Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
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
Question: 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?
Answer: 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.
Question: 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?
Answer: 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.
Question: My 3 year old basset hound Hudson has recently become protective of my wife. He growls when he is laying by her and I approach. I walk, feed train and socialize him regularly. Any ideas what it could be or how I can tackle it?
Answer: We may never really know what may be going through those doggy minds when they act this way, but I suspect that there can be various triggers. For example, perhaps he feels safer near your wife or he likes to sleep nearby her and senses you as a "disruption" to his sleep if you are often going back and forth through doors waking him up and startling him from a deep sleep or making more noise around the home, carrying tools, fixing things etc.
For mild cases, I use desensitization and counterconditioning techniques. For instance, I make sure that every time the husband moves towards the wife, the dog is fed some tasty treats. After several reps, the dog starts becoming more accepting of the approach because great things happen. How the treats are delivered may vary based on circumstances. I may have the wife feed them, or the husband may toss them in the dog's direction every time he approaches. These 'set-ups" are rehearsed several times until we notice a conditioned emotional response, where the dog looks eager to have the husband approach rather than dreading it. The process is similar to this: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Help-My-Dog-Barks-When... but rather than entering a room, you are getting closer to your wife.
Now, a disclaimer is warranted here. While this procedure may appear simplicistic, it is not. In order to succeed, you will need to be careful on not sending the dog over threshold, you need to watch for signs of stress and you have ensure the safety of all considering that dogs who growl may bite. We do not want to push a dog to biting because we want a dog to keep "using his words" rather than biting. For safety and correct implementation, it is therefore important to conduct behavior modification with the help of a dog behavior professional who can provide in-person coaching and guidance. Hope this helps, feel free to post any other questions here or update on how things go in the comments section.
Question: 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?
Answer: 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.
Question: 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?
Answer: 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.
Question: My shepherd is all of a sudden biting people for no reason! He is nine years old and has always been a sweetheart. He is my daughter's dog, and I am watching him for a week. Why would he do this all of a sudden? I also have my period at this time. He is a neutered male, but would this have anything to do with it?
Answer: I doubt it has to do with your period. I am more inclined to think that he is nervous about being out of his comfort zone and in a place with different people, sights, sounds, and smells. Dogs don't always do well with changes, and they may feel stressed. Some dogs are more sensitive to changes, and when they feel stressed, they are more likely to bite. Please be very careful. It may help to keep him confined in a quiet area and not let him be around people he is not comfortable around for the time being. Another possibility is that he is acting protective towards you. Regardless, make safety your top priority.
Question: 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?
Answer: 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...
Question: When my teenage daughter has a friend over, my 4 year old lab mix will go and sit by the friend. The friend will begin to pet the dog and then the dog growls and barks loudly. This has happened multiple times with different friends each time. What can we do?
Answer: For safety and to prevent rehearsal of this problematic behavior, please do not put your dog in this situation anymore. Keep her away until you can enlist the help of a dog behavior professional using force-free behavior modification methods.
Question: My dog hates people and the world. What do I do?
Answer: You help your dog change his negative mindset and view of the world. What if every time your dog meets somebody he doesn't like you feed your dog some high-value food like roasted chicken? Day after day he should start likely those people more and more. Dogs are pretty simplistic beings that form negative and positive associations. Unlike people though, they do not hold "grudges" or act out of vengeance.
Instead if they 'hate" people it's often a matter of people causing them to feel fearful or intimidated by them. This may be due to lack of socialization, a fearful predisposition or negative experiences (which may stem from things as innocent as the dog getting startled by people moving fast, coughing, sneezing or laughing loud).
Question: I went away to college and when I came back, my dog suddenly started growling at dogs who come near me, even if I'm not the one holding the leash. We've had her for almost 3 years and this is the first that this has happened. What can we do to fix this behavior?
Answer: Your dog needs behavior modification with the help of a force-free dog behavior professional. In particular, your dog may benefit from methods based on desensitization and counter-conditioning. In other words, we make sure that your dog isn't put into the position of feeling the need to growl (under threshold) while at the same time creating positive associations contingent upon other people approaching. Have a behavior professional guide you through for safety and correct implementation.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 13, 2020:
Hi David Johnson, you may see redirected aggression, your dogs get so riled up, they redirect on each other. It's important to lower their arousal when they see an intruder.
