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Why Some Dogs Become Protective of Owners

Source

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 viscious 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.

Source

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.

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Comments 98 comments

askjanbrass profile image

askjanbrass 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

You're absolutely right. I've known a few individuals who have dogs that become overly protective. It might not be to the worst extent possible, but they could sometimes get nasty when certain people would approach my friends. You provide a great write-up and some great links for people looking for more information!

Thanks for sharing this.


Darlene Sabella profile image

Darlene Sabella 6 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

This is happen as I am writing your comment. My Toy Poodle, babies, has taken on this role with me. I am a disabled senior, so she must sense my weakness, she even sleeps on a big pillow over my head, and wants to be with me 24/7...Thank you for this outstand hub, I learned a lot about this behaviour, thank you...


alexadry profile image

alexadry 6 years ago from USA Author

Thank you for mentioning that. You reminded me to edit my article and add that many times dogs sense weakness and sickness in humans and become over protective for this. I somehow left out this particular. Best wishes!


Arthur Fontes profile image

Arthur Fontes 6 years ago from Fall River,MA

My GSD does stand between strangers getting close to me. He never growls and is friendly but I do notice the behaviour. Great hub and good info.


magnoliazz profile image

magnoliazz 6 years ago from Wisconsin

I grew up with a half wolf/half German Huskey. His name was Smokey, and that dog loved me and my brother, but whenever anyone strange came near us, Smokey would turn deadly. One time he had my uncle trapped in the corn crib, and if I had not been there to call Smokey off, I am sure he would have killed my uncle. If my mom or dad even talked loud to us, Smokey would start to growl at them. Suffice to say, we never got any spankings after Smokey arrived, and my brother and I thought that was just great!

I loved Smokey, but he was a difficult dog to have because you had to make sure he was tied up if we expected company.

Having a deadly dog like that was not the way to go, I can see that now. Thank God he never bit anyone.


margaret 6 years ago

my is a protecter. but is most protective of me. even with family. its starting to get us in trouble he either as to stay in the car or out side but him being a short hair dog worries me about him getting sick. so i have resorted to staying home and not particapating in many family events


alexadry profile image

alexadry 6 years ago from USA Author

Margaret, if your dog is protective so much that your fear for other people's safety you should find a dog trainer or dog behaviorist to help you out. Leaving your dog home and keeping him unsocial will only make matters worse.


Mrs. J. B. profile image

Mrs. J. B. 5 years ago from Southern California

OH NO... Puppy my 1st pitbull, protects me from only the people she does not like....


Mrs. B.W. 5 years ago

My husband was recently injured and is now a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. And his care is hands-on. We've got a little dog that is 4 years old, has always been a loving good dog that has never been a problem, but now he's become so protective of Hubby that he's biting. He's never done that before, ever. Just today he bit me as I was putting Hubby down for his nap. There were no harsh words, no negative tones, absolutely nothing to warrant the sudden attack. He is constantly with Hubby, in his lap, under his wheelchair, always in the room with Hubby, and even sleeps with him. That hospital bed is the "dog attack zone" for some reason, as some mysterious something takes over and the dog becomes totally focused on protecting Hubby. Once Hubby is out of that bed, the dog is sweet again. I didn't know what to think about this until you mentioned dogs getting protective of disabled family members. I hope this behavior will tone down.


gardeningguru 5 years ago

Was searching for some info on spotting overprotective behaviors in puppies and stumbled upon this one and it actually makes a good bit of sense. If I am standing up my puppy is at ease with animals or people approaching, if I am sitting or lying down he will go out of his way to put himself between myself and whatever is getting near, he does not growl but perhaps he sees my sitting or lying as a vulnerable moment.


Marian 5 years ago

About six months ago I was diagnosed with Lupus (SLE) I have a mini pinscher/chihuahua mix, she acts more like a male dog, but never show any signs of over protective behavior until around the time I was diagnosed, I was very tired and sick; while, laying down on the couch to take a nap she would cry to me to get up, she saw no response then she would lay down next to me. Now, everytime I sit down or lay down on the couch she lays down next to me and if anyone, (husband, kids or friends) get close to me she growls at them and last night she tried to bite my husband. Now I notice that whenever I don't feel good, she wants to be with me all the time. Any sugestions to break the behavior are greatly appreaciated. Thanks


alexadry profile image

alexadry 5 years ago from USA Author

Sorry to hear about your diagnosis.. I would discourage your dog from laying down next to you all the time and I know this may be difficult, but try your best to send her away and teach her the ''off'' command to let her know that you are ok, and you do not need her to stick by your side. The more you allow her near you, the more she will become protective. You can have her briefly near you but it is on your terms, in other words, you call her and then tell her ''off'' once you are done petting her. Let your other family members walk her, feed her, interact with her, but tell them to instill the ''nothing in life is free'' program and try to stick with it. I hope this helps, my very best wishes.


Marian 5 years ago

i will follow your advice. Thanks a lot.


