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  • Writer's pictureLilly

Stop the Swap

I hate swapping games.

"Swapping games" are used by many trainers to prevent resource guarding in puppies. The idea is to "swap" resources with our puppy, in order to teach them that when we take something from them, they'll get back something in return. As an example, we might give our dog a toy to chew on, and then take that toy from them, swapping a better toy in return.

This approach is more likely to cause resource guarding than prevent it.

The assumption that our puppy will enjoy having things taken from them as long as they get something of equal or greater value in return is a bad one. I don't like having things taken from me, especially not things that I view as mine (if your puppy has it, they think it's theirs).

Personally, I wouldn't like having my things taken even if I got something more than fair in return. It's not really a fair trade if I didn't consent to it.

But let's say that assumption was true, and our puppy would learn to love having things taken away from them as long as they got an adequate reward. The problem now is that we can't discuss the value of an item with our puppy, so we can't know for sure that we're trading up.

A bully stick might seem to be worth more than a tissue, and most of the time, that's probably true. But the bully stick is going to be worth less than a tissue if the puppy wants the tissue. The point is, there's no way to know whether we are actually presenting our puppy with what they view as a fair trade.

Swapping games set our puppy up to expect that we're going to take their stuff. If our puppy expects their stuff to be taken when we approach them, they will start guarding that stuff from us.

Swapping games cause resource guarding.

Here's what to do instead.

1) Manage the puppy's environment

2) Build a great recall with your puppy

Managing our puppy's environment covers a multitude of sins. If they don't have access to things that shouldn't go in their mouth, we will never have a reason to take things from them! Set your puppy up for success by giving them a space they can enjoy freely. Put away shoes, children's toys, and anything else you don't want your puppy to put in their mouth.

Building a great recall with our puppy means teaching them to reliably come when we call them. With this skill, we can call our puppy away from things we don't want them to interact with, rather than creating a confrontation.

If you're not sure how to build a recall with your dog, get in touch and we can work on it together!

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