I am emailing you about my 3 year old female Samoyed named Inca. She has always been an overly friendly dog with no aggression problems, and I had no issues with her until I got our second dog Sunny (a female pug around the same age). They get along very well. The only issue is Inca’s toy possessiveness. It is getting worse. Inca has always been top dog and Sunny is submissive toward her.
Around Sunny, she will guard, herd and even collect as many toys as she can in her mouth. She recently snapped at me and that’s when I decided I need to look into this more seriously.
The relationship the dogs have with their owner can often contribute if not actually cause the problem. Dog owners that are consistent in sending a non-stop subtle dog behaviour broadcast that, “It’s my house (toys, treats, food, guests etc.), you just get to live here.”, don’t run into this near as often. The dogs just assume if someone is higher on the ladder it’s not theirs to fight over and when they are allowed to have it, it’s borrowed.
However, squabbles of this sort can still occur from time to time and when it’s two dogs that on whole live well with each other I don’t get overly involved. Squabbles allowed to come to an understanding head off fights and unlike children they’ll generally work things out without ending up throwing garden implements at each other. The trouble is that the way they work things out doesn’t always seem fair from the perspective of a lot of dog owners and thinking they know better than the dogs, they referee. “Be nice. You have to share with your sister Inca.” Dogs are to sharing like reality television is to reality. It isn’t and they don’t. Forcing it upon them just confuses the heck out of them. “Can’t she see we just worked this out? I get the toys and you get to wish you had toys.”
Forcing Inca to share can get poor Sunny clocked harder and more often because Inca thinks she’s trying to work around their “understanding” by somehow evilly mind-controlling you into breaching the contract on her behalf. Inca counters by escalating her aggression so that Sunny can achieve greater clarity and just to be sure gets even more possessive.
Also, as poor Sunny is getting her little Pug butt bounced around for her “insolence” she’s wishing you’d mind your own business. Kidding aside, things that a squabble now and then would have decided, can escalate into more dangerous fights. When this sort of thing goes on and the dogs are so different in size the outcome of a fight vs a squabble can be dire. Even without it can get messy.
Now the aggression toward you; that’s a different kettle of fish. Inca either doesn’t know who bought the toys which might happen if you’re interacting with her like she’s a child rather than a dog or has now connected the toys with confusion and conflict and she’s short circuiting. Either way it’s time to bring in a trainer to learn how bring things into balance.
I’ll be doing another full day workshop for a limited number of dog owners in the Whitby, Ontario area on October 23rd. Send me an email if you want a spot.