How to retrain a dog who thinks he owns you

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Some readers might have dogs that are overly bonded to one family member. In most circumstances, it probably doesn't present an issue.

But in many households, the family dog seems to act like it OWNS one specific person.

One way a dog exhibits this is to growl or hard stare as a person comes close when the dog is near the owner he believes he possesses.

Unfortunately, it is often promoted unwittingly by the possessee. Sometimes, the person might touch or coddle the dog, or say "It's OK" when it's not, in a way that indicates they approve the behavior - when obviously, the right thing would be to correct the behavior rather than condone it.

A good example of this would be when you (the one the dog "owns") are on the couch or bed with your dog and another family member comes to sit next to you with the dog in between.

If the dog growls, you should immediately stand up and tell the dog to get off. Do not grab the dog by the collar but get a slip leash and remove the dog.

The dog can lie down on the floor without touching you. Touching implies ownership and possession in this case. In some instances, it is better to have the dog removed away from you altogether.

Basically, you want to communicate that the dog has lost his right to be near you with that sort of behavior.

If you are in the bed with the dog and the other family member gets in and there are any indications of ownership, YOU - not the other person - must remove the dog. You need to tell the dog, "You don't own me. I decide when other people have the right to be here."

If you have a dog that has ownership issues, it is important that you show him his proper place in the pack, which is ALWAYS below that of every other human in the household.

This is critical if you don't want to have serious behavior issues that can result in more than just growling and could lead to a dog biting someone. That, of course, is intolerable.

Abby Bird is owner of Alpha Dog Obedience Training. ajbird@hargray.com

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