The adorable little dog, usually loving and gentle, snarls.

Yesterday she bit the lady.

Coco is 16 months old and the behaviour began a couple of months ago. It’s almost like she has discovered a new game.

It mostly happens in the mornings when Coco is excited. She appears to challenge the lady to try to get the item off her. She’s not interested in doing so with anybody else- not the adult daughter and, thankfully, not with the young grandchildren.

Coco only guards something she herself chooses to pick up. I’m sure it’s always something she hopes the lady won’t want her to have.

She freezes, shows her teeth and snarls

She will give all the signs – freeze, show the whites of her eyes and teeth. She snarls. So far, up until yesterday, the lady has ignored all this and simply taken the item.

Coco may come in with a leaf, a stick or an olive from the tree. Yesterday she picked up a screw she had found on the floor.

Yesterday the tiny dog bit her.

I believe that when Coco is aroused, over-excited or frustrated she has a need to to redirect to something that fills her mind.

So she challenges the lady. This always gets a result.

Scary fun

Getting cross made her even worse. Enticing and bribing doesn’t work either. Coco gets a lot of reaction and, in a scary way, it’s fun.

The little grandchildren visit daily – there are three under 7. Coco will pick up bits of Lego etc. and so far shows no sign of playing the ‘possession’ game with them.

However, the first thing is to play 100% safe, even though she adores the little children and there has never been any trouble.

Simply not playing that game!

I suggested a puppy pen or gate in a doorway and apparently she would hate that. How about, when the children play on the floor, they themselves do so in the pen? It can be their toy place!

The lady now should let Coco know that she simply isn’t playing her game.

The only item the dog has taken so far that could harm her is the screw. That would count as an emergency (we discussed how best to deal with an emergency).

Coco can’t play her guarding game if the lady won’t play! She snarls only if the lady is looking at her. If nobody is interested, there is nothing to guard.

The lady should never approach her as she does now but walk away and ignore it – walk out of the room even.


She will now fill Coco’s life with a lot more enrichment.

Her food can be frozen in Kongs and given at those times of day when the little dog is likely to be very excited, as when the grandchildren arrive (they will be kept away from her while she has it).

They can all scatter feed her in the garden.

Poor little Coco is very scared on walks and now they will stay nearer home and work on it. I’m sure this spills over into her being in the kind of stressed state where she simply sometimes needs a displacement tactic that fully occupies mind.

The all-consuming displacement tactic that she’s found works for her is to pick something up. She then snarls and guards it, waiting for a response.

Enrichment will hopefully replace her need to do this.

One week later (we are barking up the right tree now!): ‘Coco is doing well….no growling or going for me so far’.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ and is always written with permission of the client. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help