Jake is now 2 years and 3 months old.
I was sitting on the sofa and Jake was lying on the floor beside me with a bit rawhide. I leaned over him to pet him and he snapped at me. I am in shock as he has never done this before.
I know I should not hang over a dogs head. Is this him being dominant over me and how should I handle this. He is ok with everything else, walking and playing.
Jake probably LOVES his rawhide, and this behavior was his way of protecting it as he was probably afraid that he was about to lose it. It’s a classic ‘guarding’ behavior. The fact that you were above him, and as you say ‘hanging over him’, probably triggered an instinctive response – and it may have surprised him too!
HOWEVER, it’s not acceptable and you will need to start work immediately to make sure that he doesn’t start to think that he can ‘guard’ his possessions from you. If that happens he may increase this behavior to protecting his toys, bones, food bowl, sleeping spot etc. etc. It’s natural, but not allowed.
If this is the first time he’s ever done something like this, it was probably triggered because his rawhide is very precious to him. I know my Rotties LOVE their rawhides, and Jake probably does too.
The way to ‘nip this in the bud’ is to start working on the ‘leave it’ command – this teaches him to ‘drop it’ or ‘leave it’ (whichever you prefer) when asked, and will get him used to you taking things from him. The aim is to have him ‘exchange’ his toy/bone for a treat whenever you ask him to, without complaint! It’s also great for getting him to drop something he shouldn’t have, or is dangerous, quickly.
Start when he’s playing with a toy that he’s not so ‘in love’ with as the rawhide. Move close to him, get his attention, then tell him to ‘leave it’, or ‘drop it’, and gently remove the toy from his mouth (or between his paws etc.) and immediately give him a tasty treat, some praise…. and give him the toy back too.
Repeat this a few times a day with different toys, with his food bowl, etc. etc. until he’s totally familiar with this ‘game’ and ALWAYS treat, praise and return the object. Within a few weeks, you should be able to take his rawhide without any trouble.
Once this is part of Jakes’ routine, you don’t need to treat him every time, just praise and return the toy, but remember to keep practicing now and then so he doesn’t forget. Obviously if you’re out and he picks up something he shouldn’t, you can ask him to ‘drop it’ and praise him without letting him have it back!
It sounds as though in general Jake is very well behaved and responds to your authority, so you should be able to stop this problem pretty quickly. Hope this helps. Best of luck to you both.