Why Some Dogs Become Protective of Their Owners
Is Your Dog Dangerously Overprotective?
When somebody attempts to say hello or give you a hug and your dog inserts himself in between, growling and snarling in the most threatening way, this can be a real problem. A protective stance can be a blessing in an emergency situation, but surely isn't when the dog attempts to protect its owner from people who are not doing anything wrong.
Excessive protectiveness is a dangerous situation. Some dogs resort to aggressive behaviors in order to prevent strangers or even family members from getting too close to their owners. These dogs are a big liability because they may even feel compelled to bite. Worse of all, these dogs attack unprovoked. In other words, these dogs will attack without good reason (from a human perspective, that is).
But why does a dog feel compelled to attack in such a vicious way? And why does it overreact to something benign, like a hug or handshake? There can be a variety of reasons why dogs resort to behave this way.
Reasons Why Dogs May Become Over-Protective of Their Owner
Sometimes owners train their dogs to become protective without realizing it. They only notice the gravity of the problem, but fail to notice how they contribute.
Dogs who have developed a strong bond with their owners will likely live their lives in comfort and happiness. These dogs know that the owner will protect them from harm and ensure their well being because a history of trust has established that fact. These dogs will trust their owner, looking up to him/her for guidance and direction. However, if the owner fails to provide a certain level of guidance and that safety net of reassurance is never formed, some dogs may feel compelled to take a defensive stance. The underlying causes for what we perceive as "protectiveness" may stem from fear and insecurity.
At first, the owner may think it is funny, or even reward it. A stranger comes near the owner to talk, and the dog will growl. The stranger will stop in his tracks and leave. The growling has been rewarded by the stranger leaving. So a week later, another stranger approaches the owner and the dog starts growling again. This stranger is not intimidated by the growl and continues getting close, and the dog becomes more aggressive to send him away. He growls, lifting his teeth and showing his pearly whites. The stranger goes away. The dog has now learned that he must act more aggressively to send strangers away, and a new behavior has been learned. This soon becomes a bad habit and the owner has given up and decided that it is just a ''trait.''
Some owners actually tell others, with pride, ''my dog is very protective of me.'' They feel that because their dog protects them, it proves that the dog loves them. However, they are missing something crucial: Their dog is insecure, unpredictable, and will react negatively when people don't expect it.
All dogs need to be socialized from an early age and must learn to accept strangers in their property and near their owners. Allowing them to be over-protective may turn them into a big liability.
- Often, dogs may also become protective of children. While this trait may not really appear as a defect, it becomes so if the dog becomes protective when it's not necessary. These dogs may resort to growling and biting even when people with good intentions come close.
- At times, dogs become protective when owners are sick or frail.
- I have seen some dogs became suddenly protective when the owner got pregnant. These dogs will stick near their pregnant owner and even block people from coming too close.
Whichever the scenario is, a dog should not be encouraged to become over-protective of its owner as this may translate into aggression and even biting. Even dogs sent to protection training are taught to clearly understand the difference between a real threat and something that is not harmful. These well-trained dogs will not aggress if a friend comes over and hugs you. Protection dogs trained by pros are often excellent with kids. Indeed, protection dogs must have a sound temperament in order to excel. Training a weak-nerved dog to be protective is an accident waiting to happen.
For Further Reading...
- Behaviors of Intact Female Dogs
Female dogs, especially those who haven't been fixed, may exhibit distinct behaviors that are typical of their sex.
- Warning Signs of Potentially Dangerous and Aggressive Dogs
Many times, dogs owners are faced with behaviors from their canine friends that are a bit far from what would be expected from ''man's best friend.''
- Understanding Dog Territorial-Marking
In the human world, people use doors and fences to protect their homes and claim their territory. Dogs have other means.
Questions & Answers
I found an abused foxhound on April 6th, and she is a love bug except when she and I lay on my sofa bed together and my husband comes over she begins to snarl and growl. Why is this?
She may be protective of you or the couch (or both), and she just might not be comfortable with your husband being around. This snarl and growl is a distance-increasing warning telling your husband not to come close as she feels threatened by him.Helpful 45
We rescued a Collie Cross about 2 months ago. She is great with us now that she has gotten used to us. She has always been good with other dogs but wary of people, especially when they enter the home. Her previous owners did not socialize her much. My husband takes her to work every day and she has started to become over-protective. Lunging etc. at people and dogs if my husband touches the dog. We would like to stop this ASAP. Any advice?
For safety and correct implementation of behavior modification, you will need to have a dog professional help you out. Look for one who is well-versed in behavior modification and who uses force-free, humane behavior modification. She may need a desensitization and counterconditioning program to change her emotions.
Since she has shown already in the past that she was wary of people, was poorly socialized and now she is lunging at people and dogs, it may be that she is stressed and wants distance. She may feel safe near your husband and doesn't want her safe 'bubble' to be invaded by people and other dogs she doesn't trust. I am afraid that this is not something that can be solved ASAP as behavior modification takes time. If the work area she goes to everyday is a closed environment, this layout may make her more reactive and feel trapped due to not having much the option to move away.Helpful 23
My two-year-old labrador loves his walks, but everytime someone comes outside their house, he barks at them. What can I do for him to ignore the person and keep walking?
The good news is that you have identified the antecedent. In other words, you know exactly what is triggering the behavior (people coming outside their house). The not -so- great news is that it might take some time to change this behavior, especially if it has been rehearsed for quite some time and the unpredictability of people coming outside may catch you unprepared.
A behavior modification plan in such a case that may work is the "Look at that" game" outlined here:https://hubpages.com/animals/Changing-Dog-Behavior...
Basically, you will be out together, and every time your dog sees somebody coming out of their house, you will be feeding high-value treats. Initially, you may have more success if you can enlist the help of some volunteers who will repeatedly exit their homes so that you can practice this exercise at a distance in a controlled setting (so your dog is under threshold) rather than being caught off guard not knowing when your dog may spot somebody.
Otherwise, you may have to be constantly scanning for people exiting their homes and promptly feed your dog. A behavior consultant to help you out may be best for safety and correct implementation of behavior modification. He or she may provide the ideal setups to work on the issue.Helpful 19
When my dog Duke barks (toy poodle, male, unfixed) my dog Kya (toy poodle, female, fixed) attacks him but only for a couple of seconds, and he walks away growling. What does this mean?
It sounds like a form of re-directed aggression. When two dogs are very aroused from something (e.g., person walking by the fence) all this excitement/arousal energy accumulates, and one dog may redirect on the other.Helpful 18
I'm fostering a twelve-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier who is so sweet, but barks aggressively at people when he's in the car, or if someone walks too close as they pass. What do you suggest?
The behavior you are seeing is not unusual and it's often due to the same dynamics as seen in dogs who bark at the mailman. Because people leave, the behavior is reinforced.
To tackle this issue, often counterconditioning is your best friend, but you may need to enlist the help of a professional for safety and correct behavior modification implementation. Here is an example of behavior modification for dogs who act protective of the car. https://hubpages.com/animals/Dog-Behavior-How-to-S...Helpful 14