How to Manage Your Shih Tzu’s Possessiveness Over Food and Toys

As a devoted Shih Tzu owner, nothing breaks your heart more than seeing your furry friend exhibit possessive behavior over food and toys. You may feel perplexed as to why your beloved companion is displaying such behavior, but don’t worry, you are not alone. This article will provide you with step-by-step techniques for managing your Shih Tzu’s possessiveness, as well as ways to avoid such behavior in the future. Understanding your Shih Tzu’s behavior and training techniques are essential for achieving a harmonious and fulfilling relationship with your furry friend. Let’s dive in and discover how to tackle this challenging issue together!

Understand Your Shih Tzu’s Behavior

Understand Your Shih Tzu'S Behavior
Understanding your Shih Tzu’s behavior is crucial in effectively managing possessiveness towards food and toys. It is important to recognize the root causes of this behavior, as well as being able to identify the signs of possessiveness. Possessive behavior in dogs can stem from a variety of factors, such as fear, anxiety, or territorial instincts. By delving into the reasons behind your Shih Tzu’s behavior, you can employ the appropriate training techniques and preventive measures. Additionally, it is helpful to gain insight into other common behavior issues that your Shih Tzu may exhibit, such as separation anxiety or excessive attention-seeking. For more information on these topics, please see our articles on dealing with separation anxiety, managing aggression, and territorial behavior.

Reasons for Possessiveness

One of the main reasons for possessiveness in Shih Tzus is their natural instincts. In the wild, dogs have to protect their food and belongings from other pack members. Even though Shih Tzus are domesticated, they still have these instincts which can lead to possessive behavior. Another reason for possessiveness could be a lack of socialization during the puppy phase. If a Shih Tzu was not exposed to other dogs or people during its critical socialization period, it may develop possessive tendencies. Additionally, anxiety or fear could also cause possessiveness in Shih Tzus. This is especially true if a dog has experienced trauma in the past or is consistently in stressful situations. Finally, possessiveness could be a learned behavior, where a Shih Tzu has learned that taking a possessive approach towards food and toys gets them the attention they desire.

It is important to identify the reason behind your Shih Tzu’s possessive behavior before addressing it through any training techniques. If your Shih Tzu is displaying other types of undesirable behavior, such as destructive behavior, excessive attention-seeking or compulsive behavior, it may be beneficial to address those problems first as they could be contributing to the possessiveness.

How to Identify Possessiveness

One of the first steps in managing your Shih Tzu’s possessiveness over food and toys is to identify the behavior. Possessive behavior in dogs can manifest in a variety of ways, including:

GrowlingWhen your dog growls when you come near them while they are eating or playing with a toy, it may be a sign that they are feeling possessive and do not want to share.
Protective StanceYour dog may place their body in a protective stance, standing over their food or toy, and may even snap or lunge if you try to take it away.
Excessive LickingSome dogs may become overly possessive of their toys or food and exhibit obsessive licking or chewing behaviors when trying to maintain ownership over these objects.

If you notice any of these behaviors in your Shih Tzu, it may be a sign of possessiveness. It is important to understand what is causing this behavior before taking any action. Factors that may contribute to a dog’s possessiveness include: fear, anxiety, past experiences of food or toy deprivation or competition in a multi-dog household.

If you’re not sure what is causing your dog’s possessiveness, consider consulting with a professional dog trainer. They can help you identify the root of the behavior and develop an appropriate training plan to manage it.

In the next section, we’ll look at some techniques and training exercises that you can use to reduce your Shih Tzu’s possessive behavior. But, if you have issues with barking, you can check out our article on how to train a Shih Tzu to stop barking. Or, if you suspect that your Shih Tzu may be experiencing fear or anxiety, our article on Shih Tzu fear and anxiety causes may be helpful. Finally, if your Shih Tzu is exhibiting biting behavior, our article on how to teach a Shih Tzu to stop biting can provide some useful tips.

