What we are talking about is: Possession Aggression. That’s what it is.
And what does it mean?
There are many types of possession aggression. Some dogs guard their food bowl, their toys, their bed.
Others steal a sock in the laundry basket, run off with it and show aggression when it’s owner wants to take it away.
Some show aggression when someone just picks something off the floor or when they go up to the dog to stroke it or to take it’s lead off the peg.
Dogs have territorial instincts and this goes back thousands of years before domestication. In those dark times dogs had to put all their efforts in survival and had to fight over everything. Food primarily but also for a save place to shelter from the elements and predators. Although they live in your house, they consider it to be their territory. So it’s a free for all as far as they are concerned. Well, I don’t agree with that. A house should have “off limits” areas. One such “off limit” area is the matrimonial bedroom. Some dogs who have access to it’s owner bed become so possessive of that space that they growl/bite and make it quite clear the owner cannot have access to his own bed. Or the dog who sits on the sofa with you watching TV and will growl/bites when you move him off. Owners of small toy dog types such as Yorkshire Terriers have to deal with this often. These little dogs will bark/growl at anybody who comes close especially if they are being held in their owner’s arms because they consider their owner to be their exclusive property. Nobody calls this aggression. In their case it’s called jealousy. I don’t think that’s fair on big dogs. Their attitude is just as defensive and potentially dangerous.
Possession Aggression is not necessarily a sign of dominance. There is evidence that some of these aggressive dogs are victims of submissive peeing when there in the presence of another dog or human they feel is superior or intimidating. It is a subconscious response that cannot be controlled.
OK. So these aggressive dogs are sissies. So what is it then?
Many dogs who are otherwise obedient, show this behaviour.
Dogs soon learn that if they show aggression to another dog or to a human, the latter will back away. They become very good at instigating aggression. The dog has promoted himself to a high status.
So what happens?
The dog steals something which belongs to his owner like a pair of socks in boots or something which is food related like a tea towel and runs off. More often than not this happens when the dog wants to draw attention to himself. He runs under the table or chases round the room. He knows his owner will come after him. The dog is in control at this point because his owner is chasing him, probably shouting or yelling at him. As the owner closes in, the dog becomes aggressive and growls/snaps/bites. The owner backs away. The dog has won.
If this behaviour is not corrected, it will happen more often and intensify with serious consequences.
Put stuff out of his reach. This is easily said but difficult to apply. Your home cannot be like
. Fort Knox
If he does steal something, ignore him. He steals something, let him have it.
Distract him with a toy. Better still give him a treat. He will drop what he has in his mouth and you can retrieve what he has stolen. This does not work if he has stolen half a camembert. I have tried and tested this method. Food is instinct. It’s not to be messed with.
Teach him the “drop” / “give” command.
Put a leash on him in the house. Let it trail so that you can correct him when he has an unacceptable behaviour.
Don’t run after him, do not shout at him. Don’t meet aggression with aggression.
This is my thought for the day: we have to re-establish the pecking order and revise our status with Ozzy.