Use "Move Away" Word Cues

Does your dog stiffen up or growl when you approach her? Here's a trick to get your dog to move away from whatever spots she guards.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA,
March 13, 2013


Have you got a dog who stiffens up or growls if you approach her while she’s on her bed, or on the couch, or on your bed for that matter? The long-term fix here involves teaching her that your approach isn’t a threat. You definitely need to do that work if your dog actually snaps or bites, or if you have children.

But for mild cases, you may be able to do an end run around the problem. The trick is to teach your dog a trick.

Choose a word cue to mean “Move away from whatever you’re lying on now.” This could involve jumping off the sofa or getting up off her bed—it doesn’t matter. You can use the same cue for every spot your dog guards, since you’re asking for the same behavior in each situation: moving to a different place.

Start with a bed or a piece of furniture your dog doesn’t guard, and have a handful of tiny, tasty treats ready. First, invite your dog to hop onto the chair or get on the bed, or whatever. As soon as she’s on, click or say “yes” and immediately give her a treat. Then take a couple of steps away, give your “move away” cue, and toss 3 or 4 treats on the floor so Dogalini has to go get them. If your Dogalini would prefer to chase a toy, then toss a toy instead.

See Also: Resource Guarding — What It Is, How to Prevent It

Repeat 3 or 4 times. Keep the tone light and playful—remember that this is a trick you’re teaching! You can do more than one practice session a day, as long as you and your dog are having fun. Practice in as many different spots as you can before you go “live.” You want to get to the point where your dog knows this trick cold and loves doing it.

And then the big day: You want to go sit on the sofa, but your dog is already there. You don’t face her down, you don’t risk a bite by trying to push her off, and you don’t give her permanent custody of your favorite place to sit. Instead, ask her to do that neat new trick. The one in which she … gets up and gets off the sofa. Remember to reward her for her cooperation!

Dog on couch from Shutterstock