Training techniques to Manage Possessiveness

Training Techniques To Manage Possessiveness
Managing a possessive Shih Tzu can be a challenging experience for any pet owner. Fortunately, there are several effective training techniques that can help to manage and overcome possessiveness over food and toys. By implementing these techniques, you can create a happier and more relaxed environment for both you and your pet. This section explores some of the most useful training methods, including positive reinforcement training, counter-conditioning training, desensitization training, and the leave it command training. Read on to discover how to put them into practice.

Positive Reinforcement Training

Positive reinforcement training is an effective way to manage possessiveness in Shih Tzus. This type of training involves reinforcing desired behaviors with rewards such as treats, toys, and praise. Here are some steps to follow for positive reinforcement training:

  • Take note of your Shih Tzu’s possessive behavior and determine the trigger for it. Is it during meal times? When playing with toys?
  • Begin training by giving a command for your Shih Tzu to do a desired behavior, such as “sit” or “leave it.”
  • When your Shih Tzu performs the desired behavior, immediately reward them with a treat or toy, and give plenty of verbal praise with a cheerful voice.
  • If your Shih Tzu exhibits possessive behavior, ignore it, and focus on reinforcing good behavior.
  • Gradually increase the difficulty of the command, rewarding your Shih Tzu with a jackpot of treats or a highly valued item like a chew bone for completing it correctly.

By using positive reinforcement training, your Shih Tzu can learn to associate good behavior with rewards and will be less likely to exhibit possessive behavior. Remember to always be patient and consistent, and never use physical punishment or yelling as this can cause fear and anxiety in your furry friend.

Counter-conditioning Training

Counter-conditioning training is a technique that aims to change a Shih Tzu’s negative reaction to a specific stimulus, such as food or toys, into a positive response. This training method can be effective in managing possessiveness over resources.

The main goal is to teach the Shih Tzu that the presence of the stimulus, which usually triggers the possessive behavior, predicts something pleasant happening, rather than a threat. This will help to associate the stimulus with good things and stop the dog from feeling defensive or reactive.

For instance, if a Shih Tzu is possessive of its food, counter-conditioning can be done by approaching the dog while it eats and offering something delightful, such as a small piece of chicken. This can be repeated over time, gradually decreasing the distance and level of distraction between the dog and the person, until the dog no longer feels a need to guard its food.

Another example is if a Shih Tzu is possessive of toys, a similar process can be done by approaching the dog while it plays with the toy and offering an equally enticing, new toy. This will help teach the dog that the presence of a person near the toy is something that predicts good things happening, rather than a threat to its possession of the toy.

It is important to remember that counter-conditioning training requires patience and consistency. Rewards should always be given when desired behavior occurs, and the training should be continued until the potential triggers no longer cause any negative or possessive reactions.

Here is a summary of the steps for counter-conditioning training:

| Step | Description |
| — | — |
| Step 1 | Identify the stimulus that triggers possessive behavior |
| Step 2 | Make a list of high-value rewards that the Shih Tzu loves |
| Step 3 | Gradually expose the Shih Tzu to the stimulus, while offering the reward |
| Step 4 | Reinforce positive behavior with praise, affection, and rewards |
| Step 5 | Repeat steps 3 and 4 consistently until the Shih Tzu no longer displays possessive behavior |

Counter-conditioning training is just one of the techniques that can help improve possessive behavior in Shih Tzus. When used in combination with other training methods, it can be a powerful tool in creating positive behavioral change.

Desensitization Training

Desensitization training is a gradual process of getting your Shih Tzu used to a specific stimulus, like food or toys, that usually triggers its possessiveness. This training technique is particularly helpful in managing possessiveness over food and toys, as it helps your dog see these items as less valuable and reduces its desire to guard them.

Steps for Desensitization Training:

Step 1Start by giving your Shih Tzu a low-value treat or toy that it is not possessive over.
Step 2Gradually increase the value of the item by offering slightly better treats or toys over time.
Step 3When you notice your Shih Tzu starting to guard the item, stop giving it to your dog and wait until it relaxes.
Step 4Resume giving the item at a slightly lower value level and slowly work your way back up.
Step 5Repeat the process until your Shih Tzu no longer shows possessive behavior towards the item.

