One of the cutest things about puppies is their insatiable curiosity about the world! Just like a little human, puppies are always exploring the world and trying to understand their relationship to it. Take something like grabbing one of your dog’s toys to play keep away - it’s so much fun. The puppy learns how to pounce and snatch toys, but he may also unintentionally be picking up a few bad habits. Remember, their learning how the world interacts with them when they do something. Sometimes ‘keep away’ can help your puppy learn how to guard or protect his things, including toys, treats, and food and water bowls. Introducing your puppy to fun games can be done in a way that’s both stimulating to his little doggy mind, and imparts good social habits. Here are our tips for how to get your puppy to share his things, and help develop a well-rounded dog.
If you are relatively new to training your puppy, you’ll be glad that you found us! We are championing a #12weekpuppychallenge on our sister website, 12 Week Puppy Challenge. One of the training tips we cover during the Challenge is how to help your puppy avoid becoming a guarder of his food. The same general principles apply to getting your puppy to share his things, food included. Key to your puppy’s success is relying on positive interactions and training techniques. That’s why if you are going to play ‘keep away’ with your pup, it’s best to use one specific item. We recommend a toy that is uniquely made for tugging. This way your puppy learns, through repetition and redirection, that tugging and ‘keep away’ is good with one special toy - not all toys. Anytime your pup begins to tug, simply and gently redirect his attention to his special toy. Over time he’ll get the lesson, and when the desire to play pulling games strikes him, he’ll bring you his special toy.
To help your puppy understand how to share his things, including his toys and food, you’ll rely on your hands quite a bit. Showing your puppy that your hands always lead to positive and compassionate results is a great way to earn his trust. Remember to gently provide and take away items that your puppy uses. Never snatch them as that can kick in a puppy’s natural prey drive. Quick actions stimulate, and while it’s not your intention, grabbing things to quickly remove them from your puppy will teach him to try to grab the item faster than you take it away. This could lead to guarding down the road. So, key to understanding that sharing is a positive thing, give your puppy a toy and allow him to play with it for a little bit. After a minute open your hand, palm up, and encourage your dog to drop the toy (use a keyword if you like) in exchange for a treat. Don’t hide the toy once your puppy releases it, just place it by your side.
Continue this training, by exchanging toys for a well earned little treat and soon your dog will understand that sharing leads to good things. You can use this same method with your puppy’s food bowl. Use your hands to provide a little bit of food the bowl, allow your pup to eat it while you soothingly pet him, and then gently remove the bowl. Keep this training up with your pup through his formative years, with a lot of his things, including treats and chew bones. Select something tasty that is dog-safe and will temp your pup into letting go or releasing what he has. Always keep in mind that your hands are teaching your pup, so keep them gentle, relaxed, and soothing. Your dog will learn that all good things come from your hands, and will be willing to let go of whatever he has in order to get some of your goodness. Soon enough, as the bond with your puppy builds, you won’t need treats - your puppy will learn to desire your touch.
With these simple actions you can quickly get your pup to understand the pluses of sharing his things. You can also help him understand that the other people he shares his life with are worthy of his things too. Just have your family and friends participate in the training. Your pup will begin to piece together that everything is fine, and that there is nothing at risk by allowing people to touch his things. This type of training can imprint on your pup, particularly when he’s learning to interact with other dogs. The key to raising a well-rounded pup is the lessons you teach him. Sharing is a key lesson that helps your dog interact positively with the world around him!