Teaching your dog to give up a prized possession willingly in return for something superior is an important skill. We teach dogs in our classes and in our in-home training sessions at CNC.
Teaching your dog to “trade” helps your dog stay happy and comfortable. This is especially true when you approach her while she’s enjoying something she really likes. It also prevents her from feeling stressed for fear you’ll take away that prized possession.
Each dog places a different value on food, toys, or other items, just as we do. Let’s take my love of ice cream for an example. If I’m enjoying an ice cream cone and a friend decides he wants a bite and I offer my friend the ice cream cone, but he then walks away with it and doesn’t give it back, you can be sure I’d be feeling a bit stressed! The next time he’s near me while I’m eating an ice cream cone, I’ll be much less likely to share it and may even try to protect it from him. No way he’s getting my ice cream cone again!
If you’re always snatching items out of your dog’s mouth, your dog is very likely to become possessive about the things she picks up.
Your dog may even be prone to resource guarding that item.
Resource guarding is a natural behavior for dogs. In the wild, if a dog doesn’t protect his or her food, then her chance of staying healthy is diminished.
Humans also resource guard. We lock our houses and cars. We protect our purses and wallets. Most people wouldn’t be at all happy if someone attempted to take those prized possessions away from us.
Here’s a video describing how to begin teaching your dog to Trade. As you watch the video, keep in mind that this is a two-handed exercise.
If at any point during this exercise your dog growls at you, please stop the exercise and call a professional trainer skilled in behavior modification.
A growl is a good thing (please do not ever punish a growl)! That growl is information that lets you know your dog is uncomfortable and signals the need for force-free behavior modification.
When my girl, Willow, is eating her meal or chewing on a stuffed Kong or other yummy treat, I want her to feel totally comfortable when I’m around her. Playing the Trade Game will not only help your dog feel comfortable when you’re near her food or other items she may have in her mouth, but when she picks up a potentially dangerous item, you’ll be able to use the Trade cue so that your dog easily gives you the dangerous item, preventing an emergency trip to the vet.