Desensitization training requires patience and consistency, but it can be a highly effective way to address possessiveness over food and toys. Be sure to praise and reward your Shih Tzu for good behavior and never punish or scold it for showing possessive behavior, as this can worsen the behavior.

Leave it Command Training

One highly effective technique for managing your Shih Tzu’s possessiveness over food and toys is the use of the “Leave it” command. This training technique involves teaching your dog to ignore an object or food item that you want them to leave alone.

To begin Leave it command training, start by placing a treat or toy in front of your Shih Tzu. As soon as they go to pick it up, say “Leave it” in a firm but gentle tone. When they stop, immediately praise them and offer them a different, more desirable toy or treat. Repeat this process several times, gradually increasing the level of temptation by using more enticing toys or treats.

Once your dog has mastered the Leave it command with treats, you can move on to using it with their regular food. Start by placing their food bowl on the ground and then saying “Leave it.” If your dog obeys, reward them with praise and give them permission to eat. If they don’t obey, remove the bowl and try again later with a smaller amount of food.

It’s important to practice Leave it command training regularly to reinforce the behavior. You can also incorporate the command into everyday situations, such as when encountering a tempting object on a walk.

Note: Never physically force your Shih Tzu to leave an object or food item alone, as this may increase their possessiveness and aggression towards the object or food item. Instead, use positive reinforcement techniques to encourage them to obey your commands willingly.

Ways to Avoid Possessive Behavior

Ways To Avoid Possessive Behavior
As a pet owner, it’s important to understand that possessiveness over food and toys is a natural behavior in dogs, including Shih Tzus. However, this behavior can become problematic if it’s not managed properly. Luckily, there are several effective ways to avoid possessive behavior and promote positive interactions with your furry friend. Let’s take a closer look at some of the strategies you can implement to prevent your Shih Tzu from becoming possessive over their belongings. By being proactive and consistent, you can create a happy and harmonious environment for both you and your pet.

Feed your Shih Tzu Separately

One effective way to manage your Shih Tzu’s possessiveness over food is to feed them separately. By doing so, you can prevent any food aggression or competition between your dogs during meal times, reducing the likelihood of possessive behavior. Here are some tips on how to successfully feed your Shih Tzu separately:

  • Establish a designated feeding area: Set up a separate area for each dog to eat in order to create a clear understanding of boundaries, which can help reduce possessive behavior.
  • Stick to a feeding schedule: Feeding your dogs at the same time every day can help establish a routine and reduce tension between them.
  • Use separate feeding bowls: Providing separate bowls for each dog can help prevent food aggression or competition between them.
  • Monitor your dogs: While your dogs are eating, keep an eye on them to ensure they are not displaying any possessive behavior.
  • Remove the bowls: After your dogs have finished eating, remove their bowls to prevent any fighting or possessive behavior over leftovers.

Remember, feeding your Shih Tzu separately can be an effective tool for managing possessive behavior, but it may not be the only solution. Pairing this technique with other training methods, such as positive reinforcement training or counter-conditioning training, can help reinforce good behavior and shape your dog’s behavior over time.

Rotate Toys and Chews

One effective way to avoid possessive behavior in your Shih Tzu is to rotate their toys and chews regularly. This prevents your furry friend from getting attached to a particular toy or chew as their own and feeling possessive about it.

Why is rotating toys and chews important?

Dogs, including Shih Tzus, can get bored with their toys and chews quickly. When they are bored, they tend to become destructive and can develop possessive behavior over their toys and chews. By rotating their toys and chews, you can keep your pup enthusiastic and interested in their playthings, removing the likelihood of them becoming fixated on a specific one.

How often should you rotate your Shih Tzu’s toys and chews?

The frequency of rotational changes depends on various factors, such as the number of toys and chews you have, their quality, and how often you let your pup play or chew on them. Generally, it is advisable to rotate toys and chews every few days or once a week.

