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Yesterday I gave a very nice bone (apparently) to my dog, but also it was a very big one and since it's a young dog I didn't want her to eat all of it, or she'd get sick.

So I've tried to do as I usually do, I put a treat below her nose and tried to take the bone back. That usually works but not this time, she just started chewing it even faster. I insisted and eventually she growled a bit so she wasn't going to let it go. In the end, I clapped my hands to startle her and took the bone back.

So I'm wondering, assuming I really can't find any nice treat to give her in exchange for the bone, what should I do?

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You can try distracting her with something else. My dog gets this way with balls and she's an expert guarder. Squeek a toy that she can't see, or try acting like you're about to go out (jingling keys, putting on shoes, etc.). If she's super into either of those things she'll likely drop the bone to see what's up.

Generally though, to train her to drop the bone you'll have to start with training her to drop lower value things and slowly build up to something as high value as that bone. I've been trying to teach my dog a more reliable 'drop it' command. I do it by playing tug/fetch with her. We play a regular tug for a while, then i say drop it and hold the toy tightly by my legs (for leverage). If i don't move the toy she gets bored and lets go. Then i say "yes!" (if you use a clicker that's when you'd click) and either throw it for her to chase or give it back to her very enthusiastically so it's rewarding. At first she wouldn't drop it for quite a bit, now she never tugs for more than a couple of seconds before dropping it. Progress :)

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    To build on this answer you can help her practice dropping it by rewarding the drop it by giving it right back to her. So that she doesn't see you as always taking it away. .. Most of the time try to immediately give it back. – Beth Whitezel Oct 24 '14 at 6:47
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Training, you need to assert yourself as the pack leader. You do not ask for something back, you take it back.

Train your dog to drop whatever it has in its mouth when you say a command. To get started do this:

  1. put a treat on the floor, each time your dog tries to take it block it with your hand and say "leave it". When the dog listens and stops trying to take the treat give the treat to the dog to eat.
  2. once the dog does this without issues you can start using it with toys, the dog must "leave it" on command then you treat him/her.

This lets the dog know that you are the master and also that obeying you comes with a reward.

My dogs must do the following before they eat their meals that are on the floor already:

  1. They must be on their beds while I place their food down
  2. They must be lying down
  3. I place a treat on their paw with the command "leave it"...after a few seconds I say "good dogs" and they eat the treat.
  4. I then ask them one by one to sit, heel, "touch" (they must tap their snouts on my open hand), "look at me" (they must make eye contact with me) and finally I say "eat" which lets them know I am happy with them and they may eat.

They love it, their tails wag a million miles and hour after the training and it keeps them disciplined and in the order they need to be in our 'pack', with me at the top as alpha.

edit: I don't agree at all with not taking things back, that once she has it its hers. In Nature if the alpha comes back he/she takes back what they want without any resistance. Your dog should NEVER growl at you, that is a direct challenge against your authority as a leader, it will result in a dog that is aggressive as an adult and challenging to other humans.

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  • On one hand you write "You do not ask for something back, you take it back", but on the other hand what you describe is exactly what I'm trying to do. You tell your dogs to do something and in exchange you give them food. It's an exchange and, without this, it wouldn't be possible to get anything out of the dog. – laurent Oct 31 '14 at 12:24
  • @this.lau_ - there is a subtle difference - you don't give any indication of an exchange, you first get what you want, and then and only then do you take care of what the dog wants. It is this aspect of timing (even if its only seconds) that makes all the difference. in the original question, you were showing your dog the treat and having them sniff it before the dog did what you wanted, as opposed to after. – user2813274 Nov 3 '14 at 19:45
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It is not natural to take food away once you gave it to her. When a higher placed dog leaves the rest of the food to a lower placed, it's permitted to end the meal. That is totally different than asking her to give back a ball or other play-stuff.

So, in case of emergency, don't get angry. Don't force her to give a bone back. In case of emergency she will understand. Dogs feel the difference in your attitude and will let it go when you stay calm.

In short: never let her give back food, train her to give back toys if you ask her to do so.

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