Layla 5 years ago

Great article =)

My husky is one of the friendliest dogs out there. He is well behaved, would happily let strangers pet him on the street, and never bats an eye when a random little dog barks at him (it's always the lil dogs haha). I used to joke that he'll probably welcome a burglar in with his tail wagging.

Then a few days ago I was walking him at night, and this big drunk guy approached me. I, being half his size, was a bit nervous so I tried to go around him, dog quietly beside me the entire way. Then the man mumbled something and suddenly rushed toward me, blocking my way. And before I even had time to react, my dog started barking and growling at the man, and if I hadn't been holding onto the leach would have probably jumped him. The man ran off and my dog calmed down right away.

I didn't reprimand my puppy and gave him a treat after we got home. But I was a bit nervous that he might be affected by this experience and become more aggressive. So far so good though, still letting strangers pet him with tail wagging. (He's a handsome lil guy so he get a lot of attention when we are out haha)


swanngirl 4 years ago

dogs only protct their owners because they love them and dogs are very clever animals they can tell a difference between friend or foe they can figure stuff out. Just dont over spoiled them or they will become more demanding. Dogs and other animals know things that people are not really aware of until it is too late. dogs can save peoples lives in many different ways because they know if something is wrong or something bad happened.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

Actually, the ''my dog senses something wrong with that person'' is a sort of a myth. Dogs may react to certain people simply because they have may lacked socialization towards certain ''types of people''. Real protection dogs, react only when there is a true perceived threat. A dog should not ''act protectively'' just because a person looks different, smells different, talks different. In this case, the dog is more fearful than protective. Real ''protection dogs'' that is, those trained professionally to protect are confident dogs that react only to ''real threats''.


rob 4 years ago

thanks


shely 4 years ago

thanks


lab owner 4 years ago

Dogs know their owners amazingly well, even more than we can comprehend. Therefor they don't sense anything from strangers, all their senses derive from how their owner is acting and then they react to that. When an owner sees a stranger on their property they don't know, they stiffen up and their attention is focues. A dog senses this and therefor reacts to the owners heightned awareness. It all channels through the owner. If an owner acts happy, relaxed, and pleased to meet neighbors or strangers in the yard when there is no threat the dog will follow suit. Bottom line, dogs don't sense people they sense their owners reaction to people.


Johanna Baker profile image

Johanna Baker 4 years ago from Christchurch, New Zealand

Very interesting, thank you. I will know what to look for in our Jack Russell


alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

Happy you found my article of dogs protective of owners helpful, kind regards!


Chris 4 years ago

I have a chesapeake bay retriever and have worked very hard to set rules and show that i am the leader. Yet she still growles at people and has even snaped at people before. I really have no idea what to do.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

Most growling at people is not due to dominance but fear, lack of socialization. Make safety your top priority and consult with a dog behaviorist, below is a type of behavior modification program for this type of situation, https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Dog-Behavior-How-to-St...


Chris 4 years ago

I think your right. It is fear. I think she is mostly scared of men. I will try these instructions. thanks


alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

The great majority of aggression seen in dogs is often fear-based. Best of luck!


Lisa 4 years ago

My 2 yr old Husky is very protective when it comes to our family however, it has gotten to the point where if my husband or son comes near me she gets very upset (growls, barks) but she does not bite. We can't even carry on a conversation at times because she barks and growls thinking we are going to get too close to each other. Do you have any advice?


alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

You need to take care of this problem as it is getting out of hand. A protective dog should protect only when there is a real threat. Your dog is not supposed to be taking this role which she is not temperamentally able to withstand. She should learn a command such as "go to your place" given a stuffed Kong and stop interfering. I recommend seeing a professional at this point since the behavior sounds aggression-based.


Shelly 4 years ago

I have an 11 year old rat terrier mix who has recently become clingy & protective. He refuses to leave my side. He will even find a spot near me when there is limited space. If he does leave my side, it's not far & he keeps an eye on me. My personal area is only my bedroom & he will growl & bark if/while someone familiar comes in. I'm curious about this sudden change.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

If there were no recent changes, have his sight and hearing checked. Some dogs become more clingy when they start not hearing well or seeing well or are affected by some other disorder that makes them feel more vulnerable. Best wishes!


alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author


Shelly 4 years ago

Thank you for your input. His hearing seems fine but his eyesight could be the problem. It looks like he is developing cataracts and that would explain his uneasiness. Thanks again.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

You are welcome! Best wishes!