Kaiti Bentley on September 01, 2020:
My dog will become aggressive and lunge when there are kids around and people .she will stay close to me she duse not get aggressive with my boyfriend . I have socialized her at a young age with kids and people. I do know i had her at young age .i know the time that i got her she was not supposed to be away from her mom yet . And there was a little girl that did not treet her right when she was a baby .
David Johnson on August 24, 2020:
Why does my female dog bite my Male dog when they see an intruder
Riley on August 18, 2020:
I have a 3 year old pitbull that will not allow other dogs, or people close to me without him watching their every move. People he tends to jump in between, dogs on the other hand he loses it. He jumps up to growl at every little noise around when we try to sleep at night. He will also sit silent as others sit on my couch/bed and stare until he jumps in between or forces them off. He had been in dog fights before I got him however this aggression and the exacerbated levels of it has come after spending the months working from home this year. Wondering if I should be worried about the behaviors or thinking this is just a protective thing. I have owned German shepherd chow mixes, pure breeds and hunting dogs however I have never seen a dog jump to occasion, split up people in my house or even begging to growl at the slightest noise in my life
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 25, 2020:
I understand your concerns about your German shepherd who is acting protective of you. Because this dog is 11, I would firstly consider a vet check to make sure your dog is doing well considering that as dogs age, sadly they get aches and pains, their senses may decline and sometimes their hormones get out of whack which cause behavior changes. Not to mention, as dogs get older they can be less tolerant and have a lower threshold for stress.
Once the vet gives you the all clear, I would consider enlisting the help of a dog behavior professional using force-free behavior modification. I feel that your dog may need a good level of management to lower his stress (keep away from the kids if they stress him out) along with possible desensitization and counterconditioning if feasible. This is for safety and correct implementation of behavior modification.
chelabellah on July 22, 2020:
Hi. I am in need to help. I have an 11 year old German Shepard which I've had since he was 6 months old. His previous owners used to beat him and so when we first got him and attempted to get him trained, everything failed. Within the last year/year and a half he has become extremely protective of me.
I work from home and most days it was he and I at home until everyone else came home from work or school. However, with COVID, everyone is home now most of the day. My dog now gets in between me and any of my family members who live with me and most recently has started trying to bite these same people if they attempt get near me/go into my room when I am there.
I have children ages 5, 7 and 10 at home and I am concerned that he is going to end up biting one since he has also gotten in their way when they try to get near me and even taken nibs at them. I am at a loss as to what to do. I love my dog but I am concerned he will hurt one of my kids so I am looking for options of what I can do to deter this behavior. I don't want to get rid of him but I also don't think that at his age he can be trained. Any recommendations are welcomed.
Misty Hodnett on July 20, 2020:
My Dog had puppies in she did not care for the to much at all after they were gone she became overprotected of me and my mom can I get angry at somebody she growls at them
Nick on July 07, 2020:
I have a lab about three, he’s a big baby. He’s starting to nip at people but only when I’m not around. He’s done it about three time only when my girlfriend has him.
Elise on June 15, 2020:
Our anxious dog is definitely a little fearful of dogs on walks but never ever reacts by barking or lunging, she rather hides or just stares and then sniffs the air after they passed by. She rarely ever barks in general. BUT the second my butt hits a bench, or like picnic blanket she snarls lunges and attacks every dog or human that comes even remotely close.. whether its a huge bullymix, a tiny senior chihuahua or a dog she knows and likes. As you can imagine this is incredibly frustrating since it's not a situation we can always avoid.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 15, 2020:
Yes, many dogs start acting protective when their owner is pregnant.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 15, 2020:
Hi Elrina, is your dog spayed or intact? If intact, it could be she is going through a false pregnancy and trying to protect what she may think are her babies/ her den.
Courtney on May 22, 2020:
Almost hit a dog brought her in while trying to find her owner and within a matter of minutes she became very protective and had to keep me in her sights at all time. I’m 5 months pregnant does that have a role to play is a dog becoming protective over a stranger.
