Help! My Dog Won’t Let Anyone Near His Toys!

Here's what to do with a pup who won’t share.

dog jealous possessive aggressive toys

Have you ever tried to reach for your dog’s toy, only to be met with some serious — and slightly intimidating — side-eye?

There’s a chance that means your dog might be a little possessive of his things, which could result in aggressive behavior if left untreated.

The Dodo spoke with Dr. Andrea Y. Tu and Dr. Vanessa Spano, veterinarians with Behavior Vets in New York City, to find out just what you should do if your dog is being a bit too territorial of his toys.

Why your dog is possessive of toys

It’s easy to assume your dog is just being a brat about sharing his toys, but possessiveness is actually a natural response.

“That is really a derivative of a normal behavior,” Dr. Tu told The Dodo. “Dogs need to be able to guard and make sure that they have enough resources for them[selves].”

Factors that contribute to a dog’s possessive behavior are:

  • Genetics
  • Early socialization period (AKA experiences from when they were just little puppies)
  • Their current situation
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Signs of possessive behavior

Possessive behavior is often displayed through aggressive actions, but it’s not always that obvious.

Some signs of possessiveness include:

  • Licking their lips
  • Yawning
  • Showing the whites of their eyes
  • Tucking their tail
  • Pinning their ears back
  • Barking
  • Growling
  • Lunging
  • Biting

“If, over time, [dogs] realize these subtle signs of anxiety are going ignored, they may learn that they need to do whatever they can to get their point across,” Dr. Spano told The Dodo. “That can result in [those] more intense signs.”

What to do if your dog is being possessive of his toys

If your dog is getting territorial over a specific toy, it might seem like a good idea to snatch it away to show him that it’s really yours and not his.

But it turns out that’s not the right move.

“That actually can make things worse,” Dr. Tu explained. “If you think about it, the dog is protective of [his] resources. If you show him that it’s a limited resource, he’s going to be more protective of it.”

Instead of taking the toy away while he’s using it, wait until he’s finished with it, and move it somewhere he can’t access it.

“If [he] happens to gain access to [the toy], either leave [him] alone with it until [he’s] done, so long as the toy is not dangerous, or attempt to trade [it] out ... with something else high-value, like a treat,” Dr. Spano said.

If the problem continues, you could always get rid of the toy in question.

But if this possessiveness turns into aggression, you should definitely consult a vet or a behaviorist to find the right treatment plan for your pup.

“When dogs act aggressively, it is usually because they are scared and they are anxious,” Dr. Tu said.

If that’s the case, vets can help treat your dog’s anxiety, which should help settle some of that possessive behavior.

You should do it ASAP, as you want to treat it before someone gets injured. Vets can also determine if supplements or certain training techniques could work for your pup.