My one-year-old Pomeranian is lovely in all respects, but recently he has taken to becoming possessive over the sofa and the toys he has next to him when he’s on it. When I try to remove him or his toys, he becomes snappy, which is alarming. Please help!
Nick Jones advises...
First, your young dog’s access to the sofa should be seen as a privilege and not a right. I suspect that from an early age he’s been allowed to get up and down from the sofa at any time that suits him. This is fine for some dogs, but others (as in your case) then take it upon themselves to start guarding that area, and growling at their owner when asked to move. My basic approach with furnishings is to allow dogs on them if you wish, but this should be strictly on your terms, only when you invite them up, and combined with the understanding of the ‘Off’ command to remove them. When this approach is implemented from puppyhood, it helps to stop the possessive element from creeping in, and prevention is always better than cure.
So how to address this? You will need to spend some time blocking access to these privileged spaces until you feel your dog’s behaviour is much improved. Later on, if you wish, you can allow access to the sofa and similar places again, but strictly on your terms, as mentioned above. I would suggest you initially block access for a three-month period as a rough starting point, and then reassess the behaviour. Assuming all goes well, after three months, you can begin to allow him access again, but closely monitor his behaviour during the process. You mention he has his toys beside him on the sofa, which leads me to question whether he is guarding his toys or the sofa, or actually guarding both. I would suggest you remove all the toys too, and provide him with just one toy at a time, which you control and supervise. Run this alongside the sofa ban, and only later begin to reintroduce the toys one by one.
During the sofa ban, provide your dog with a nice comfy bed on the floor of the living room, and encourage him to settle there while you occupy the sofa. At the end of these ban periods, many owners decide to keep the dog off the sofa altogether – as well as always having a nice clean sofa, they realise the dog is actually perfectly content with his bed on the floor. Don’t forget to consider other locations where your dog may be expressing similar behaviours.
Does he also sleep on your bed, or use other furnishings? If so, I would also remove these privileges at the same time, and reassess his behaviour once the three-month period is up. A consultation with a behaviourist would be advised if there is any sign of aggression.