Jason 4 years ago

Hello thanks for the article. I have a 3 year old female pitbull who up to this point was the nicest most docile dog I knew. I used to own a business nd would let her roam free amongst the customers without any fear whatsoever. My wife is 8 months pregnant and within the last two months my dof tries to bite anyone she doesn't know who enters the home. Is it possible my wife's pregnancy and dog's aggression are related? I am truly astonished at her behavior lately it's the only thing I can come up with. My wife has never. Een as. Lose to the dog as I have and is now talking about getting rid of her, but she is like another daughter to me please help


alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

Jason, this is not something unusual. Dogs are attuned to changes, and they can sense also a different smell when women become pregnant. Some dog do react in a protective way. Your wife should prevent her from being too clingy around her and praise and reward her when distance is increased. "Go to your place" meaning on a mat would be helpful and the dog should be given a Kong on the mat for complying. She should understand that your wife does not need to be protected and any attempt should be discouraged and re-directed to another activity such as going to a mat. Try practicing this command when nobody is around. When she grabs the concept well, you can add distractions gradually. When a client comes over, she should not be allowed to get in between her and the client, she should be sent to the mat. Thus accomplishes 2 things: it removes her from taking the protective role, it makes her associate that when people come great things happen (stuffed Kong!) and it help her learn some self control. Due to liability, you should have a behaviorist come and help you out in this behavior modification program; you don't want anybody to get hurt. If need be, use a muzzle. Best wishes!

http://www.pregnancy-info.net/pets_pregnancy.html


Christopher Kozoriz 4 years ago

I liked your post, but you gave no skills on how one can teach their dog not to be protective. What good is telling all this knowledge, but not giving any skills to combat this problem. It was reassuring to know that this type of behaviour is not uncommon.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

Well this title is "why are dogs protective" and not how to stop dogs from being protective. If you need any help, let me know what the problem is and I will happy to help. Maybe this article may be helpful:

https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Dog-Behavior-How-to-St...


sam 3 years ago

my dog atlas is owner protective. i just took him to the vet and he would growl at the older lady who would talk to him but was fine with the younger girl who talked to US and not to him. i gave her the leash and stepped outside the room and waited and he went with her without much of a fight and got his shots and teeth checked no problem. once he was back with me the vet came in the room and he never growled. they tld me he was owner protective but an absolute sweetheart, never growled or anything once he was away from me.


Sarra Garrett 3 years ago

Excellent article. I only had one dog that I never let men touch and I did that for a reason to ensure his protection. Having breakins in my home ended without anyone getting hurt or shot not to mention my peace of mind during the evening hours. Since I've been sick lately, my big girl is more protective of me now and I have to keep her in check sometimes.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 3 years ago from USA Author

Hello Sara, thank you for stopping by. Many dogs become more protective when owners are sick. I have seen several become protective when the owner got pregnant as well. I hope you feel better soon!


bubbles123 3 years ago

hello. ive got a question, yes my dog is clingy, but its not, im not well, spinal problems, ever since i found out and before i was told, i think my dog was telling me and others, theres something wrong with mums, back, me the owner. lol. she puts her head to the ground and up goes her bottom, as if to say this your problem its your back, ive tied this in, cos shes only been doing it the last year, and im convinced shes been telling me and others, absolutley convinced. theres something wrong with your back, know one day i put my hand down to her head on the floor not her bum that's sticking up in the air, and she got funny with me, just a growl, but i reassured her its ok, its me mum, as if she didn't want her head touched not even by me, i smack, tap her bum, and say that's your bum, but i still say shes been telling me something, that im not well, my spine. could i be right, shes a springer spaniel. 4yrs old. lovely brilliant dog, love her to bits.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 3 years ago from USA Author

I can't really say if she's trying to tell you something is wrong, yet, her behavior is awkward. It almost sounds as if she's doing a play bow, that movement dogs do when their put their bum in the air when asking for play. If you haven't been moving much lately it could be she's inviting you to play. Yet, there are many amazing stories of dogs being able to detect medical maladies even before doctors discover them that I must leave this behavior as an open question..something we may never know..I hope you feel better soon!


bubbles123 3 years ago

Thank you for getting back to me, id like to say that this sounds right in what your saying, but its even first thing in the morning as soon as im up, 5am or 6am, so not sure, but id know if it was an invite to play her tail would wag, no wagging, just her doing that lol. i thank you anyway, new it was something odd that's she doing, that's why i thought i get your ideas on it. thanks.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 3 years ago from USA Author

You're welcome, I wished I could help more. Of course, seeing a video of her doing it, may give me a better idea of what she's trying to communicate. It's sure something interesting!


jessyka 3 years ago

I have a two year old husky pit mix she has always been playful fun loving comical smart. Recently I have went thru a bad breakup of a long term relationship and my young daughter having a baby needless to say my dog has been with me thru all the sad times with the ex all the good times with the new baby since she is with me five days a week we have been raising her. She is six months. We have three dogs in the house a family dog that we have had since he was 3 months 100 plus rottweiler the husky


jessyka 3 years ago

And our roommates wiener dog my husky has bit three people recently two were males one female more than once one of the males she attacks anytime he comes near me the other male was talking to the baby and the female was walking to close to me and the baby I'm worried about her biting how do I stop it


alexadry profile image

alexadry 3 years ago from USA Author

For a case like this, I highly recommend a behavior professional to come to your home and assess the situation. There are too many risks at stake.


