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Bring back a toy, bring back anything.

Teaching puppy to happily bring stuff back to you will help in all sorts of ways. You can have a nice game of fetch, you can tug with your dog without being afraid that if you let the toy go he will run away with it, and you can call your dog to you and ask him to give you something he has found (or stolen). A good bring it helps avoid resource guarding and keep-away games, provides the foundation for a future former retrieve, and is really fun.
Bring it
The Chase Your Owner activity we also work on this week gives you a great start to a good Bring It. In fact, a good Bring It is really nothing more than a Chase Your Owner while carrying something!

  • Warm the dog up with a game of “Chase Your Owner”. A great (one person) variation of “Chase Your Owner” is to
    1. Gently hold your puppy across the chest
    2. Toss a treat a few feet away
    3. Tell your puppy to “Get It”
    4. Let the puppy go when he is focused on the treat
    5. Let the puppy eat the treat, then immediately encourage him to run to you (see Chase Your Owner: How to trigger chase in a puppy)
  • Start a game of “Bring It” – it’s almost the same
    1. Gently hold your puppy across the chest
    2. Take out a toy, and get puppy excited about it
    3. When he is excited about the toy, maybe even trying to steal it, toss it a few feet away
    4. Tell your puppy to “Bring It”
    5. Let the puppy go when he is focused on the toy
    6. Let the puppy pick up the toy, then immediately encourage him to run to you. Whatever worked well in the Chase Your Owner game is what you should do. Don’t worry if puppy drops the toy and comes to you without it. Lots of young pups don’t carry well until they are older. The important thing is that puppy races back to you. Carrying can come later.
    7. REWARD PUPPY GENEROUSLY WHEN HE GETS TO YOU. If he is still carrying the toy when he gets to you, great! Still reward as above. It will be a trade for the toy. You can reward with treats as in the Chase Your Owner game, then repeat the exercise right away.
Once you have practiced (and rewarded) Bring It with fun toys, you and puppy will have had lots of experience with you encouraging puppy, and puppy learning to trust you and understand that he does not have to be possessive. The better you both are at this game, the more likely it is that he will bring you that stolen sock instead of running and hiding with it under the bed.

Dogs who love this game can eventually be rewarded by having the toy thrown again, instead of getting treats each time. You will need to experiment with what is most rewarding for you dog. But by all means, turn this into a game of fetch if that is what works.

Other options/ideas to try for possessive puppies

In this video, the trainer is working with a puppy who likes to run away with the toy and keep it all to himself. He has shown that he is more likely to come back when the trainer is sitting down.

She is also experimenting with different rewards to see will work best with this puppy. She sometimes gives him treats, she sometimes tugs with him, she sometimes throws the toy again, and she sometimes brings out a second toy to play with.

It can feel a bit messy and chaotic when you and your puppy are getting to know each other, but we shared this video to show you not to be afraid to try things. Every puppy is different, and every owner is different – which makes every team different! Play should be FUN for you and your puppy, and it’s a great way for you to learn to trust and understand each other. Balance following the.rules with sometimes just sitting down, relaxing, and hanging out with your puppy, some toys, and some treats.