Elrina on May 22, 2020:
Good afternoon. I've got a question about my dog. She is the most loving dog I know she always lies next to me on our bed. But all of the sudden she started acting strange she got milk coming out of her titties. And now she's aggressive towards anyone who comes in my room she wants to bite my mother always what can be the cause off this?
Bhawna on May 12, 2020:
My dog normally don't bark at any dog and any human ( outside the house) but when the come to my house he become aggressive and run after them while barking and try to bite them what should i do?
Carol Lincoln on May 10, 2020:
My 3 year old lab has recently become very protective of my elderly mother he lays his head on her the arm of her chair or stands up seemingly to sit on her lap Why is he doing this?
Kimberly nees on April 05, 2020:
I need help. Our dog, who was supposed to belong to our adult son, has bonded to our children & become aggressive when my son approaches them
Krysten on April 03, 2020:
Ive had my rescue pup for about 7 months now and he is super sweet and gets along with everyone. Ive noticed that at time when my boyfriend tries to hug me or get close to me my dog immediately tries to put himself between the two of us. Hes not aggressive, more so territorial and stands in between us all time time. How do I fix this behavior?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 28, 2020:
Hi Dana, there are many possible causes for the behavior you are seeing. Depending on your dog's age, he may be going through a fear period, or maybe he's reached social maturity which is a time of changes. You must also consider whether something might have stressed him lately or maybe he isn't feeling too well. Behavior changes should also be reported to the vet to make sure there's nothing medically going on. I wished it was easier finding out what may be happening, but there are many possibilities.
Dana on March 23, 2020:
My dog has suddenly started to act really weird. Yesterday me and my two teenaged girl went on a walk with my dog and he usually is very friendly around other dos and people but he just barked at them. We kept yelling at my dog but after a few dogs passed by he would not stop. Now tonight he had a fit about something going on outside when there was nothing happening outside. Please help!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 11, 2020:
Hi Alisha, there are various forms of aggression in dogs and identifying the exact type may require an in-person assessment by a behavior professional, it could be your dog is fearful/aggressive, protective of somebody or something, or maybe somethings just trigger him such as being touched in a certain way, loomed over or approached in a certain way.
Alisha on March 11, 2020:
I have a lhasa
He is ready to attack anyone he bit my mom .. and my smaller bro and he played with my frnd who he met only once before he licked him and all played with him the whole day but next day he slept and my frnd approached him he went to attack him he would have hurt him but luckily he was on leash. Cause i knew i couldnt leave just like that with a stranger ... Whats is this aggression i cant understand cause he played woth him the whole day
Bret on March 03, 2020:
I have a 2 year old lab who has begun aggressively lunging, body checking, and snapping at seemingly random dogs if they get too close to me on walks. If we encounter multiple dogs together or a large dog on a walk, she is very submissive and nervous. She only does this with other dogs. I would really like to understand something of what is happening here. I’m at a bit of a loss as to what actions to take in order to change this behavior. Any help is appreciated.
Frenchie mama on February 15, 2020:
My dog barks aggressively at my husband when he tries to hug Or touch me but in the midst of it she nips at me. Why does she nip at me if she’s trying to protect me?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 31, 2020:
Usually, in dogs this young, the barking can be due to fear/lack of confidence and therefore under-socialization or barrier frustration. Yes, dogs can act protective too, but there's still an element of fear at play. You can read more about this here:
You will need a professional to determine what is causing exactly the pulling and barking and determine the most appropriate course of action. Please look for one using gentle, force-free behavior modification.
Charleneprice on January 15, 2020:
Hey .. My 19 week old German has started to pull towards and bark at strangers on walks and she also now hates dogs. I have no idea what's changed. She also pulls extremely bad when she knows we are going home, this has always been a problem and isn't getting any better. When she pulls I stand still untill she stops and is relax but then soon as we start alking again pulls.. I treat her when she isn't pulling or just been good by not barking.. She also seems to be more protective over me foe some reason. I own Trinity with my Auntie and Uncle. Any advice please?
Charlene on January 14, 2020:
Hey.. My 19 week old German has started pulling towards strangers on walks and barking at them also other dogs. I'm not sure what's changed. She does it the other 2 who walk her but she worse with me. Also if I'm in the house she'll bark at the door but if I'm not and the others are she won't. Me my auntie, uncle own her together. Any advice please?