Alex 3 years ago

This article discussed nothing aside from the unpleasantness of having an overprotective dog. Did you even clarify, "Why some dogs become protective of their owners" I searched, hardly found a point; the dog needs training, or might be the breed?


alexadry profile image

alexadry 3 years ago from USA Author

Yes, it was mentioned how the behavior is reinforced when the person leaves, as it has an operant component. It was discussed how some dogs have a genetic predisposition to be protective. Some dogs become protective because they are insecure or feel the need to guard a resource. Others its based on fear which is why a weak-nerved dog makes a poor protection candidate. Others become protective because reinforced by the owner's approval. A dog who is protective needs to be trained an alternate behavior to the protectiveness, seek out a trainer for help on this. This article is about "why" dogs become protective, looks like you are looking for what needs to be done instead. You may find this hub more helpful: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Dog-Behavior-How-to-St...


Karen G. 3 years ago

I was at the veterinary office with my boyfriend and our dog. She's half Chihuahua and half Pomeranian. There was a big dog that came super close to me and touched me he was being friendly, but my little dog I guess felt the need to protect me and began to bark and growl. I don't know if she felt a need to protect e or what the case was but in the end I wanted to look up this type of behavior because its the first time shes ever really done it. Thanks for the posting of this article.


megan 3 years ago

I hv a English mastiff n the only time she is aggressive is whn im laying in bed she growls at anyone who tries to come in, wat can I do to fix it?


alexadry profile image

alexadry 3 years ago from USA Author

You should really see a behavior specialist to guide you through behavior modification for resource guarding. Here is an article on the topic: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Understanding-Dog-Reso...


Sad 2 years ago

My wifes 13 year old Chi has been pampered into thinking that it's normal to be on our bed and under our covers. So much so that we cant have sex. The dog has to be on the bed with my wife and when we tried putting her out of the room, she throws a fit and yips and yelps, slamming her body against the door and scratching. If we let he in the room she launches to my wife and doesn't let me go near. My wife puts her on the floor and tried to not let her back on the bed and the dog poops, probably out of stress. Our sex life is not non existent. We tried to have sex when the dog was asleep and the dog woke and found where we were and had to come into the room..

I understand at this point it's my wifes responsibility but she won't do anything for fear of not giving the dog the best life it has while its alive. This of course comes at the expense of our ability to have a child.

This has also given me anxiety to perform and now that my wife is ovulating, she wants sex on a timer which adds to the pressure.

I think this is why men like pornography. That, or hate dogs.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

In such a severe case, I would have a behavior consultant stop over to show some counter-conditioning techniques. Basically, the dog's emotional response towards you "invading" the bed should change from not wanting you there, to wanting you there because great things happen when you approach the bed (you give high value treats) Also, it would not be a bad idea to train the dog to sleep in a doggie bed next to your bed and make it extra rewarding (like give a stuffed Kong to enjoy on it). There's nothing wrong with having a dog sleep in it's own bed. Actually, dog beds nowadays have all the bells and whistles that make them superior to the average bed for humans, and dogs sleep better as their humans aren't tossing and turning waking them up in the middle of the night... so no need to feel guilt over that!


AlanGibbz 2 years ago

I really good article. We have had dogs (bitches) all our lives and three years ago, having two Giant Schnauzer bitches we acquired a Giant Schnauzer (male) known to have the traits and be used as a guard dog. We treated him like any other dog we had had and it became evident that he wants to protect my wife, but only when bringing in an expert and having him talk to us that the behaviour became obvious and the reasons he was acting the way he does. I have never learned so much and would totally alter the way I brought up a dog in my house in the future. When you have what you think is a well trained dog you walk with pride thinking how well you have trained it .. just imagine after having beautifully trained dogs for thirty years and then having one you cant handle ... as they say its always the owners that need training and we totally fell into that category. Unfortunately as much as we love them and think they adore us a dog is a dog and whether we like it or not there are leader/pack rules we we should adhere to i.e. not feeding them from the table, feeding them out of sight of the owner, not letting them on furniture especially the bed .. the list goes on.


Averre 2 years ago

Hi I'm doing a paper for a class, dogs vs. cats, I found your article and I'm trying to find some proof of dogs being more protective then cats any suggestions?


alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

Hmmmm. that's a tough one. I can't think about any studies or reliable proof about dogs being more protective than cats other than anecdotal evidence. Perhaps discuss the dog's history and talk about dogs who were selectively bred for their guardian roles, imposing looks?


alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

More than instilling leader/pack rules which often imply harsh techniques or having the dog ask permission to breath, I treat protective aggression by changing the dog's emotions about having other dogs or people come near them.


