When beagles track a smell, they seem to disconnect from the world; when they find something they perceive as valuable, they reconnect promptly. Blessed with a nose capable of capturing even the faintest scent, some possessive beagles have no problems showing their pearly whites.
Determine which objects your beagle finds worthy of protecting. Most beagles love food and some can become quite possessive when eating from their food bowls. Others will guard their prized toys or protect a bone they are eagerly gnawing on. Anything your beagle perceives as valuable—such as stolen goodies, stinky socks, a bed or even a candy wrapper—may trigger a bout of resource guarding.
Arm yourself with high-value treats. These treats should be perceived as very valuable from your beagle's point of view. Small, soft treats that can be eaten readily work best in this case. Place the treats in your treat bag and hold several in your hand when you are ready to train.
Allow your beagle to have a valued item he tends to guard. Initially, pick an item he is less interested in guarding. Many possessive dogs will immediately take the item and run off to enjoy it in peace.
Find a distance at which your beagle does not perceive you as threatening. Watch his body language carefully: if your beagle is tensing his body, growling or showing his teeth, you know you are too close and he is getting stressed. You want to stand well back of this imaginary line to begin with.
Sit on a chair at this distance. Make a soft noise to get your dog's attention and toss a treat. Your beagle should leave his possession to get the treat and then go back to his possession. Repeat several times for a training session lasting anywhere between five and 15 minutes.
Escalate your training session by standing instead of sitting on the chair. Make the soft noise and toss the treat. Then start walking past your beagle from a distance and toss the treat when you are nearest to him. You want to make it clear that great things happen when you walk by, and that once you walk past him, all these good things end. You know you are making good progress when your beagle starts happily looking up at you for his treat rather than acting defensively. For science junkies, the process of changing a dog's emotional response toward a specific stimulus or situation is known as "counterconditioning."
Increase the challenges as you progress in training. Get closer to your dog as you toss the treats. As you reduce the distance at which you walk past, increase the value of your treats or increase the quantity. As your dog gets used to you getting closer and anticipates the treats, you can further progress to where you have your beagle have access to items that are more highly valued. Keep in mind, though, that when you add items with more value, you are adding challenges; it is best to play it safe and go back a few steps to start all over from a distance at which your dog is more comfortable.
- Choose treats that are equal to or higher in value than the item your beagle guards.
- Always keep an eye on your beagle's body language for signs of stress.
- Break down your sessions in easy steps and don't overdo it.
- If you must remove something from your beagle's mouth, train your dog to recognize the "Drop it " command and trade the item for a high-value treat.
- Avoid petting your beagle while he is eating.
- Avoid stressing your dog; always work under threshold levels.
- Should your beagle start tensing up, take a few steps back and start from a greater distance.
- Punishing your beagle for being possessive will only give him reason to be more possessive.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.