Louise on January 03, 2020:
I have recently adopted a chihuahua and he was fine to start but now has become very protective of me and growls nasty at my partner and has gone for him a couple of time what should I do ??
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 23, 2019:
Paula, I think you have a highly stressed dog who is in dire need to learn to relax. He's over threshold all the time and lives very likely on edge. Trigger stacking of stressful stimuli can cause a dog to be almost always in a hyper vigilant state. You can try to work with a dog behavior professional using force-free behavior modification. An evaluation by a veterinary behaviorist (DACVB) or CAAB can turn helpful.
Paula Hudak on December 22, 2019:
Please Help, I need to decide if I should euthinise my dog.
I was given a shitzu/pug fixed 3yr.old male.
He is very loyal to me... however he is EXTREMELY agressive to EVERYONE ALL THE TIME... if he sees a person or car, out the window, he lunges at the window, groweling, snarling, and desiring to chew your head off.
When outside if anyone, approaches he lunges at them,growling, snarling, agressive like if he was a german shepphard about to attack an intruder.
It doesnt matter if he knows the guest or not. He will act this way to you, if you come over, walk in the bathroom and come out, he acts like he never saw you before... even a next door neighbor that he sees everyday.
My one neighbor he is so aggressive too, that my neighbor screams at him, thank God, he is a small dog, and my neighbor has a big boot if he decides to bite.
I say that seriously . He has bit 5 people already and last night bit my son twice, for the first time, he was on his bed on the floor, my son playing with a paper plain on the couch and two times the dog, growled and lunged at him and bit him in the arm... no blood drawn, more like a pinch...
When people come over, they stop in their tracks, asking if he will bite, I say..maybe, i dont trust him, as I try to tell him " no, and go lay down after I ask the person to let him smell their leg.
When outside, if a car goes by or he sees a neighbor, off he goes, hair on end and charging like he will rip your head off. He totally ignores my calls to "come"... only to come after he thorally showed his aggression. Again, it doesnt matter how many times you have come over or met you, or you sat in my living room... not one person is "not " greeted in this mannor.
On a possitive note, he only goes outside 3xs a day..yes, I know, a leash... but he seems to stress with a leash and wont go to the bathroom, because he is trying to get off the leash.... if no one is around, he listens to me perfectly and clings to my side, except when he sees someone, then off he goes....
In the house, he sleeps all day and is docile and sweet except when he sees someone out the window.. we live in the country, this happens 5 or xs a day...
What are your thoughts? Do I have a bomb and serious liability on my hands? Is there any hope?
Sara on December 11, 2019:
I have a corgi that was rehomed 4 times before I took over. In he begging we were fine and he was social. But soon after he changed and became more agressive towards both people and other dogs. At the time I was diagnosed with a neurological illness, and he witnessed me sick for few months. I had a procedure and had to temporarily sen him to my friend who has 3 other dogs. Never a single issue around kids, others, cats or dogs.. but as soon as I pick him and take him to doggy part, the second he touches nose with other dogs, he goes for a bite.. Not sure if he is sensing my sickness or something else.. I fixed him a month ago, and he is still at my friends place. But I'm concerned about our future walks and doggy parks.. Any advice?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 20, 2019:
Will, not sure may be he's getting startled/spooked if he growls at people coming from behind? He may be acting protective though if it also happens when other dogs and people approach you when you are together.
Bobbie on November 20, 2019:
My 4 year old staffy yesterday growled and lunged at another dog (doberman) in the dog park. I was sitting down on low bench and that other dog came up into my face and growled at me (that dog was growling at all the humans - odd). I told my dog 'NO!' and gave him a sharp tap on the nose. Now I feel bad because I think that was a legitimate case of him protecting me. Also, it's the first time I've ever seen him growl and I've had him since he was 8 weeks old!!
Will on November 16, 2019:
I have a 8 month old goldendoodle ive had him 4 months he is fixed. In the last week he has staryed to gruff at people vmcoming up behind me or as other dogs are playing they head towards us he gruffs or issues a small light growl but if i approach dogs peoplw he is fine. Is he just being alert of finding his place?