Alphadogg16 profile image

Alphadogg16 2 years ago from Texas

Wow, very interesting hub alexadry, of which I am guilty. I have 2 German Shepards which are both very protective. Neither has bitten anyone, but it's definitely something I'll have to address. Thumbs up on your hub


johnniebear 2 years ago

I have a 2 year old pibull male..hes always been awesome around people and always plays with dogs..i left him for the first time for 2 weeks and things didn't go to well but i think he might have picked up some bad habits during that time..I enrolled him to behaviour training etc..i notice how hes great with most people and then all of a sudden he just doesn't like a certain person....has anyone had this happen ? im hoping the obedience training will help we have had some good success with it a bit but i know im a fun loving guy who meets lots of people and hes like that too so im trying to figure out why he does that only with certain type of people..


alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

More than obedience training, I would seek behavior modification with a behavior consultant. You need to find if there is a common factor as to what triggers him to react that way. Do those people have facial hair? Were they wearing hats/sunglasses? Is it mostly men/women? Were they wearing perfume or did they smell like alcohol? Sometimes it's not certain people, but more what certain people do. Did they place their face too near him? Loom over him? Made eye contact? An experienced behavior consultant can help you out changing the underlying emotions.


poweranni profile image

poweranni 2 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

So what you are saying ... is that a dog whose care edges into the "abused" zone is more likely to be protective than the dog who is more on the "pampered" end of the spectrum?

I have noticed that my "rotterman" is very hit or miss with regards to what is a genuine threat. I also think that we might be misinterpreting her being "protective" with her being "bored" and wanting to stir up drama (LOL) or misreading a situation, or finding a personal threat to HER in the situation, and not me.

I think that you are onto something, when some owners dismiss their dog's unwieldy behavior as "protective of ME" and they are proud of their dogs. Why is it always about ME? A professional protection canine is truly a sight to behold but they don't come overnight or cheap. Truth be told, some dogs find it empowering when they can intimidate people. That is the dog, playing "dog." Nothing to do with loyalty to the owner.

When a leashed dog can make the neighbors cower, and the owner interprets this as the dog being "protective" (good dog!) what they really need to do is train the dog to not react to the lady with a push-cart full of groceries, but to sound off when there is a criminal or thug in the midst. My experience is that my dogs don't do that because they too might be afraid of them. Or they don't see some guy lurking on the side of an alley as a threat.

I live in LA, 10 miles south of downtown, and walk my dogs at night. So yeah, there is ALWAYS SOMEBODY around, even at 4 am. It might be a good thing, actually, that my dogs DON'T generally sound off. Maybe they are smarter than I am, and know that they guy in the alley is not a threat. I haven't a clue, really.

That is why the topic of "dogs" has me hooked. I actually find them far more mysterious than cats. I am more of a "cat person" but dogs for me are far trickier to figure out.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

Hello poweranni, I don't see where I say an abused dog is more likely to be protective, but I do agree that acting protective can have an operant component and that the dog may find it empowering to scare off people, but as the human bully it often stems from underlying nuances of insecurity. A well-socialized and confident dog shouldn't feel the need to protect the owner from innocent people. Dogs are very interesting, like snowflakes there are no two dogs with identical personalities. There is always room for learning.


poweranni profile image

poweranni 2 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

How does a dog know who is "innocent" and who has ill intent? Although we think that we are generally awesome at reading character and situations, human beings notoriously SUCK at it. LOL!

No seriously, we evaluate situations according to our prejudices, for better or for worse. And on one end of the spectrum, our lack of insight perpetuates racial, ethnic and class tensions. On the other, we can end up being killed because we misread somebody.

If we are such poor judges of character and intentions, how on earth would our dogs "read" a situation any better?

Just wondering ...


alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

When I talk about "innocent" and ill intent, I mean it from a human perspective. To us the person is "innocent," from the dog that is under socialized, reactive and weak nerved'--NOT. In other words, a dog that is insecure, stressed and under-socialized may perceive normal humans and their behaviors as threatening. In early socialization in puppies, that is in puppy classes, we expose puppies to all sorts of people so to help them get familiar with them and record them in their "safe repertoire" since during that time their brains are " primed" for accepting new things. So a confident, well- socialized dog would not feel threatened by "innocent" people on wheelchairs, a child on a skate board, a man with a hat and sunglasses or a person walking with a cane or people conducting normal behaviors such as as person shaking somebody's hand. I hope this answers your question.


poweranni profile image

poweranni 2 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

Thanks for your reply.

When Dusty (the "rotterman") was a wee pup, I took her around town and introduced her to just about every kind of person out there, most types of fashion and uniforms, races, colors, professions and lifestyles, and every type of stimulation, such as wheelchairs, mopeds, strollers, etc. This was recommended on the ASPCA website. It seemed like sound advice to me.

As a result, random people doing their "thang" don't seem to set off her hair trigger. But sometimes random situations do. I can't control for the body language or activity of some middle aged man at a dog park or for the scraping noise that the neighbor makes, as she drags something across the ground. All I can do is socialize her and try to desensitize her.

Sometimes I think that dogs are just bored and "stir up drama" because they are bored.

As a result of my socialization though, my dogs don't seem to "fire off" at much of anything. This has ruined them as "security dogs" but I made a choice a while back that knowing that I know nothing about training a watch dog or a protection dog, we erred on the side of "useless as a watchdog."

When they bark at stuff that is genuinely out of place, I praise them, even if I know that the stimulus is harmless.

