Help for Dogs that Control Their Owners Relationships

Possessive behavior is not cute!

Recently I was out dog training with a middle aged couple that had acquired a lovely, but wild Maltese/Terrier mix.  Admittedly she has many problems some of which include aggression towards the toilet (when it flushes) and vacuum and also the possessive guarding of her human “Mother”.

“Mom” is her main care giver.  She gets up in the morning feeds and waters her, takes her for walks, plays with and trains her.  Although there is an adult son that also lives in the home and her human “Dad” they mostly only interact with her when Mom is gone and they NEVER train with her.

She is definitely spoiled and gets almost everything she wants, from everyone.  When she demands that her humans pet her; they do.  When she wants to play ball, she initiates and insists someone throw it for her; non-compliance will be met with barking and an escalation from nipping to hurtful biting.  When she doesn’t want to be picked up, she flashes her teeth and is hastily left alone.  She has to be tricked to enter her crate when it is time for her owners to work.

Mom makes her listen and obey commands most of the time, but gives in to her “cuteness” and has trouble truly enforcing commands, but no one else even asks her to obey or adhere to any rules.

AND, “Dad” is not allowed to affectionately touch “Mom” in her presence without the threat of significant bodily harm and damage (thank goodness she is not a Rottweiler!).

I had my plate full for sure!  “Princess” was quite displeased to see the emergence of a dog trainer at her door!  We had lots of work to do for sure and Princess had to learn boundaries and adhere to rules, but due to her possessive owner behavior and recent admittance of like behavior out there with many of my readers, I thought it was time to tackle this problem and help you to get on the way to recognizing it and solving it!  Protective behavior which was recently misunderstood in my article Help!  My Dog is Too Protective is usually not possessive behavior.

I once worked with a friend very early in my career (I was 18) who swore animals did not have “human” emotions.  I don’t know whether she was yanking my chain to watch me get fired up about the subject or whether she truly believed that dogs didn’t have emotions.  Unfortunately she is not the only person I have heard make such a ridiculous claim.

I am here to attest to the fact that animals DO DO, DO, DO, DO, have emotions!  Did I make that clear?  Yes, they DO!  What I don’t believe they have is the ability to “punish” or get back at us.  They are not by nature “sneaky” post behavior.  Sneaky, conniving behavior is a human trait.  But that is for another article!

I guarantee that dogs suffer from jealousy! 

Jealousy is a nasty trait!  Wikipedia defines jealousy as a secondary emotion, typically referring to negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear and anxiety over an anticipated loss of something that the “person” (dog) values, particularly in reference to a human connection.  Jealousy often consists of a combination of presenting emotions such as anger, sadness, resentment and disgust.  Not to be confused with envy.

We have all seen and suffered from jealousy to some degree.  It has been observed in infants 5 months and older!  Whether it is a sibling, a stepmother/father, or a friend we have all had these feelings.

When I was born, my sister (who was 3) used to sneak into my crib every night and pinch me as hard as she could until I screamed!  She definitely had some jealousy issues, that thankfully we have worked out now 🙂  ha ha!

Dogs, especially those dogs that don’t have siblings or other dogs to compete with, often suffer from jealousy.  This single dog phenomenon sets them up to be a little more selfish and much less apt to “share”; similarly to single child homes.

Although I believe it is most common in single dog homes, it can also happen in homes with multiple dogs but usually the aggression and jealousy and possessiveness is shown toward the other dogs in the family (this would be another article).

The “Princess” phenomenon is very common; the dog usually bonds to one person and simply doesn’t want to share this person or his/her affection with anyone else.  Other people are seen as possible competitors and treated as such when they cross the boundaries set by the dog and ask for affection from “the dog’s” person.

Most often these dogs are spoiled!!  Spoiled dogs like spoiled children are much more demanding and feel much more entitled to whatever they seek.   Whereas the object of the dog’s affection may demand some form of obedience and adherence to some rules, most often the other people in the family or friends do not interact with the dog on an obedience level.   When a person, adult, or parent is only “fun” they are often not respected!

What to Do?

The first thing is to make sure everyone in the family is safe.  These possessive tyrants are often willing to issue a bite and in large dogs these bites can be quite severe!  Never use negative or nasty training techniques or the aggression is liable to escalate!  Always keep the dog on a leash and use lots of positive reinforcement!  This type of training may take time, it is okay for everyone to move slowly in their training to ensure safety.

