Many of us have played the inadvertent “keep away” game with our dogs at one point or another. This is when our dog grabs something and refuses to give it back. This can be comical, but can also be dangerous or frustrating for the dog if he grabs something that could cause harm to himself or others. Dogs who are taught to trade will gladly give up the item they have guarded for something more valuable.
Guarding the canine resource
Dogs are naturally inclined to guard resources such as food and toys. They do this because they fear losing the resource. Dogs may feel more comfortable about losing their stuff if they are taught how to trade.
Learning to trade dogs is a great way to make friends with your dog.
Trades can be beneficial for any dog. It’s a multifaceted behavior that can have many practical applications in dogs’ day-to-day lives. Trades are often used to trade with dogs that have a tendency to guard their resources. However, you can also use trades in order to prevent your dog from guarding any resources. Trading is also a safe way to play fetch with dogs that are enthusiastic about picking up toys or are reluctant to give them back. A simple way to trade is to have multiple toys, such as tennis balls. The dog will return from fetching one to get a new toy.
How to teach trades to your dog
These are the steps to teach a dog how to trade
Step 1 – A low-value item is something the dog will not show guarding. You can choose a toy he doesn’t care about or an item he isn’t interested in like a book. A large supply of high-value treats such as cheese, hot dogs, and chicken will be necessary.
Step 2 Use a leash to attach the dog to a doorknob or sturdy furniture piece and then place the low-value items within reach. The goal is to make the dog feel safe and comfortable. However, the leash allows you to remove the dog from your reach if the dog displays any resource-guarding behavior. Resource guarding behaviors include avoidance, freeze, growling, snapping, lunging, and lip curling.
Step 3: Offer your dog some high-value treats. Take the low-value items out of the dog’s mouth while he is enjoying the high-value treats. If he is interested in having the low-value item taken away, you can make a trail of treats that leads away from it. This step can be repeated several times before you move on to the next.
Step 4 – This step is simultaneous. You can offer high-value treats to the dog with one hand and take the low-value item from the other. Continue this process until your dog is happy with your approach and takes the low-value item off his plate.
Step 5 Next, approach your dog and remove the low-value items. Then, offer the treats to the dog. Repeat this step several times until the dog is not defensive. Wait a few seconds before giving the treats. Step 4 should be used if the dog doesn’t seem to be excited by your approach.
Step 6 Try the steps above with different items that your dog isn’t guarding. You will gradually move up to more valuable items. You could start with a toy your dog is not interested in, and then move on to a toy he likes to play with. Next, you will want to make it a habit to gradually increase the value of his toys. If your dog doesn’t respond to your approach at any stage, you can return to step 4.
Step 7 To teach your dog that trading can take place anywhere and with any person, practice with different people and places. Start with step 2 for every new place or person. You should practice more to help your dog master each step.
Step 8 To keep your dog’s new skills sharp, you should practice trading frequently.