Most folks would agree that they feel more secure owning a dog. It has been proven that even the bark of a chihuahua will deter a burglar for heaven sake! lol But, when that protectiveness goes to the extreme and your dog won’t let anyone (or another dog) near you, then you have a problem. So what exactly is the dog thinking when it growls and snaps at other people or dogs when you’re nearby and how do you modify this behavior?
Psychology Of The Over Protective Dog
There are two main types of aggression shown by over protective dogs.
- Dominance Aggression – when a dog perceives that his place in the pack hierarchy is being threatened. This can refer to his place in the “family” or in just the “dog pack” if there are more than one animal in the household. This normally occurs when there is a change in the living environment, such as getting a new puppy, moving, someone moving out of or into the house, or a change in working schedules, and/or where the dog spends his time.
- Fear Aggression – when a dog has either not been socialized as a puppy or perhaps has had a traumatic incident with another person or animal. This dog will react to strangers, be it people or animals, with aggression. Fear aggression is more noticeable when the dog is on a lead but can also be seen off-lead as well.
Modifying The Behavior Of The Over Protective Dog
Learning to read the body language of an over protective dog is essential to modifying its behavior. Are the ears forward? Are the eyes fixated? Is the mouth closed or are the teeth bared? Is the body crouched in a attack or predatory posture? Is the dog growling? All these are dangerous body languages that can easily escalate into full blown attack mode.
Usually before you see these dangerous body language signals, you will see less aggressive signals from your dog. If you learn to read those and deflect the attention at that point, you can often avert your dog’s escalation into attack mode. Less dangerous signals could include your dog “claiming” you. They may move closer to you or even climb on your lap. They could be less interested in normal play and be fixing all their attention on the perceived threat to you, whether it be a person or another animal. With short-hair dogs, you may be able to see the hair rise along the length of their back. These are all aggressive signals.
If you dog has tried to claim you by being on your lap, or for a big dog by putting any portion of his body on you, move the dog away. Stand up and claim your pack leader status with eye contact and a command, if necessary. Be sure to be calm and assertive. Any aggression you have will only escalate your dog’s aggression. Fear, anger and anxiety only reinforces unwanted behavior.
In any over protective scenario, your dog needs to know where he stands on the hierarchy ladder. He needs to know he is on the bottom of the ladder, below all humans. This does not mean you should be mean or harsh with your dog. It is very important that you teach with positive reinforcement and praise.
Remember, in all instances, you MUST be your dog’s pack leader. Only when you dog knows that you are in charge, are they going to feel safe and balanced. For great information and techniques on how to train your puppy or older dog, I highly recommend Dave Cresswell’s Dog Training Online*. You’ll find over 50 dog training videos showing the same positive methods training that Dave Cresswel uses to train dogs for movies and TV. These videos include obedience essentials, puppy training, correcting problem behaviors advanced lessons, trick and many other lessons. Just 15 minutes training with your dog a day will give you the best behaved dog on your block! It’s All Here.
Advice for Curbing Aggressive Behavior from The Dog Whisperer
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