I have one more bit of advice. Throw the ball, allow Max to retrieve it, and then leave him alone. Continue watching, but let him loose interest in the ball on his own. When he finally drops it, immediately praise him, pick up the ball, and throw it again.

    This may prove to be a lengthy process, but you obviously have Max's best interest in mind. Keep at it, and you should see progress. When you are sure Max is comfortable with trading, you can try eliminating the second ball. If he continues to drop his, your possession problem is solved!

    Hope this helped. Good luck! And let us know what happens.
     
  5. Renee750il

    Renee750il Felurian

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    Excellent post, Sakasha! Great advice and well explained.
     
  6. artstudent

    artstudent New Member

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    Thank you all so much for your help!

    I had thought that a shake can could be useful in this, but had no idea how to implement it... I'll hopefully have some time on my hands for the rest of christmas break, so I'll try all of your suggustions and let you know what the results are.

    Thanks again,
    Artstudent
     

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