First the dynamics of all the relationships in the family need to change!  That includes the person that is the object of the dog’s affection!  I have seen people who come to me for help with this problem, but deep down they are delighted that their dog “loves” them so much that they are willing to bite or protect them from anyone.  I can’t help people or their dogs when they are unwilling to make some very drastic changes!  This is not a cute behavior for any dog!

The other people in the family need to be willing to safely step up to a new relationship.  This person, who is always feeling like they may be bitten for showing affection to someone they love can be angry and feel vengeful toward the dog.  I find that sometimes they seek help, just because they love the person in the middle but they detest the dog and are unwilling to make significant changes.  This will not work if everyone is not willing to create new relationships and let the past go!

Positive reinforcement training and having fun is the only way to change naughty behavior

Not only does the person that has been threatened need to bring some obedience and rules to the equation, they also need to be a center of fun, treats, and food for the dog.  Positive reinforcement is the only way to win the hearts of these little or big bullies.

The dog’s life needs to go from centering on “his chosen person” to  centering on the person he has been jealous of.  In the new restructuring of the household this person needs to now take charge of feeding the dog, walking the dog, and generally playing with the dog.  All good things should come from this person and very little interaction should come from the person the dog already loves.

The former object of the dog’s affection needs to take a backseat to the new relationship and let family and friends be the center of the dog’s life.  Although this is difficult for this person, it is essential and I guarantee the dog will still love you!  Sneaking love, snuggling and affection will only undermine the dog’s ability to form a loving relationship with the other person!

I recommend the person who has been threatened by the dog take an obedience class where he/she can take the dog alone to a new environment and begin to shape a new relationship.  Even if the dog has good obedience skills, taking your dog to a class builds a bond of trust and companionship and if done with a good trainer is fun.

I recommend getting these little green monsters (because green is the color of jealousy) off of your furniture.  These dogs do not need to be sitting in the laps or sleeping with those they are guarding; this only makes change more difficult and more dangerous.

Put a leash on your dog and pluck him off of the furniture when he jumps up.  Being on the furniture is a privilege at my house and has to be earned.  If you show good behavior and listen to commands and don’t have aggression or possession issues toward anyone in the house, you can lie on the furniture, if you do have any of those issues…you aren’t allowed.

The person being guarded can tell the dog he doesn’t like the possessive behavior by plucking the dog off or leading it away but should otherwise not get involved in the relationship of the dog and other family member.  It is detrimental to have this person shouting second commands or coming in and making the dog adhere.  When the dog is possessive this person should get up and leave the room.  Possessive behavior=the loss of the person the dog loves or a time out so to speak.

As the first love of the dog’s life steps out and lets the other person begin to form a loving, bond, built on positive reinforcement, obedience, and fun and the dog begins to love this new person it is time to add the positive reinforcement of affection into the scenario.

I do not recommend doing this until the tide of the relationship has definitely changed and is apparent to everyone involved.  Flaunting affection with another person when your dog is being possessive may very well make the behavior much worse and more dangerous!  The dog must first love and listen to both people.

Now put your dog on a leash, so that you can control any naughty behavior and keep everyone safe, and start showing mild forms of affection toward that person.  Pats on the back, holding hands, resting a hand on the person for a short time is mild.  Hugging, kissing or laying on the person may be too much for the dog to handle at first because it can be seen as aggression on one person’s part to the other.

Pair this light affection with clicks and treats for good behavior.  If the dog shows no possessive behavior click and treat or jackpot for a good response.  Watch for any signs of possessive behavior such as stiffening, growling, showing teeth, or even putting himself in between you.  If there are signs of aggression, back up in your training and relationship forming; person number 2 needs to work harder on positive reinforcement training and fun alone with the dog before moving forward.

If the dog accepts this affection between two people readily with no signs of distress you may move on with your canoodling!  Be sure to keep him on a leash and click

An affectionate relationship for everyone is the goal!

and treat!  The dog needs to associate people on people affection with getting really great treats!

As the relationships change and the dog no longer shows ANY form of possession, the original object of affection can again start to show more love, snuggling and cuddling with the dog while making sure rules are adhered to and the dog respects and loves everyone involved.

As always FUN and safety are the most important aspects in making changes in your dog’s life!

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  1. Barbara says:

    This article is really good and mirrors much of what we have done, although our dog is trained and loves all members of the family, just not you showing each other affection. It has worked well.

    Our biggest problem is the “green eyed monster” when you try to pay attention to another dog. She luckily doesn’t bite, but gets between you and pushes the other dog away, with high pitched whining. Any suggestions on this type of behaviour as well would be greatly appreciated.