Thank you for taking the time to correspond with me about my dogs. That is very kind of you.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

It's always a pleasure to talk about dogs! Sounds like you did an awesome job in socializing your pups! Of course, we can't expose them to all stimuli the world has to offer. For instance, my puppies grew up in Arizona were it doesn't rain for months at a time, it therefore took some time to get them used to umbrellas once we moved to Missouri several months later. People always tell me I have two wasted guard dogs referring to my Rotties. They care less about the mail man, Fedex truck or trash trucks, because I worked hard to desensitize and countercondition them to them. They are always eager to welcome guests. However, when I am NOT home, I know they they totally change and will bark at any unusual noises because I recorded their behaviors.


poweranni profile image

poweranni 2 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

I am not so convinced that rotties and dobies and these "macho" types of canines are the best watch dogs and that you "wasted" them.

I think you did the right thing. Honestly it sounds to me like you did a good job with them. They really SHOULD NOT antagonize the fed-ex guy. That is how we end up with dead dogs and a lawsuit.

Here is a brief story. The neighbor has a yorkie in the house, and a dobie in the yard.

I walked onto their property to drop off the rent check. I opened the gate, crossed their yard, and stepped onto their porch. I slid the rent check into the mailbox. This should trigger a convulsive and salivating barking-fit from a Doberman, right?

Who sounded off?

The yorkie.

Yip yip yip yip yip.

Her yapping did not even "inspire" the Doberman to join the chorus. He watched me cross the boundary, and closed his eyes to finish his nap.

Yet he sounds off at 3 am, when I rinse off a plate.

Geez people . . .


alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

I am totally of that mindset, and I am advocate of the breed and want to protect them from negative stereotyping. Those who tell me I have wasted them are those who want dogs that act as a deterrent. I think the mere presence of them is a big deterrent enough. Personally, I rather have an ADT system in place than have my dogs go out and bark at anything that moves out of the fence. When I have small dogs for board and training, the mail man is often baffled that these little ones are on attack mode versus my Rotts are there wagging their tails and acting friendly. I also give my clients print outs on my article on LAT for triggers such as the mail man. I always tell clients the story of an EMT who couldn't access the home to give aid to a person who suffered a heart attack because his dog wouldn't allow him entry.


Jeileenkahn 2 years ago

I am pregnant, a week overdue in fact. I have a 1.5 year old Boston terrier. He has always been very friendly to all dogs and people. He came to work with me from the age of ten weeks old and we bring him to a dog play group at the park every week. He never showed any aggression toward any one or thing until a couple of months ago when he started barking and snarling at some dogs and people. Even some people and dogs he knew, but mostly strangers. I assume this is a reaction to my pregnancy but I'm wondering if it will improve when the baby arrives or is this now a permanent behavior. It makes me sad because he has always been such a love and I hate to see him fearful and aggressive towards anyone. He is still very well behaved at the park however and not aggressive at all even in play.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

I really cannot tell if this will go away or not. Behavior like this may put roots if rehearsed for a long time enough and may or may not continue. I can see it possible for a dog to also become protective over the child once born. What I would recommend doing, is getting the help of a behavior professional familiar with counterconditioning. He or she should instruct you on how to create positive associations with people coming near. Usually, this encompasses keeping the dog under threshold at all times and having you feed tasty foods when people come near gradually, working in a systematic way. The aid of s professional will help keep every body safe and assure correct implementation of behavior modification. Best wishes!


Jazmin 2 years ago

Hi my name Jazmin I wanna ask this question what happened to me way back I was walk by myself in the street and all suddenly two stranger dogs were following me they don't hurt me and they don't bit but why they following what does it mean


alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 years ago from USA Author

If they weren't aggressive in any way they were probably curious to meet you or hoping your would feed them so food..


Krista Muzer profile image

Krista Muzer 17 months ago

I have a miniature Yorkshire terrier who was the runt of the litter. My boyfriend and I bought him from the owner when he was 9 weeks old and we have house trained him, sent him to obedience school and he is strictly an indoor dog. Lately he has been snarling, growling, and been very aggressive to my boyfriend with whom I live. It's almost like he doesn't want my boyfriend to come near me, so he is protecting me even though both of us live in the house and take care of him. I am wondering what we can do to resolve this problem. If anyone has any ideas or comments, please feel free to share them with me. I think my boyfriends feelings are very hurt because it was his idea to buy Peanut in the first place and now Peanut has turned on him, in a sense. Help!


scott 17 months ago

Our little mixed breed has started of late growling ànd barking if I go to my wife's bed.Its like he is her guardian. Only at night. What would you advise?


alexadry profile image

alexadry 17 months ago from USA Author

Ideally, you should consult with a professional who can guide you through behavior modification for safety and correct implementation. The process should be gradual and slow. A helpful approach is the open/bar/closed bar method, basically it consists of tossing a little high-value treat every time you move towards the bed or have your wife hand-feed the treat to your dog as you move closer. Then move away from bed, no more treats. The take home message is that your approach makes good things happen. Approach bed, means treats, away from bed, no more treats. Treats arrive only when you come close. When you finally get into bed, toss a higher value treat or a longer lasting one, like a cookie, for more on the correct implementation of this method read open bar/closed bar. https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Dog-Behavior-Modificat...


nacydogs 13 months ago

my dog once protected me!! there were three dogs that came running to attack me and my dog (german shepherd) chased them all away, since my dog is way stronger since they were labs! also once there was a boxer that once came to me and my dog and the boxer started fighting i didnt know who one that fight but the dogs owner came and took the dog away and i took my dog away so everything was fine! if u want your dog to love you and protect you, you have to show that your his owner and love him and feed him, however not every dog portects there owner but if the dog really loves you he will potect u! no matter how big or small he is!i did here somewhere that dogs will let them self be killed to save you!


