Cashew’s Santa

My job gave away free dog toys around Christmas time and i picked one out for each of the girls. I picked the Santa Claus chewie because the beard had crinkle paper in it as well as the santa hat and i thought they would enjoy that. On Christmas morning i presented the girls with their new stuffed chewies and Sili sniffed hers and left. She’s not really appreciative of toys. However, Cashew could not believe her luck. She kept nudging it and then looking at me, tail nub wagging, as if to say, “can i really have it?” I told her she could have it and then a thing happened that had to be addressed. Cashew immediately became very possessive of her new chewie and the first time i tried to pick it up she lunged across the room, squirreled it out of my reach, growling the whole time, and tried pretty earnestly to bite me. Cashew is the dominant of my two dogs, and that’s fine. The part i am constantly cognizant of and maintaining is that Cashew is pretty sure some days that she could usurp me and lead this pack. Immediately i pinned her on her back and held her on the floor for a long time to assert my dominance. She was having none of it. She continue to growl and squirm, so i did not let her up. She was let up when she stopped growling and began licking me. Then i took Cashew’s new chewie, and unfortunately Sili’s as well, because if i didnt she would just steal hers. I put them on top of the refrigerator. Every night i would get one down and crinkle the beard twice and then walk around the house with it for a bit while Cashew watched with interest. Then i would set the chewie back on top of the refrigerator. Cashew had to be continuously reminded, i was pack leader, i was dominant, and all the toys were ultimately mine, she could have them when i was done playing with them. A week went by. I placed the Santa on the ground and began crinkling the beard and swatting at it. Cashew ran over to see what i was doing with her Santa. She immediately tried to take it from me, growling and slapping my arm with her paw. I flipped her on her back again and held her in a submissive pose until she licked me. We continued this routine nightly. Eventually, one night, Cashew asked me to play with “my” toy. She licked her lips, scooted to me on her belly, whimpered, and put her paw on my arm gently. I petted her head but did not give her the toy. I wanted to see how defiant and nasty she would be if she didnt get her way. She put her head down on her paws and watched me play with the Santa. She did not pout, growl, or act with aggression. So i gave her the toy. Cashew was ecstatic. I let her enjoy her chewie for a good while. Then i came over and poked it with two fingers, making a crinkly noise. I could see the wheels turning in her head. She was deciding how to respond to me, thinking about the possible consequences. If she growled or bit every time i handled her chewie she’d lose it again, but if she let me poke it a few times i’d probably get bored and give it back to her in a minute. She decided upon that response. She watched me like a hawk, clearly disturbed i was touching her chewie, every muscle in her body tensed and poised for action, but she did nothing. She sat stalk still and let me touch her chewie. I went back to the kitchen and let her continue on in peace. Every night i would at some point touch or crinkle her chewie in order to establish that i could because i outranked her, and to teach her patience. Nothing bad happens if you let mom touch your toy for a minute. One moment of patience is worth getting to play with the toy at all. Cashew still is not thrilled when i crinkle her toy but she knows better than to respond or try to pull it out of my reach. She shares and eventually i go away. In this way i’ve managed to address toy aggression in Cashew and she is now able to have her Santa to chew on nightly. She attacks the crinkly beard with great fervor and enthusiasm every night while i make dinner. If she starts pulling too much of the beard out i can pick it up without too much protest and she will just move on to her deer antler, but she sure does love her Santa.

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