  2. Esther Williams says:

    We have a small rescue group and are always looking for positive trainers. Sad to say, they are few and far apart. it is refreshing to see someone who uses positive training.


    Minette Reply:

    Thank you!! I love animals and using my “mind” to get them to do what I want! I hope you come back often, read my many articles and share them with your group! I have a lot to offer and am happy to answer questions if I can!


  3. Jack says:

    I have a four year old American Staffordshire Terrier Mix that is sweet and loving,,,He loves both my wife and i equally but i believe he listens to her alot, shall i say quicker than me,,,like i have to ask him a few times to do something where she only has to say it once,,,,,,now from that perpsective,,,this is what happens almost every day,,,First part of story is now starting,,,,,i mostly am the one that is at home with the dog during the day as my wife works a regular job and i am a musician….so, im sitting where ever in the house and my dog hears my wife in her car pull up in our driveway….he then starts barking excitedly and looks for our cat,,,,who he really loves,,,,,,to chase,,,,,,and if he cant find the cat,,,he runs up to me,,, and starts barking at me,,,,so when this first happened, it was kinda scarey so i grabbed some cookies and told him to sit,,,,,he did…but still barking at me after he ate the cookie,,,,by this time my wife is in the door and he stops barking at me,,,,,its like he is purposely trying to keep me away from greeting her,,,he does the same sort of thing when she is home then i come home,,but she ignores the dog and he kinda barks but then walks away…so…what am i doing wrong? i tried putting him on a leash before she came home and he did not like that and made him even crazier,,,,,so the cookie thing kind of works,,,,as i said all other times he shows no aggression towards either of us,,,,another dog,,,,yes,,,and he listens to me better when my wife is not around,,,so i guess she is the alpha when we are together and i am the Apha when no one is around,,,,Any comments?


    Minette Reply:

    See if this helps

    I am guessing you don’t have a lot of follow through and he is getting rewarded for bad behavior. You are with him all day, get him out and work on obedience and teach him to do something for you during the day!


    Jack Reply:

    I do walk almost every evening,,,and he does listen to me when i call him or whatever,,,,,it’s just at that time of day when my wife gets home,,Interesting side note,,,,last night when she came home i was in the garage,,so he had no one to bark at,,,i came back into the house after my wife entered and he did walk up to me…not barking,,,but still expecting a cookie…..Now since he did not bark at me or act silly, i gave him the cookie,,,i realize now that i was rewarding him for negative behavior…i will now try to ignore him when my wife comes home,,,and or tell him to sit,,,,,is that right?


    Minette Reply:

    Yes, break the cycle and give him something else to do. You can also have your wife txt or call when she is on her way home so you have a heads up and ready yourself for developing a new behavior!

    With your walks, I would add some other fun obedience so that he gets more use to listening to you! Obedience is always a good thing if you do it in a fun and exciting way!

  4. Mary Rust says:

    I adopted my red heeler Annie in April 2010 from an animal hoarder who kept her in the cab of her pickup while at work to protect her other dogs and furniture from Annie’s aggressive behavior. Annie was also aggressive toward strangers.

    She got along well with my old lab and is gentle with my family when they come to visit. The problem is that I live alone, and other family members can’t take over the training, feeding, etc.

    Do you have any suggestions?


  5. This is a great article with specific instuctions. I’m anxious to try this exercise. We have a Shih-Tzu who exhibits all of the behavior you have described. My husband is actually afraid of her growling and snapping when he comes near me. The dog is 6 yrs. old and this started when she was a puppy. We take her for a golf cart every evening and if any one approaches the cart she growls and barks and carries on. If I put her off of the cart and on the ground she is fine. I am definitely going to start these exercises tomorrow morning. THANK YOU!!!!


  6. Maura Rudden says:

    This is a wonderful article but unfortunately does not address my problem. My year old Pug is well mannered and basically my boyfriend and I have no problems. (She is addicted to ice though) Our problem is that when we are both at home and one of us leaves she throws a fit. If only one of us is at home there is no problem with leaving as we tell her to stay and she does. I purchased your aerosol Pet Corrector and that has helped with barking at people walking by, (which is not a big problem) and I am using the bell trick to reward her before she acts up when one of us is leaving. Other than those two things we do not know what to do. She has never been left alone for more than an hour or hour and a half. She has been crate trained since 8 weeks old and never any real problems except this incessant action and barking when one of us leaves. I have always had big dogs, Rottweilers, Shepherds and Dobies so having a little one is a great joy and a big question. Also she does not sleep with us and my boyfriend is the one who walks her as I am unable to walk any distance.
    any advice you may avail us will be appreciated.
    Thank you
    Maura & Rich


  7. Eileen says:

    Is this the same behavior as the dog thinking the house is his (or hers): behaviors such as barking at the TV when there is a dog on a show. In other words just tolerating the dog’s owner because that is how it gets fed?