Irene adorno on November 09, 2019:
I rescued a female Maltese mix who never bit and was always happy around other dogs but now that she lives with me she has become overprotective for some reason she won't let no one hug me or come near me near the home near the grass front yard anywhere near the house anywhere near me or my husband she bites like I said she never bit before
Linda harvey on October 30, 2019:
Why is my 7 year old lab so aggressive when anyone comes to the door , or even in our yard?
Leanne on October 10, 2019:
I actually have a bit of a weird question I have a seven month old border collie cross and she is great with all of the dogs great with kids but the one thing that I’m not sure to what to do he’s when we go out on the street walk if someone talks to me that’s fine but won’t stay talk to her and give her eye contact she gets very uncomfortable and starts protective barking how do I stop her from doing this as she wants to greet themBut once they look at her to give her the attention she gets scared
Corey on October 08, 2019:
My 2 year old shitzu terrier mix has always been drawn to my side, hes ok with people , but if my wife and i argue he becomes very aggressive toward her. Even if its my fault. Now if she gets up too fast he starts to get in an aggressive stance. And if i try to correct him he becomes agressive toward me.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 29, 2019:
The country environment may cause "suburban dog syndrome" in some dogs. This read may be helpful to you: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Help-My-Dog-Barks-When...
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 29, 2019:
Trouc, moving can be highly stressful to dogs and that may have lowered her aggression threshold. Even perfectly housetrained dogs tend to have accidents when they move, just to give an idea. Hopefully, she'll soon get used to her new place, but please prevent her from barking/snapping as this can become a new habit. Provide her with a quiet place to retreat and don't force the interactions. Your dog may need some desensitization and counterconditioning with the help of a professional.
Truoc on July 20, 2019:
I have a 10 month old jack Russel who is really really good and normally likes people alot. I just moved into a mates for a while who has kids and evertime they go up to her she barks, snaps and growls. Where i used to live she loved the kids there and even on walks she'd let kids or other people go up to her. Why could my dog be acting like this.
May on July 13, 2019:
My one year old Cavoodle is becoming very protective of me. She is okay with strangers but if my 14 yo son comes to hug and kiss me, she growls and lay on me and sometimes bites. What can I do?
atleanv09 on July 09, 2019:
So i have my dog Allie. she is 1 and a half and i have had her since April last year. When we are home in my apartment she will bark when someone comes through the door and once she realized who they are she will get quiet. However, a week ago, i took her with me to my boyfriends house. Its more quiet, and country-ish. She gets along great with his dog and she will bark if someone comes into the yard which i understand its a new place and she doesn't know these people. She also barks at my boyfriend when he comes home from work. He can be outside coming in, or inside going out and she will start barking at him again like she is on alert with him. This past weekend we all went camping and she didn't bark at him at all. Then as soon as we got back to his house and stepped foot in the gate, she started barking and howling at him again. I've never had a dog do this before so i honestly don't know what to do.
Renee' on July 02, 2019:
Good article expect it was about being aggressive towards people only. Below the Read More titles, there are more questions but unanswered. A couple are exactly like mine & was about 6months ago. I hate repeating and unlike the majority, I have to Rehome our 2 yr old. Owner surrendered Goldendoodle. She was the sweetest when she 1st came home. Still is, to us and our 15 lb. brother. 2-3weeks ago she began lunging @ dogs she previously met & played with. She (Issey) was to be trained as a mobility dog. I've fallen over her 3x already and when she lunges it takes all my strength to hold her back. Breaks my heart to have to do this as I'd rather keep Issey but The service dog trainer won't train her now. HELP!
Kelly Snyder on June 29, 2019:
My dog is fine with hugs and affection toward me fron husband and son until they get verbally aggressive. What do I do?
Kasey on June 26, 2019:
I have a 7yo fixed female black lab. My ex pulled a gun on me and her, she knocked the gun from his hand and knocked him down. She accapted my boyfriend of 4yrs but suddenly she wants to bite him everytime he stands up or tries to kiss me. How do we assure her we are safe.
