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Toy Aggression In Dogs – Signs, Prevention, Training & Solutions

Written by Assistant
Assistant is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Published on
Monday 13 December 2021
Last updated on
Thursday 2 March 2023
dog toy aggression
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Toy aggression in dogs can start as early as when they are little puppies. We see them yipping and growling and it is very cute at that time. However, this soon can develop into a very bad habit that can result in injuries. There are multiple causes for toy aggression being displayed with some including abuse, large families, and a lack of training. However, there are ways to help this behavior. Eventually, you will own a dog that is happy sharing and having their toys touched.

This is a behavior that requires action to remedy it. Today we will be going through signs of dog toy aggression, why it happens, and how to change it. We understand how frightening this behavior can be, especially with children in the house. However, we all adore our dog companions and want to help them feel better as much as we want them to act better. So let’s dive into the topic.

What is Toy Aggression

Dog toy aggression is dog possession aggression targeted at toys. But what is dog possession aggression? Well this is when a dog uses different levels of aggression to try to stop others from interacting with what they deem theirs. This can obviously be about toys, however, it can also affect territories, bed, food, and even people. It begins when your dog is either encouraged or praised for it, or if they feel they need to guard due to vulnerabilities. More commonly though it is the latter.

Many rescue dogs will guard their toys due to possibly not having toys of their own in their past. This means they will worry that if someone were to take it, they would not get it back, hence the aggression. The lack of trust creates fear and thereby, aggression.

Aggression originates as a defense response in this case, as a result of their toy being interfered with. By snapping, growling, or even biting at whoever is taking their toy. By doing so they are encouraging the person to stay away and allow them to keep their toy. The severity of the aggression can be influence by past experiences, breed, gender, age, and the situation to name a few factors.

Signs of Toy Aggression

Recognizing the signs of toy aggression in dogs allows you to understand the behavior they are displaying. This can first alert you to mild signs of aggression on the canine aggression ladder, preventing the signs from increasing in severity. It can also aid you as once you recognize the behavior, you can begin the process of preventing and stopping this aggression. Thereby making you and your dog happier. Here are those signs in relation to someone approaching, trying to take, or grabbing a toy from a dog:

  • Whale eyeing
  • Growling or barking
  • Freezing
  • Raising Hackles
  • Snapping or biting
  • Standing over the toy or moving their body to block you from getting to it
definition of toy aggression
This usually happens to dogs that are used to getting toys, food, and treats for free.

How to Stop Toy Aggression

Stopping toy aggression in dogs requires a lot of patience as well as a tailored plan altered around individuals. Our first, most important note is to contact a specialist behaviorist if you own a very toy aggressive dog. This could result in a serious injury and require a professional to analyze your dog as soon as possible. Secondly, punishment is never an option to promote learning, especially in this case. Not only will they have their trust minimized which may continue the behavior, but they may also react aggressively which puts you and others in danger.

Distract and Exchange

One technique is to help them learn or reinforce the command drop through an exchange of toys and treats. If your dog has a toy by their feet, this is the perfect time to try this. With one hand showing treats to them, gently remove the toy with the other, clearly pronouncing the command. This should only be pursued with dogs that display moderate or mild symptoms of aggression, those that branch to severe need the help of a professional. Also note that dogs that know the command give may need this form of training to help gain trust in this situation for a positive outcome.

Positive Reinforcement and Commands

Very similar to the technique above, this is a method that is good for dogs with mild aggression that already knows base commands. Command your dog to drop their toy, however reluctantly, and then praise them with a treat. Make sure to never tease your dog but after they begin to learn to give the toy, they need to learn patience with it being returned. Practicing this a few times a day can help them to trust you to return the toy, reduce aggressive tendencies, and form a positive association with the experience.

Tips and Tricks in Training out Toy Aggression

There are multiple methods used to help stop toy aggression in your dog. Regardless of the method, there are a few different tips we would advise considering.

Reduce the Value of the Treat Over Time

When first training your dog that they do not need to be aggressive around their toy, you may use a high-value treat. Something that your dog adores or that has a strong taste or smell that canines love. If you continue to use high-value treats then there are two negatives. One, possible weight gain, two, your dog will constantly expect a treat and this may lead to bad behavior, such as begging. Gradually replace the treats with those of lesser value as time goes on up to the point where you remove treats entirely once your dog no longer displays aggression.

Repetition and Patience

Teaching a dog a trick is one task, teaching your dog to trust after some difficult years is another. Helping a dog learn to trust that their toy will come back, and that humans and other animals will not take them is difficult. You are going to need to repeat this training often, multiple times a week, possibly a day depending on your dog and their aggression level and anxiety. Making sure you are not repeating training too often is important to not overwhelm your dog and lead to any build-up of stress. Furthermore, be patient. It will take time for your dog to gain trust but they will get there.


You need to make sure that you are approaching your dog gently and calmly. Leading slowly but with confidence is key. You also need to make sure that you are not pushing your dog to a step they are not ready for. If you are approaching them and their behavior increases in aggression, it is time to stop and wait. Do not keep advancing when their aggression heightens. Allow them time to calm down and then continue forward. It may take some time to get to the point where you can fully approach your dog, be patient and contact a behaviorist if you need any extra support.

training for resource guarding
It’s impossible to unteach resource guarding but you can put a boundary around it to prevent accidents.

Dog Toy Aggression: FAQ

Need some more information on toy aggression in dogs? Browse our FAQ section below.

Why does my dog get aggressive with toys?

This can be due to past traumas or struggles, such as a household with many dogs. Or it can be due to dogs that have minimal training with boundaries or getting used to toys being removed. Each dog is different and understanding the cause can help you to find the best method to aid them to recovery.

Does playing tug-of-war make my dog aggressive with its toy?

This depends on whether tug of war is started or continued during actual dog aggression being displayed. Some dogs may growl while playing, but this can be a show of excitement during play. However, if a dog begins to snap at you and you continue to play, this can certainly encourage toy aggression. Proper training of your dog can help this. Ensure that they can have their face and toys touched without displaying aggression. Furthermore, your dog should not engage in tug of war if they are struggling with trust and display moderate dog aggression.

How do you stop dog aggression?

Aggression occurs due to training or a lack of trust. So you need to assess the severity and either contact a behaviorist or begin to re-train them. Positive reinforcement and patience are the key elements to use.

What causes a dog to become aggressive?

Fear, possessiveness, defensiveness, and a lack of respect towards their boundaries are some of the main causes for aggression. Many dogs can even show aggression when they feel ill or have an injury due to the pain they are in. To properly assess a dog’s aggression you need to contact a professional and go to a vet to check your dog is healthy.

Can I socialize my aggressive dog?

Aggressive dogs can be socialized but need to be properly trained and comfortable beforehand. Previous fear and anxiety needs support to reach a stage where your dog feels safe to engage in play and positive interactions with other dogs. This is another process that will require a lot of positive reinforcement and patience to achieve. Never take your aggressive dog to an area with others and wait for them to calm down. A stressed dog that is dog aggressive needs a lot of training and time to achieve comfort and be calm. Putting them into a situation with their triggers, in this case another dog, is only causing all their negative feelings and behaviors to flood in. They must gradually adapt to the situation through training and slow introductions as advised by behaviorists.

Toy aggression can be found in many types of dogs for a lot of different reasons. What is important is taking a slow and patient method into resolving the issue. Professional behaviorists can help in severe cases, however you can often treat mild to moderate cases at home. It is easy to lose in times like these of severe stress and concern. However, some dogs just need a little more time and support than others. Also remember that no dog is being aggressive to anger you, but due to fear, or a lack of trust. Trust that they will come around with the proper support.

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