  8. Lesley Nugent says:

    Thank you for the wonderful article. we have a mail Bull Terrier Rolex, who is very posessive of me and actually barks at my husband if he raises his voice in my presence. We are working with a trainer and he is a lot better but your suggestions that hubby should take over a lot of the chores connected to the dog is a brilliant idea.
    I used to let Rolex sit on my lap at night when we watch TV, but we have stopped that. He does sulk and in true Terrier fashion doesn’t give up that easily, but we are getting there. Thanks for the advice on the leash. My grandchildren are coming to visit in 2 weeks and I am quite tense about how he is going to re-act towards them. do you have any advice for me?


    Minette Reply:

    It depends on the age of the grandkids but the main idea is to keep him on a leash at first for safety and to have them toss him treats as long as he is good. Make sure not to leave them alone, even if you think things are going well! And, just err on the side of caution 🙂 while making things as fun as possible for everyone involved!


  9. Sharon Nagel says:

    I need help with nipping…
    When he wants to play and I’m busy with something else he nips and hard, till I play with him, he is a year old Coton de Tulear, I have been putting him in his Kennel but that doesn’t work, I pull his whiskers when he tries to bite my hand and nothing. What would you suggest?

    Thank you, Sharon


  10. char says:

    I HAVE A CHIWEENIE,6 MO. OLD.She is very demanding also.Barks & nips whenever she wants anything.I am training her by myself.My husband has no interest at all this makes things very difficult.She is extremely intelligent,which makes it harder.Your blog has really given me some great pointers!I really admire you for not being in this for the money!I contacted one trainer who wanted 550.00 to help me.She is doing well now.I could not love her anymore.By the way,her name is Lucy.


    Minette Reply:

    Don’t let her get away with that stuff, especially at 6 months! but, thank you and good luck to you! 🙂


  11. Tia says:

    My boyfriend has a 10 month old pit bull puppy and we have been joining our lives together because we have a baby on the way. I am 6 months pregnant and I have an issue with the dog because he bites me. I am hoping there is a way to correct that through training but I worry I’m going to end up with stitches before that happens. He is an intelligent dog and he’s very hyperactive and I understand why, he lives in two different apartments and he has no space. I believe part of the problem may be that my boyfriend takes him from my house where he spends most nights to his house where he spends most days. At my house I try to work with him and train him but he usually to busy punking one of my dogs or trying to hump them, so I’m going to start all over again with him I guess. At my boyfriends house, his father and brother do no training at all with him and encourage is bad behavior because its “cute”. I think that he should be at one house… mine.. since our plans are for us to move in together for the baby. I figure he should get used to it now, am I correct? Also if I punish one of my dogs he bites me, how do I get around that? My boyfriend had decided to stop spanking him now because he thinks its causing aggression and in his dogs case I agree, but is he ever going to listen now with this sudden change in treatment?


    Minette Reply:

    No more physical punishment!! You are going to create a monster.

    Yes, if he was around me or my child, I would want him living at my house so that I could control how other people interacted with him.

    He needs exercise! Attach him to a bike or a scooter, so you can sit, and run him!!!! A tired dog is a good dog.

    Keep him on a leash and a gentle leader if he is biting at you! You can keep it on him around the house to control his behavior with you and your other dogs.

    Take him to a training class, just him and you so that you can begin building a bond of training together. Then work on that training together often 3-5 times a day at home!

    You have a lot of work to do before that baby comes, so I suggest you get started ASAP so that you can have a dog that listens when your baby arrives. And, remember he is going to take a lot of time and work after the baby’s arrival as well! Make sure you make time for him!


  12. Albertine Carone says:

    Good design.I just like the wallpapers.siva


  13. Tia says:

    This is Tia from up the thread a couple of comments. We were wondering what is the best way to deal with the dog when he bites/nips at us? we dont want to physically punish him and make him more agressive but dont know how to let him know that behavior is not acceptable.


    Minette Reply:

    Put a leash on him and pluck him off of whatever he is on, you can just keep a leash dangling on him for a while. If he does it to you on the sofa, just tell him no and pluck him off. If he does it to you in the kitchen, take his leash and put him outside for a minute or two. Aggression should lead to a loss of privilege. Don’t yell or make a big deal about it, just make it matter of fact and make sure you are all consistent.