Talia on March 26, 2019:
My 11 month old German Shepherd doesn’t like anyone hugging me. It doesn’t matter if I am standing or sitting he starts whining at first then he starts baby pinching or nipping at them. He’ll also “hit” them with his hands. I don’t know why or where it started but he’s been around people since I got him at 8 weeks old. I care for him 100% except when I’m working (part time). When I first got him I didn’t work, and I waited until he was 4 months old to work so I could completely potty train and form a strong bond with him.
He is my absolute best friend. The thought of anything happening to him because I’m lacking somewhere kills me. Any advice would be amazing.
MONET on March 17, 2019:
We have a rescue chichuchua my daughter picked out Initially you could not approach him if shebwas holding him.He has now turned all his attention to me.I cant leave a room without him.Nor can anyone sit by me or even come close to me.He has a cage with a bed and toys.At night if I dont sleep on the couch .Which is near his cage he cries most of the night.And If I do sleep in my bed upstairs he will cry at the door.My husband will lock it at night which in turn he will cry if Im not downstairs. I dont know what has changed his behavior. But I love him to death.But Im worried about this behavior
Jackie on January 29, 2019:
My boyfriend and I recently moved and my dog's handling it beautifully so far. He and my boyfriend's cat don't bother each other much but when my dog is next to me and the cat walks by, he'll growl and lunge at him in a treatening way. Looking back, I remember he did the same thing to my sister's cat but again, it's while he's next to me.
How can I stop this behavior?
Lorri Rowan on January 15, 2019:
Why would my 10 yr old dog try to bite me while socializing with a friend in my house. I thought he was being protective but he tried to bite me and not the friend (stranger).
Kristine on December 28, 2018:
My dog has started biting my roommate multiple times a week since moving homes; the roommate has lived with us consistently for 3 to 4 years now . He only does this when the roommate and i are home alone, once my boyfriend gets home hes fine . The roommate to our knowledge has never harmed our dog and treats him as his own beloved pet . None of us want him euthinised but were afraid it may be to that point . Any advice is appreciated .
Sherri on December 15, 2018:
I am a pet sitter and go to peoples homes to take care of their pets. Lately when i come home , my dog smells me and then is mad at me. He will even growl at me when i try to love on him. I have been pet sitting for almost 2 years now and he just started doing this. I dont know what to do.
Greg on December 07, 2018:
My mini Aussie was a total love bug when we brought him home from the pound. He loved meeting new people and dogs and ran up to meet the world. One day, for no reason, that changed and he barks at everyone outside of the family. I work from home and am with him all day and take him for walks every day. What changed and how do I stop him from barking at everyone?
Rebecca Vogel on December 07, 2018:
We have had our American Bulldog since he was 8 weeks. He is now 5 years old. He is a wonderful dog and is great with my kids. However recently, anytime I am around and my husband comes near me to give me a kiss or a hug he comes between us and growls at him. Extremely protective of me. How do I change that? Why all of the sudden a change in his behavior towards my husband?
Mia Doherty on October 01, 2018:
My 4 year old golden retriever is the biggest sweetheart you'd ever meet. All of a sudden he began to act aggressively towards strangers, biting, barking, growling etc. He is still the most placid dog around my family, but if he gets a whiff of a stranger he won't hesitate biting them.
Jennifer on September 13, 2018:
My two year old German Shepherd is suddenly attacking my cousin when she is sitting down and gets up to leave the room or when she walks into the room, he has done this to other family members but has since stopped and now focus is on my cousin I don’t know what to do please help:
Michelle Cortez G on August 27, 2018:
When I'm laying on the couch and my dog is near. If he sees a family member get near me to give me something. He will come right by and start growling. I don't know why he does this. But he also doesn't like when we hug so we stopped hugging each other.
Shepard lover on July 20, 2018:
My dog has for the past week or so not left my side. I tried to make her bed comfy today and closed her area off and she did everything to get to me. If im in another room she must be with me either eyes view or next to me. If i tap tummy to jump up she wont and will sit. When on couch she will put her head at my tummy and smell my belly. Please can anyone help me or suggest anything.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 21, 2018:
You can try using a behavior modifaction plan using desensitization and counterconditioning with the help of a trainer.
