Stopping the dogs from stealing Emily's toys

So we have been having an issue with the dogs wanting to steal/play with Emily's toys, including sippy cups and her teethers.

In today’s post I’m covering how we’re separating the girls and Emily’s toys. I’m also touching on resource guarding, as this can be a very challenging scenario for some dogs when it comes to toys.

A reminder that if you have serious behavior concerns or special needs—resource guarding being a good example—our best advice is to work with a reputable, professional trainer.

I knew I was in trouble the day a friend dropped off a gift for our baby, and I pulled out a stuffed elephant, held it out to my Sookie and Coda and said, “Look at the nice elephant for baby.” They sniffed the nice elephant and then took it in their mouth, as they do with all new toys. Dumb move, Mama.

Fortunately, she gave up the elephant without a fuss. Up to now, any stuffed animals that have come into our house have been for them, and they don’t look all that different from baby toys.

But all of a sudden, we have a new batch of stuffed toys. Toys that are off limits for them.

Sookie is very laid back and we are unlikely to have an issue with her stealing toys that belong to baby. However, every dog is different. Coda on the other hand always wants to play and be petted.

My strategy is to try to keep toys as separate as possible (easier while baby and her toys are small). Baby’s toys will live in a few places: the nursery, baskets under the coffee table in the living room or in the corner of our basement family room, on the baby’s play mats or in the play yard.

The dog’s toys live mostly in a basket under a the end tables in the family room and have for a long time. They know where they are and will grab one if they want to play. Usually we have two or three toys laying on the floor in both the family room and the living room.

I’m trying to remind myself to throw these toys into their beds, or at least into the “baby-free zones” we’re establishing around their beds. As the baby grows, I’m hoping to teach her that those are Baxter’s toys and off limits. There are no dog toys in the baby’s room.

My solution is not foolproof, and I’m sure there will be mix-ups, but we’re fortunate that they are not possessive of their toys. We’re also fortunate that baby’s other toys like hard plastic rattles or wooden blocks do not appeal to them. These types of toys can be dangerous to dogs if swallowed.

Teach your dog to ‘leave it’
For us, “leave it” or “can I have this?” works well if we need to retrieve items from the girls.

Some dogs may be reluctant to give up a toy once they have it in their possession. In those situations, commands that you may find helpful are “drop” or “not yours.” If your dog is at all reluctant to release a toy, condition him to giving up the toy by trading with higher value items, like a treat.

Resource guarding issues: How to stop your dog from guarding toys
Reluctance to drop a toy is usually different from resource guarding, which can be a very serious issue for some dogs, particularly when a child joins the house. Resource guarding happens for a number of reasons, but it’s usually rooted in the dog being afraid of losing something he perceives as his (food, toy, bed, even a person).

Dog toys vs. baby toys
One of the baby prep books that I read, “Please Don’t Bite the Baby” by Lisa J. Edwards, featured a dog with serious resource guarding issues. For her dog, Pinball, Edwards likened his resource guarding to hoarding in humans, in that it had an anxiety component.

She wrote, “Taking the object away forcibly most often increases the guarding and any aggressive response.” For this family, years of training had given them strategies for dealing with Pinball’s guarding, but it had not solved the issue.

Edwards started with treats and the “drop it” command. Eventually she added other commands until she had a “chain of behavior” that helped Pinball relax and give up his prize. She still continued to “pay” Pinball for objects he found particularly valuable or if he was particularly stressed. However, she claimed victory because “in most cases we have changed his emotional state regarding the loss of his resources.”

Resource guarding is serious and can be very dangerous. I recommend working with a professional trainer to address this issue. That way you can develop your own strategies for yourself, your child and your dog.

While a toy management strategy may be excessive for our laid back dog, for me it’s another step on our baby prep journey to ensure everyone respects each other and their things and we keep everyone safe and happy. I hope we’re also able to help others in the process.

Have you ever dealt with possessiveness or resource guarding with your dog?

What are your tips for keeping baby and dog toys separate?

Let us know in the comments. Thank you!