Signs of Possessiveness in Dogs

A dog may display possession over anything, from food to sleeping spaces to toys, whether they belong to him or not. Fortunately, this conduct is largely preventable if an owner comprehends canine growth stages and the factors that may influence the development of negative behavior. Because this behavior is presented sporadically and can escalate quickly, canines that exhibit possessive aggression are quite unpredictable.


NOTE: "Dominance Theory" is a widely debated topic among dog behaviorists, but we at Cuteness like to give voice to writers on both sides of the debate. For an opposing view, please see our article Social Hierarchy Among Dogs.


Oral indicators of aggressive possession include baring teeth, curling the upper lip, growling, snapping and biting. While some dogs never move beyond slightly curling a lip when someone approaches their food, others can escalate quickly and without warning to inflict serious injury. It is crucial to recognize and not dismiss cautionary signs before a dog resorts to biting as a means of protecting items he considers his possessions.


Eye contact is important in canine communication and is a good indicator to how a dog is feeling. For example, the eyes can hint to a dog fight in the making if a dominant dog feels challenged by a direct stare from another canine or a human. To a dog, any type of stare from any other creature is interpreted as rude or challenging. In a position of aggressive possessiveness, a dog may exhibit a prolonged and direct eye contact that is frequently referred to as whale eye. In this behavior, a dog will crouch over an object with his head turned away but eyes turned toward the person or animal he is guarding the object from, whites of the eyes distinctly visible.


In a possessive stance, a dog will stiffen his body and may exhibit other signs of an impending bite. If the dog is positioned close enough to whomever poses a threat, he might literally punch them with his nose, lunge forward at them or even strike and bite. Dogs may or may not issue any warning, such as a growl, snarl or flash of teeth prior to lashing out, but often times people misread the cues in time to prevent injury.


Dogs who steal items and run away to hide them elsewhere can lead to additional problems and escalating aggressive possessiveness. This possessive behavior is a demonstration of control and dominance, which often adds inconceivable amounts of stress to the dog because he is constantly on high alert, for fear someone might attempt take his belongings.

By Karin Napier


About the Author
Karin Napier contributes to various online publications, specializing in topics related to canines, equines and business. She has earned career diplomas in bridal consulting, business management and accounting essentials. Napier is a certified veterinary assistant and holds a certification in natural health care for pets.