Darlene 12 months ago

I like that my dog protects me. She is very much aware of who I trust and who I don't trust. I have never given her instructions to be this way but she surly is aware. She knows who I trust and who I don't. My husband's friend is very shiftyand the dog does not trust him now the man wwon't come into the house and I very much like it that way and so does my husband I feel see sences something that we don't. She was adopted from another family who had children and was a very spoiled dog. She was never aggressive toward anyone until she came to live with us. It seems she knows who istrust worthy and who is not... I also put her in her crate time out when someone new comes to visit. I ddon't set my dog up to fail.


Chelsea 9 months ago

I came across your article when looking for a solution for my over protective dog. I have a 2 year old German Shepherd that is very protective. To the point that when we travel she will bark at anyone that is around us while walking or even in the car. At home she will bark and growl at anyone who approaches the door. When new people come we have to go through an introduction, me holding her while they sit down and offer her a treat. After this she acts like she does around everyone else. I dropped her off at a vet clinic to get her fixed, while I was there she would bark and growl at everyone around. After I left they said she was very laid back and enjoyed everyone there. I will be moving into an apartment in a few months and want to correct this behavior so as to not have any issues. What is your suggestions?


alexadry profile image

alexadry 9 months ago from USA Author

Hello Chelsea,

If your dog barks in the car and at home, it sounds like an issue of territoriality/fear. Here are some hubs about the issue, with some behavior modification tips, but for safety, I would recommends doing these exercises along with a force-free professional.

For home, try my video "look at that and then come back" as outlined in article below

http://hubpages.com/animals/Why-is-My-Dog-Territor...

For the car:

http://hubpages.com/animals/Dog-Behavior-How-to-St...

Hope this helps!


Songbird 8 months ago

I have Chiwini I rescued when he was six months old. He was left outside, a resident found him, he was playing with her dog and he came out and she took him home for the weekend. She brought him in to my office and I fell in love with him. I made sure he had his shots and was neutered. I noticed on the drive home he growled while we were stopped at the light at people in the crosswalk. He was never aggressive to my roommate so I didn't think anything about it. He doesn't like strangers, he doesn't actually bite visitors but he does launch towards them, barking and with his mouth open kinda playfully bites at them with no teeth. Its a playful nip, however, if a service person is there to work on the house and is a male he will bite there pants legs. Trying to help him be more secure in his environment. He is good with cats and other dogs...not children. How do I help him?


alexadry profile image

alexadry 8 months ago from USA Author

Songbird, here are a few hubs that may be helpful:

https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Dog-Behavior-How-to-St...

http://hubpages.com/animals/Dog-Behavior-How-to-St...

Also, you may want to read the book "Cautious canine" by Patricia McConnell


Amanda 8 months ago

I own an 11mnth old Rottweiler and he has become quite protective of me. When we go for a walk he will growl and bark and jump toward people walking toward us that are at a distance away. He dosnt do this to anyone that comes to pat him. He's very gentle and a sweet boy. He dosnt act like this with my husband.

He's very protective of the house aswell. Also of passers by. I think when we go walking it may have to do why he barks at people from a distance.


Matthew Ryan 8 months ago

My 10 year old mastiff will growl at other children when our daughter is in the same room and if there is any rough playing she'll become aggressive towards them. Just today one of our daughters friends was trying to run around my girlfriend with the dog on the leash by my side and she nipped at the child. We've tried to keep her isolated when children come over but I'm worried about just one instance. Any recommendations would be helpful.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 8 months ago from USA Author

Has your dog always been this way? At 10, the growling can be due to the fact that she's older and unable to move away as she used to, it could be also be she has a medical issue such as low thyroid levels or pain. At that age, most dogs want a calm, quiet environment and boisterous play either from a child or a young puppy, stresses them out. She may be trying to stop the play when it gets too rambunctious or may not understand the rough play and think the children are fighting. For safety and to reduce stress and not set her to fail, keep separated. If you are worried about just one instance, play it safe by keeping the dog in another area. You can never play it too safe, so maybe lock the door too and crate your dog in the closed room ( if your dog is crate trained) with a stuffed Kong for the time being. There are too many stories of dogs who get stressed by children and bite or children who manage to open the door where the dog is enclosed and get hurt.


