Trading With Your Dog to Combat Resource Guarding
It’s important to be able to ask your dog to give something to you, especially something he is not supposed to have, and especially if you’re frequenting public places where he might pick something that belongs to someone else or that might be harmful to him. If you only take things away that are forbidden to him, he’ll learn to play the keep-away game, or worse, he may learn to resource-guard. The “trade” game will help you avoid these problems.
To teach “trade,” give your dog a toy or other object that he likes to play with. When he’s happily holding it in his mouth, offer him a high-value treat and as he drops the toy to take the treat, click the clicker (or use a verbal marker, such as the word “Yes!”) and feed him the treat. Then give him back the toy or object. If he is reluctant to give up his toy at first, use a higher-value treat, and/or scatter-drop several treats on the floor.
Note: This is a two-handed exercise. Be sure to keep your dog’s mouth busy eating treats from your hand while you pick up the toy with your other hand.
When you know he’ll drop the toy as you present the treat, start giving the “Trade!” cue just before you offer the treat.
Vary the length of time between giving the cue and offering the treat, until your dog starts dropping the toy on cue even before you present the trade treat. (Continue to give him the treat after you click, even if he drops the toy on cue.) Do lots of repetitions until he drops the toy on cue every time.
Now do this with higher-value items, such as stuffed Kongs, hoof chews, and raw meaty bones. Slowly work your way up to very high-value objects. Because your dog has learned you will give the valuable object back each time, he should continue to be willing to trade even very high-value items in exchange for a treat, followed by the return of the item.
Of course, when he grabs a bag of chicken bones on the street you won’t give it back, but that will happen so infrequently that he’ll learn to happily give you things when you ask.
Note: If your dog shows any signs of resource-guarding when you try to teach him “Trade” (unwillingness to give up object, tension, hard stare, growl, snap, or hovering over or moving away with the object) we recommend you seek the assistance of a qualified positive-behavior professional.
Do not try to forcibly take the object from him.