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Hi everyone in the forum. My 6 year old Beagle has a behavior problem... He has been very possessive of his food and toys for a couple of years. He won't let anyone come near when he eats, he starts growling and snapping at you if he thinks you've approached too close. I'm afraid he can eventually bite me or my guests. When he's grabbed a toy, I can never take it from him, same snappish reaction. How can I change this behavior or it's too late to train him? I'm so lost! There's also another problem with him by they way. He hates walking on leash. Every time I try to do it he won't go but will sit and refuse to go. I have to pull him but I cannot pull him all the time can I?? Please help! I love him soooo much but lately he's become really unbearable. Emotion: sad
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Hi,

It's never late to show a dog who's the boss. From what I've understood, he doesn't recognize you as the leader at all. So first of all it's you who should change. A dog will never change if the owner doesn't change. You need to become more confident and persistent when you interact with him or trying to make him do something.

So, literally face the problem. When he's grabbed a toy, come closer persistently even if he growls at you. Be patient as it may take time. Make sure your movements and position are persistent and daring so that he understands your body language and can read the signs you're giving him. It will be a psychological battle that you should win. When you're close enough, slowly start reaching the toy he's holding. It'd be wise to have another toy at this time so that if he wants to bite, you'll have a "shield". Of course he's not going to give you the toy at once and he'll be protecting it. Be patient, patient, and once more patient. He'll be very tensed but fortunately dogs can't be tensed forever, so just wait till he gets tired. It may take several minutes, but do not change your persistence throughout this time. When you see he's getting tired, slowly but firmly try to take the toy out of his mouth. He may try to snap - be ready and use the other toy to protect your hand. He may want to grab this new toy too, which is good because then he'll have to drop the first one and this is what you wanted him to do. Little victory! To obtain the second toy if he grabbed it, just keep on being close to him and showing him that you want the second toy too and he has no choice but to obey. His jaws should be rather tired by this time so getting the second toy will be easier. He'll most probably drop it himself eventually, and you should take it to show its yours. This is how it works in nature - the leader takes and does what he wants because he's stronger physically and mentally, and all the other dogs have to obey.

The same approach can be used to get rid of his food possessive behaviour. Firmly and persistently try to stand between him and his food bowl. It will mean that the food is yours, you are the leader. Of course it won't mean that you will never let him eat again. It will only mean that he must let you do what you want at any time because you're the alpha dog.

I hope these tips will help, good luck! Please keep us posted.

R
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I agree with most of what Rapael has said other than moving slowly and patiently. If you observe dogs in a pack, the alpha dog is anything but slow-moving and patient with the other dogs. The reason being: if the alpha dog moves slowly and works patiently with the other dogs, then he is not seen as a true leader ... he is timid and weak, and will soon be over-powered by the pack.

I would suggest behaving just as an alpha dog in the pack. Move in quickly and assuredly, knock the dog over onto its side or back, or push it aside, and take what you want. That is how it works in the dog world, and it's what a dog understands. Right now your dog understands that he is the alpha dog in your household.

Now ... when I say to knock the dog over, or push him aside, that does not mean to hurt him in any way. It simply means be powerful and aggressive in your actions. Believe it or not, it even helps to growl loudly at the dog. This is the technique I'm currently using with my Saint Bernard puppy that already weighs 90 pounds, and is extremly head-strong. Saint Bernards are notoriously difficult to train, but he IS learning to listen becasue he knows that I rule my home.

So, with all of that said, here is what I would do with the toy problem. When you see that your dog has a toy, walk directly up to him and attempt to take it away. If he snaps at you, then knock him over just as the alpha dog in a pack would do. When he is on his side or back he becomes prone, and should loosen his grip on the toy. Take it from his mouth, then give it back to him when he calms down. Keep repeating this until he gets it.

I love what Rapael has said about standing between him and his food. The only thing I would add to that is after you have let him begin eating the food, take the dish away and pretend to eat some. Then give him the leftovers. In a dog pack, the alpha dog eats first, then the subordinate dogs eat what's left.
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Yes, that's absolutely correct about being powerful and aggressive in actions. This is how they interact in a pack. Perhaps I didn't express myself clearly enough but by saying slowly and patiently I by no means meant timid and weak. The latter is a direct way to being disrespected by your own dog. What I actually had in mind is that a person who cannot do those leadership movements correctly at once, and usually it is so if you've never done it before, such a person runs the risk to get bitten by his own dog. We don't know how aggressive anon's Beagle is at the moment. If the dog's obviously one step from biting, I'd not recommend those aggressive actions because, as I said, if you've never done them before you may do something wrong and be bitten. In this case inviting a professional dog behaviourist would be a good option. In the dog isn't that aggressive, then yes you could move on.

R
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This is a good illustration of what I meant by "slowly and patiently".
http://mysmelly.com/Archive/WhatMeansPackLeader/chqgv/post.htm

R
RaphaelWhat I actually had in mind is that a person who cannot do those leadership movements correctly at once, and usually it is so if you've never done it before, such a person runs the risk to get bitten by his own dog.
Ah! Okay ... now your original response makes more sense. Definitely, if you're not experienced with dogs, or your dog is very aggressive, then move slower and more deliberately.

Being that your dog is relatively small, try both techniques to see which he responds most positively to. Both will work, and achieve the same end result.

Good luck, and keep us posted.