Here is an example of how you can schedule your Shih Tzu’s toy rotations in a week, assuming you have seven toys:

MondayPlush duck toy
TuesdayRope toy
WednesdayChew toy
ThursdayBall toy
FridaySqueaky toy
SaturdayPuzzle toy
SundayBone chew

This way, your Shih Tzu gets to play with a new toy every day, making it exciting and engaging for them.

What happens if my Shih Tzu still shows possessive behavior?

In case your pup still shows possessive behavior over their toys and chews despite the rotational changes, you can try the trade-off technique. This is where you offer your dog a treat or another toy to trade for the one they have. This helps teach your Shih Tzu that letting go of one toy is not a bad thing and can lead to them getting another fun toy or treat.

By frequently rotating toys and chews, you can help your furry friend avoid possessive behavior and keep them entertained and engaged.

Trade Off Technique

One effective way to manage possessiveness in Shih Tzus is through the trade off technique. This technique requires trading the prized item with another valued item.

An example of this would be when your Shih Tzu has a favorite toy and refuses to give it up. You can use the trade off technique by offering a different toy or treat that your Shih Tzu loves just as much. When your Shih Tzu drops the toy, reward them with the new toy or treat.

It’s important to make sure that the item being offered is of equal or greater value to the item being taken away. This will ensure that your Shih Tzu does not become unhappy and will willingly give up the prized item.

To make this technique more effective, you can also use a cue word or phrase to signal to your Shih Tzu that it’s time to trade off their toy. For example, when you say “trade,” your Shih Tzu knows that it’s time to give up their current toy in exchange for a new one.

The trade off technique is a positive reinforcement training technique that helps to teach your Shih Tzu that sharing is a good thing. It also helps to build trust and a stronger bond between you and your furry friend.

Here is a table outlining the steps of the trade off technique:

Step 1:Offer a valued item in exchange for the prized possession
Step 2:Make sure the offered item is of equal or greater value
Step 3:When your Shih Tzu drops the prized item, give them the new item
Step 4:Use a cue word or phrase to signal the trade off

Incorporating the trade off technique in your training routine can help manage possessive behavior in Shih Tzus while promoting positive reinforcement and strengthening the bond between you and your furry friend.

What Not to Do

It’s natural for us to want to help our beloved Shih Tzu overcome possessive behavior towards their food and toys. However, there are certain things that should be avoided as they can further reinforce this behavior or cause unnecessary stress to our furry companions. It’s important to approach the situation with caution and knowledge, so here are some things you should not do when managing your Shih Tzu’s possessiveness over food and toys.

Do Not Punish Your Dog

It’s important to note that punishing your Shih Tzu for possessiveness will not solve the problem. In fact, it can often make the behavior worse. Here are some reasons why you should not punish your dog for possessiveness:

  • Punishment can cause fear and anxiety: Dogs associate punishment with negative experiences, and this can cause them to become fearful or anxious. If your Shih Tzu is already possessive over food or toys, punishing them can make them even more anxious and may cause them to become more possessive.
  • Punishment doesn’t teach your dog the right behavior: Punishment may suppress the possessive behavior temporarily, but it does not teach your dog what they should be doing instead. You want your Shih Tzu to learn the appropriate behavior, such as trading or dropping items on command.
  • Punishment can damage your relationship with your dog: If you punish your Shih Tzu for possessive behavior, they may start to associate you with negative experiences. Over time, this may damage the trust and bond between you and your dog.

So what should you do instead of punishing your Shih Tzu? Use positive reinforcement training techniques to encourage the appropriate behavior. This will help your Shih Tzu learn what they should be doing in a positive and safe way. Additionally, it’s important to be patient and consistent with your training. Keep in mind that possessiveness may take time to overcome, but with the right techniques and consistency, your Shih Tzu can learn to share and be less possessive.