  14. Judy A. says:

    My 6 year old Yorkshire Terrier (w/ a history of champion bloodline) was kept for breeding only. Don’t know if there were more males or if the remaining 7 were female…might be from a puppy mill atmosphere. His remaining 14 teeth were black & all were loose. Canine tooth twisted & leaning towards the corner of mouth; his teeth fell out when tech attempted to scale his teeth so all his teeth were extracted. Now he refuses to eat for me, won’t drink either, but will do both for my friends as long as they hold him & his food. I got his a dog bed & he loves it so much he won’t get out of it. Storm is adorable & will roll on his back everytime for a tummy rub; I love giving him tummy rubs. He’s a perfect dog. Don’t know how he’ll do with harness & leash–he might refuse to budge. He refuses to plain water so I make sure he gets Pedialyte with soft dogfood mixed in & vitamins, then he drinks, but only if my friends hold his dish. Also he refuses to have his food dish & water dish on the floor. He has to be held, but again, he won’t let me do it, only my friends. Help if you can.


  15. julie roberts says:


    I’m so sorry to hear of your little dog’s history. I wonder if he is still experiencing some mouth pain. Hopefully, that will go away with time. He may have a little problem trusting you for a while, probably believing that you were responsible for his tooth extraction. Also, you may be feeling a little guilty for having to put him through that, and he may be sensing your guilt. Again, hopefully, you will be able to regain his trust if you don’t do anything else to hurt him. Consider having a friend take him to anywhere he doesn’t like, such as the groomer or the vet. So, he doesn’t associate you with the bad times.

    To help him associate you with good times, such as feeding, Don’t think that because he has no teeth, he can only eat smooth food, that he has to lick to eat. Bake some chicken, and cut it into very small pieces. When you are scratching his belly, that he likes, offer him some small bites of chicken. In other words, you give him food that tastes better that what your friends are feeding him. (my pup goes wild over cooked chicken liver, cut into small pieces). As for water, I think giving him only pedialyte to drink may cause a mineral imbalance. Maybe he doesn’t like the chlorine in tap water. Try bottled spring water, and if he won’t drink that, just put a little pedialyte in it to fool him.

    But, I have to say, that in my 50 years of owning, breeding, and raising dogs, I have never met one who would not eat or drink if they were hungry or thirsty enough. By indulging him, you are encouraging his behavior. Those dogs usually end up being fat, because their owners feel sorry for them. Ask your vet how long the dog can safely go without food or water, leave the food and water out for him, and wait him out. It will be harder for you than for him. Good luck!


  16. angell says:

    My mom got a dog that was abused as a puppy he was left in a crate ALL the time and was hit in the mouth anytime he would bark. This is our delima the dog is very obsessed with my mom he will let people pet him and feed him and walk him he is not aggressive unless someone tries to hurt her or if my dad tries to kiss her. The other thing is he followes her EVERYWHERE if she is in the shower he will sit outside the door till she comes out. He also walks circles around furniture ALL DAY LONG and will only walk in one direction and only does it when my mom is sitting down. If she is not home then he does this to me but as soon as she comes home he barks and jumps and acts like she has been gone for weeks. Any suggestions as to why he is acting this way and how can we help him


    Minette Reply:

    Sounds like he has some OCD as well.

    Read this article if you haven’t as it suggests having your mom ignore him more and everyone else step up and become a bigger part of his life especially your dad.


  17. Randall Hnot says:

    Very good post! We will be linking to this great article on our website. Keep up the good writing.


  18. Luanne says:

    Thank you for this excellent article! I’ve been searching and reading tons of posts and nothing I read before this ever offered any practical advice to make me even think there was any hope for me and my dog Brady. MyI was fearing the worse, but now I am feeling positive we can make changes that will solve the problem! I am the object of my dog’s possessiveness, and my adult son and granddaughter are the two people he has been showing aggression toward all of the sudden. One minute he is cuddling with them and the next he is growling if they come near me. And he has become very territorial of allowing anyone (his sister dog included) come near my bedroom if I’m in bed. We have only just started putting these tests of change into use, but we are already seeing good results. My granddaughter is now in charge of giving treats when she comes home from school (so Brady looks forward to her arrival), and taking the dogs outside. My son feeds them in the morning. And in addition to stepping back in his care, I close my bedroom door at night. I am beyond grateful that I found this information and am hopeful that things will be better! THANK YOU!


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