Jessica 8 months ago

I have a 3 year old black lab. He is fenced in with underground fencing and a collar. He barks if anyone walks by. He barks if anyone comes in the yard. He has growled at my youngest daughter who is 1 year old when she lays by him, pets him, he ran out of the yard last week after 2 adults that were on a walk with there 4 large dogs. He went after the biggest dog they had. Tonight on a walk a young boy came up to him to pet him and he started barking and I'm not sure if he tried to nip at him or not. I grabbed him before he could touch him. People are afraid of him. What do I do? I don't think I'll ever trust him again and am afraid of my kids getting bite or someone else getting bite. What do I do?


alexadry profile image

alexadry 7 months ago from USA Author

The shock from the underground fencing/collar may be causing stress and the formation of negative associations with anything he sees when he receives shock. It's likely a contributing problem,. I would suggest looking up Leslie McDevitt's LAT and employing a force-free trainer to help you out.


katie 7 months ago

my puppy a 6 month Staffordshire Bull terrier has always been good with people , but the other day a woman came close to me and was looking at the dog and my dogs hairs went up and he lowered his head. yesterday I was walking him on his morning walk and as I stood outside the house a man approached and put his hand out to stroke my dog , my dog again lowered his head and gave off a low growl I was very shocked. His not like this with everyone some people he jumps all over and licks. when people come into my house he brings his toys .His meet lots of people since being little so don't know why he would behave like this , the man was delighted to see my dog and it was abit embrassing that he growled . Is this a bad sign at his age .


Luz 7 months ago

I have notice on my one year old puppy when we walk on the street if he see a homeless he starts to growl at them and if we walk by he see a black bag he growls at that too is that normal or not or he be coming over protected to protect me of bad people I want to know what can't I do


alexadry profile image

alexadry 7 months ago from USA Author

Sounds like fear-based behavior. Not totally abnormal as many dogs are fearful, but shouldn't occur and can be prevented by extensive socialization.


Ella 7 months ago

Helped me with little information. Not much to collect. Maybe you could add in why the chase cats around sometimes


alexadry profile image

alexadry 7 months ago from USA Author

Chasing cats would be another topic, which I already covered if you do a search.


James 6 months ago

I have an australian shepherd who only becomes protective when people come to the house. I take him on two walks a day and has never barked or growled at anyone. Is there any reason he only shows this behavior at the house? Are there any recommendations on how to handle this problem?


alexadry profile image

alexadry 6 months ago from USA Author

Yes, many dogs can be this way. Their home is where they feel safe and secure and there's often a fear component when dogs act territorial at home. Here's a read for you: http://hubpages.com/animals/Why-is-My-Dog-Territor...


Jeanne Carrather profile image

Jeanne Carrather 4 months ago

My husband and I adopted a German Shepherd mix from a shelter about 3 months ago...she is now around 9 months old. She was fine at first but now she "attacks" me by running up at my face like she is going to bite my eye or mouth. It's unpredictable and doesn't seem to be predicated by any kind of activity. She only does it when we are both present. He was away for a week and she never did it then. Why would she do this to me? She also barks at strangers.


alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 months ago from USA Author

It may seem unpredictable, but there must be something very subtle going on. Does it happen when your husband comes near you or you go near him? Does your husband make your dog hyper? Do you move your hands more when you talk to him? Is when you talk to your husband? What do you do when your dog does this? While we many never know the exact reason, try to keep a treat pouch handy clipped on your belt and redirect your dog to "go catch" several treats you toss to the ground at the very first sign of this behavior. Then after a while, implement a sit before you toss the treats. The goal is to implement a behavior that is incompatible with the one your dog is rehearsing. Your dog can't be jumping up at your face, when he is catching treats you toss to the floor or sits before you toss them. Make sure you catch the behavior before it happens and redirect it promptly, so as soon as you see her coming close to you, be ready with tossing the treats. If things get out of hand though and you think your dog may bite, please consult with a trainer/behavior consultant.


Lindsay from USA 7 weeks ago

I just got a new dog that's a Chihuahua and she's old but if my husband trys to get close to me or kiss or hug me then she grows at him and trys to bite him but she's already bit him and I don't understand why she's doing that I just got her and she loves me she always has to be my my side and follows me everywhere I go and has to be next to me at all times I don't understand why?


alexadry profile image

alexadry 3 weeks ago from USA Author

Lindsay, Dog's don't seem to fully understand kissing and hugging, perhaps your dog feels like he is doing something harmful to you. You can try tossing treats her way every time your husband kisses and hugs you, so your dog gets the message that's it's OK and good things happen instead. Since you mention your dog has already bitten him, your bet is to find a dog trainer/behavior consultant who uses positive training methods.


Teresa 2 weeks ago

This was somewhat helpful but not really. I've had my dog since he was six weeks old. I've never trained him to protect. He's will be six in February and here recently he has been snapping at people for no reason. Other than maybe being in his space. I don't know if it's because he gets bad vibes or if it's because he's getting older. I would like to know why he's doing this since he's just now starting this rabbit and what I should do about it


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