Do Not Give In To Your Dog

It can be challenging not to give in to your Shih Tzu’s possessive behavior, but it’s essential not to do so. Giving in can reinforce their behavior, leading to a more significant problem down the line. Here are some specific ways in which you may be tempted to give in to your dog and why you should avoid doing so:

  • Feeding them from your plate: Your Shih Tzu may beg for food while you’re eating, and it can be tempting to give them a bite or two. However, this is a bad idea. Not only can it encourage more begging, but it also sends the message that they can take food from your plate whenever they want. Instead, try to feed your dog before you sit down to eat or give them something appropriate to chew on to keep them occupied.
  • Giving them toys when they demand them: Your Shih Tzu may become possessive over toys and demand that you give them up. It can be tempting to give in to this behavior, but doing so can reinforce the idea that they can take toys whenever they want. Instead, use the trade-off technique or rotate toys to prevent possessive behavior.
  • Allowing them to claim a spot on the couch: Your Shih Tzu may become possessive over a specific spot on the couch, bed, or another piece of furniture. It can be tempting to allow them to claim that spot, especially if you feel guilty about not spending enough time with them. However, doing so reinforces their possessive behavior and makes it more challenging to change in the future. Instead, set boundaries and train your dog to respect them.

Remember, giving in to your dog’s possessive behavior might make them happy in the short term, but it can lead to a host of behavioral problems down the road. Stick to the training techniques outlined in this article and keep a consistent and positive approach to managing their possessive behavior.


In conclusion, managing a Shih Tzu’s possessiveness over food and toys can be a challenging but achievable task. It requires patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement training. Remember that the possessive behavior is a normal reaction for dogs, and punishing them can only make the situation worse.

Instead, use training techniques such as positive reinforcement, counter-conditioning, desensitization, and leave it command training to manage your dog’s possessive behavior. These techniques will help your Shih Tzu understand that they do not need to guard their food and toys.

Additionally, it’s important to prevent possessive behavior by feeding your dog separately, rotating their toys and chews, and using the trade-off technique. By doing so, you can avoid the competition between dogs and reduce the chances of possessive behavior.

In summary, managing a Shih Tzu’s possessiveness over food and toys requires a holistic approach that includes training techniques, preventive measures, and avoiding negative reinforcement. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can foster a healthier relationship with your Shih Tzu and improve their behavior towards food and toys.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if my Shih Tzu is possessive over food and toys?

You can identify possessiveness by noticing behaviors such as growling, snapping, or biting when you try to take away their food or toys.

What are the reasons for possessive behavior?

Possessiveness in Shih Tzus can be due to a lack of socialization, past negative experiences, or genetics.

Can possessive behavior be trained out of a Shih Tzu?

Yes, through training techniques such as positive reinforcement, counter-conditioning, desensitization, and leave it commands.

What is positive reinforcement training?

Positive reinforcement training involves rewarding good behavior with treats or praise to encourage your Shih Tzu to repeat that behavior.

What is counter-conditioning training?

Counter-conditioning training involves changing your Shih Tzu’s association with a certain trigger (such as food or toys) from negative to positive through gradual exposure and reward-based training.

What is desensitization training?

Desensitization training involves gradually exposing your Shih Tzu to the trigger (such as food or toys) in a controlled and positive way to reduce their anxiety and possessive behavior.

What is the “leave it” command?

The “leave it” command is a training technique that teaches your Shih Tzu to leave a certain object or behavior alone upon command, even if they want it.

Why is it important to feed my Shih Tzu separately?

Feeding your Shih Tzu separately can help prevent possessive behavior and reduce the likelihood of aggressive tendencies towards other pets or family members during meal times.

How does rotating toys and chews help with possessive behavior?

Rotating toys and chews can prevent your Shih Tzu from becoming too attached to one particular toy or chew, reducing the likelihood of possessiveness towards it.

Why should I avoid punishing my Shih Tzu for possessive behavior?

Punishment can increase anxiety, fear, and aggression in your Shih Tzu, making possessive behavior worse and harder to manage.


Britta Thygesen

Britta Thygesen

A passionate dog owner and a full-time certified dog trainer. Aspires to make DogCareHacks a go-to place for all the doggo info. Shares personal experience and professional knowledge.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

      Leave a reply

      Dog Care Hacks