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How To Deal with an Overprotective Dog

By Jason Trainer  •  December 7, 2021  •  

Is Your Dog Possessive of You & Acts Out?

Most likely, you are going to be around other people and pets throughout the life of your dog. A protective and possessive dog can be a hindrance on enjoying your life to its fullest and make bringing your dog places difficult. If your dog acts out in an aggressive manner or makes your visits with friends and family uncomfortable, you’re going to want to assess and identify the issues at hand.

Signs of an Overprotective Dog

Every dog is different and the signs they show, or the actions they take, which identify them as protective/possessive dogs are different. Below are just a few

Stress / Fear:

Shows signs of stress or fear when other people and animals are near by. This can be anywhere from subtle changes in body posture, full body shaking to a multitude of other signs.

Guarding Behaviour:

One potential sign of a territorial dog is when he/she stands between you and people/animals that they perceive as threats, even though they may not be threats. They are working to claim their space and keep it safe.

Possessive Aggression

Your dog shows aggression towards other people/animals that come near you or are close by. Anything from growling, showing teeth and/or lashing out at people. This is where things can get dangerous, and we suggest you get professional help right away.

Why Is My Dog So Protective?

Essentially, your dog is protective of you because they perceive a threat. Perhaps there are times when the threat is real and the protection your dog offers is warranted. The problem occurs when your dog is going into protection mode all the time and for things that are clearly not a threat. There are often underlying problems or reinforcing behaviour that has caused this.

You Have Rewarded Bad Behaviour (Sometimes Without Knowing It)

If your dog acts out towards a person or pet and you bring them close and comfort them to calm them down, you have just rewarded bad behaviour. If you laugh when they take an aggressive stance towards a cat, you have just rewarded bad behaviour. You need to assess your actions when your dog displays any of the signs discussed above. Rewards should only be given when your dog is in a controlled and calm state.

You Have Not Corrected Bad Behaviour

Aggression or undesired behaviour is not allowed. Period. You must use corrections to show your dog what behaviour they cannot do.

Lack of Proper Socialization

If your dog was not socialized properly as a puppy or did not have proper socialization continue into their adulthood they may see others as a threat.

What to do About an Overprotective Dog

If your dog enters an aggressive state in an attempt to protect you or shows signs of hostility when becoming possessive of you – you need to seek professional help. The following is meant to help guide you through situations however a professional dog trainer will be able to implement behavioural modification in an effective manner and give you the resources to continue your dog’s training properly.

Stay Calm

Dogs can feel our energy which is why you need to stay calm. Unfortunately, if you are reading this, you are probably bringing nervous energy to situations where your dog is interacting in different environments. If you are nervous or stressed, then your dog is going to react as such and will feel the need to protect you.

Maintain Control

You should always have control of your dog. When you are entering into a potential situation where your dog might assert its protective behaviour be extra vigilant. You’re calm at this point and should

  1. Reward your dog as you approach a person/animal and they stay in a calm state. This should be done slowly – take a few steps, stop, reward, continue.
  2. Correct your dog the second they show signs that they are entering a protective state. This can be a tug on the leash or a command to bring their attention back to you. With their attention back on you and when they are calm again – reward them.

Socialize

Proper socialization while including the above control methods is one of the most effective means of avoiding and treating protective behaviour. This is best done when they are young but can still be effective when they are older. Exposing your dog to new people, animals, and environments is key too. You should also understand that proper socialization does not just mean introducing them to people or other animals – it means giving them alone time and ensuring that they know how to be alone. For a more in depth understanding of socializing your dog with another dog, read our article on How to Properly Socialize Your Dog with Another Dog.

Take Precautions

You are going to know your dog best and maybe they will need special precautions to ensure that nothing bad happens. Some suggested precautions are

  • Keep your dog leashed when people come over. If your dog is leashed and kept close by you will have an easier time taking control of a situation if you identify any warning signs.
  • Muzzle your dog. This can help greatly reduce the chances that your dog will cause serious trauma to any people or animals that come in close vicinity to your dog.
  • Control your dog’s interactions. If you know your dog is going to be aggressive towards people who come into your home and get near you – put your dog outside or in a room where they can be alone.

Consistency

You cannot take breaks from training your dog and shaping who you want them to be. If you do, their poor behaviour is your fault. You have made the choice to own a dog so you need to be devoted to helping them live the best life they can. If you do, your life will directly benefit.

The ITK9 Way

We train our clients’ dogs in a multiple of environments through methods we have been implementing for years. Further, we tailor your dog’s training to his/her specific needs. As stated above, if your dog is a danger to others, you need to seek professional help. Please reach out to us today to discuss your options.

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