How to Deal With a Toy Obsessed Dog

Sometimes a dog will become completely focused on a particular item,usually a toy.This isn’t the same as having a favorite toy that he enjoys carrying around and perhaps taking to bed with him, or being excited by a game of “Fetch” or football. Instead, it’s an extreme, intense, uncomfortable focus that means that he can’t relax around a specific item or in a situation in which he has access to it.


Dogs that become obsessive tend to be those who, in a working life, might be herding or hunting breeds, with personalities in which concentration and intelligence are combined. And obsession isn’t always limited to toys—dogs can become overly focused on activities, too. Some may dig obsessively, while occasionally a dog may even become completely engrossed in chasing or stalking light and shadow patterns as they move around the room. You can tell that your dog has moved beyond play, because the object or activity won’t seem to bring him pleasure anymore; it will make him anxious and he may become guarded around it. If it’s a toy, he won’t want you to pick it up or interact with him when he has it, and if it’s an activity, he may growl and be bad-tempered if he’s interrupted in the course of it.


If you’ve spotted signs that your dog’s developing an obsession, you need to
deal with it—it probably won’t solve itself. Behaviorists offer a variety of
possible solutions, depending on what the focus of the obsession is and how
strongly it’s taken hold. The key to sorting things out is to distract your dog and
refocus his attention elsewhere. When you’re trying to get him to stop doing
something, the emphasis should be on what you do want him to do instead.


• Do make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise. Obsessions tend to arise when he’s got too much mental energy to spare. Take him for extra-long walks or play an energetic game that doesn’t involve the toy he’s obsessed with.

• If his focus is on a specific toy, wait until he’s distracted and remove it. You’re not being unkind. The toy isn’t making him happy, and he may actually be relieved that you’ve taken the responsibility away from him.

• If his obsession is on an activity—playing “Fetch,” for example—include it in your routine, but for a set, short time and after some energetic exercise doing something else


• Don’t challenge him directly over a toy he has become guarded around. Wait until he leaves it (at some point he will, although you may have to wait) and substitute it for something new and exciting that you can play with together.

• Don’t encourage his excitement when you’re trying to limit access to an activity he’s obsessed with—behave as if “Fetch,” or whatever the game is, is something you’re prepared to engage in but find slightly dull.

• Don’t narrow down his choice of toys and games. Instead, provide plenty of alternatives and introduce
some new ones; this tactic may help to refocus his attention


I'm a professional dog trainer who is sharing my journey as I transition to positive reinforcement based dog training methods.

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