Growling At the Toy Box -- What to Do About Possession Aggression

In our desire to think of our little dogs as cute little teddy bears, we can forget that they can be growling and fierce little warriors, determined to take on the world. I received the email below recently.

Hi Sandy.

Wanted to drop you a note and let you know that Rylie (mom Scarlett, daddy Timmy) is now a little over a year old and doing well. We're enjoying her and she's certainly loved. Rylie is our 4th Silky and they've all had different personalities which I'm sure is no surprise to you. Rylie is sweet most of the time but can be very "resource possessive" with toys and things she finds. She growls and shows her teeth (luckily does not snap). Since you have so much expertise with Silkys, I was wondering if you could drop me a note as to the best way to handle this to prevent it from escalating. She is not this way with food. Other than this, she behaves very well. I'll have to email you a recent photo of her. Hope you're doing well. Thanks and best regards.

This is how I answered:

Glad that Riley is doing well. Yes, they all do have different personalities!

For starters, here are a couple of posts that address aggressive behavior in general. Check out and

These should give you some ideas. Another thing I would do if my dog was possession aggressive is try to figure out how to avoid the situation that started it.

For example, if I had a big doggy toy box in the living room and my dog didn't like to let anyone else near it, I would remove the big pile of toys and put out one at a time. If my dog was being possessive about her food, I would only feed her in her crate, and I would crate her during our mealtimes.

Then, especially with a young dog like Riley, I would consider attending an obedience class or two. PetSmart will do in a pinch, but if you can find a quality AKC obedience club in your area, all the better. The trainers there are generally all volunteers and super knowledgeable. This will show Riley that it's not neccessary to be growling -- she can get what she wants, but in more acceptable ways.

Any area where you can show Riley that being controlled by you can actually be fun will be helpful.

If she enjoys getting pampered and bathed by you, that would be an example of this.

You can also teach her a trick or two - these work great in distracting! Check out

This is an interesting subject, one that I know concerns lots of small dog owners. Thanks for bringing it up! And please keep me posted as to how it goes with Riley.

Best, Sandy

Return From Growling at the Toy Box to Dog Obedience Basics

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