Resource Guarding Toys


Experienced Member
Hi guys! I haven't been around in forever, but I need some advice for a friend, and I figured you guys were the best place to go. I had a friend post on Facebook asking about her dog who is growling at her child when she crawls near her ball, and everyone is telling her that her dog is obviously trying to exert dominance towards her child and that she needs to show her who's boss. Ugh. I wanted to give her advice but I've never dealt with anything like this, and since you guys have always given me such awesome advice I figured you could help. Here's what she said: Dog owners--since Adley (her child) has become more mobile, Melody (her dog) has become more grumpy. Any articles or training techniques or help with getting Melody to be less possessive of her ball? I know Melody loves Adley because she always wants to give her kisses and gets excited to see her. But if Adley even starts crawling near her ball (even if she isn't going for it) melody freaks out and growls and snips. She has not bitten her and I'd like to believe she wouldn't. But I would like to be preventive if possible. Can I train this out of her? It is so disappointing. It can happen even if melody is at rest and the ball is across the room. Suddenly Adley starts crawling towards it (not intentionally) and she will run at her. It's more likely to happen though if she is near it.


Honored Member
Don't take risks. Not ever, especially not with a child. If the ball is the trigger for the problem than put the ball away except for highly controlled safe situations when training a different response.

When the ball is out Melody should not have any opportunity to reach the child. Using very high value rewards and a high rate of reinforcement you need to show Melody that giving up her ball results in better things happening than if she kept her ball. Your aim is that Melody will see that the child approaching her ball means that wonderful things happen.

Start without the child there, teaching Melody to "swap" her ball for something else that she wants even more than the ball.

I hope this gives you some idea of a way forward.