The world of a dog is a relatively simple one. Dogs have their owners, who they care and trust deeply. Dogs will often have a companion, whether that is another animal in the house or another animal that they have met on one of their many ventures into the neighborhood. Dogs have both food and treats at their home. As simple as this world might be, it is considerably easy to disrupt it and cause issues. For instance, dogs will often fight over their favorite toys. Much like with siblings, a little bit of play fighting is perfectly fine, and even indicative of a healthy relationship between dogs. However, when that play fighting begins to breach into the territory of possessiveness and aggression, it means that it is time for you, as the owner, to step in and stop your dogs. A dog that becomes possessive over its toys is not an easy dog to stop, but it is important that you do what you can so that the problem doesn’t escalate more.
If you notice your dog fighting over toys, and its fighting has become far more serious than the typical play fighting that you see between dogs, you need to begin taking action to deescalate the situation before it becomes dangerous for your dog, the other dog, and you. There are a few ways that you can handle the situation, and it all depends on just how possessive and aggressive your dog has become.
Dispelling the Situation
First things first, you will need to do what you can to completely dispel the situation. There are a few steps to this. You will want to begin by creating an environmental distraction. This is a sophisticated way of saying that you need to make enough of a commotion to get your dogs to snap out of their angered stances and pay attention to their environment. Depending on where this dispute is taking place, you can do anything from bang some pots and pans in the kitchen to shining a bright light near the dogs to distract them. Anything that will get your dogs’ attention off each other and onto the environment.
As a note, you should have a good sense of when your dog is being playfully aggressive with its dog friend and when it is genuinely ready to attack. You should not try to approach your dog if it has become so aggressive that there is a good chance it will bite you. You should not try to use any environmental distraction that will involve touching the dog or coming into contact with it if your dog has reached this point of aggression. If you can, you should ask another person to help you out if your dog has become this aggressive, as you will want someone to keep an eye on it so that it can be controlled if it decides to finally bite.
Once you have successfully distracted the dogs and gotten them to focus on their environments, you will then want to do what you can to separate the animals. They need to be more separated than being on opposite sides of the room as well. In a best-case situation, you will want to be certain that there is a physical barrier between the two dogs that neither of them can get around. If you are in the dog park, a single tree or two is not going to be suitable. Always wait until the dogs have calmed down before you even try to reintroduce them to each other.
Taking Care of the Toy and the Situation
At this point, you will want to remove the toy that they were fighting over. Just as you would do with a young child who is fighting about toys, you are doing this to show your dogs that if they cannot behave as they are trained to, and if they are going to fight over a particular toy, then no dog is getting the toy. You do not want to reinforce that behavior, so consider waiting for a long time (if ever) to give the toy back to the dogs.
You will then want to think about what may have caused the initial spat to begin with. Some dogs might fight for attention in the form of trying to see who is superior and who can get the toy first. If this seems to be the case, then you will need to try and employ a strict order structure in the house. You will be able to tell if this is the case if the dogs seem to frequently fight around times when one dog may get more attention than the other (such as one dog being fed first at meal time). If this is the case, you will need to make efforts to try and do everything with both dogs at the same time. This includes feedings at the same time with separate bowls for each dog, spending time with both dogs together, and taking both dogs on walks.
Something else that you can do for your dog is you can try and make sure that a high-value toy (one that both dogs love so much they would fight over it) is not left out in the middle of the floor. You should have designated toys for playtime that your dogs will put more focus on. If your dogs enjoy playing with toys in their own time, consider leaving some less-favored toys out so that the dogs have the option to play with them if they want, but they are not going to be fighting over them. The point of having designated “play time” toys and taking them away when playtime is over shows that there is discipline, order, and rules in your house, and you are the one enacting them. The dogs will come to learn that their coveted toy only comes out during a specific time, and will learn how to play with it during that time and to play together, rather than fighting over who gets the toy whenever one dog has the urge to play.