Dawn Johnson on May 14, 2018:
My dog was sweet when got him. When on a walk he is on alert all the time. He will bark even attack people if they move when we're talking. He does not trust people, but when he gets to know you he is a love. What can I do to get him to like people & not be on guard all the time. Where I go he goes room to room. He's not happy and am scared he will bite. Even when neighbors try to work with me he wants no part. What to do..
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 06, 2018:
The best way to allow them to relax is to separate them. Install a baby gate and put some mesh so that they cannot hurt each other through the gate. Clomicalm is relaxing product that releases synthetic pheromones and may help at times.
Andy on March 30, 2018:
My 3 year old German Shepard has started growing at my wife when she leaves for work in the morning. He stands in front of our sons room while doing this. Also if I am down playing with him and she comes near he growls at her. Any other time he plays with her.
Frosty022 on March 30, 2018:
Hi, we have a gorgeous Springer x cockerpoo who is normally very loving to other dogs and playful. Since my wife has been in her 2nd trimester our dog and my fathers dog (who we have always looked after alot) have started really fighting. Neither seem injured when we break it up but its very loud and aggressive. The whole atmosphere changes before they fight and it doesn't appear to be over anything! The only difference is the baby. Do you have any advice to calm and reassure them both? Our dog has also started misbehaving, running out of the house (used to just potter around the door) and look super sulky as well.
Veronica on March 27, 2018:
I have a pocket pitbull that hits on nearly every bullet point of your aggressive signs listing. He was not socialized early on and neglected. I took him on at about 1-year-old. He is adorable and still looks like a puppy, so everyone that comes across him attempts to interact, but when this happens he growls. I’ve advised friends and family members to ignore him completely when they come over and that seems to work. However, my intoxicated roommate would not leave him alone and he bit her when I was not in the room. I advised her to leave him alone when hearing his warnings, but she did not comply. Months later, my brother was warned similarly. He too has been drinking heavily and was not complying to several warnings, bent down, and was bit in the face. Neither incidents were reported due to the humans’ admissions to non-compliance; however, I’m very concerned and have had to recently move to a home where there is another dog. We keep them separated, but started walking them together to attempt socializing. (Both are intact males; the other dog is a large tolerant adult chocolate lab). The 2 other adult residents are slowly earning my dog’s trust w/ treats and games of fetch. (Originally, I was told I couldn’t keep my dog at the new residence due to his behavioral issues and history, but this would have been a death sentence due.) What can I do to help my dog?
Kennedy on March 15, 2018:
I have a 2 y/o German Shepherd that I rescued 4 months ago. She has started to be aggressive toward a new dog that moved in (a week ago) whenever I'm around. She seems to do fine with the other dog when I'm gone though. Any advice on how to deal with this is greatly appreciated.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 07, 2018:
Jennifer, are the other people in the home family members or strangers?
jennifer on March 04, 2018:
i have a English setter mix he just turned 2 and I had to leave for about a month and when I got back he started to be aggressive with the other people in the home how can I stop him I have tried everything I can think of please help
Rick on February 05, 2018:
I have 3 bichon friese the oldest guards me against my wife. She is home all day and cuddles with her and is so good. But when I come home turns on her when she gets close and up at night as he sleeps under the bed with 1 eye open and attacks her. Please help with some guides on how to canke his behavior. He is 3 years old the others are 2 and 7 months
Ruka on January 26, 2018:
Any advice on how to correct this problem?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 22, 2018:
Luis, you should let your room mate know that this behavior concerns you and that it's not good for the dog to rehearse this problem behavior.
Luis on January 18, 2018:
My roommate's dog tries to attack me every time I approach her owner. For example, then I go downstairs on my way to the kitchen and her owner is sitting at the table. However, she knows that I am not a stranger and when her owner is not there she just ignores me. How can I let my roommate about this without making her feel offended?
Britt on January 15, 2018:
I adopted a 3 year old american eskimo, he was akc registered and very beautiful, he was EXTREMELY protective of me right off the bat, I'm not sure if he had a bad past but one time my ex husband tossed me the remote and the dog thought he hurt me so he instantly attached him and bit him, then another time my ex and i were arguing and my ex shoved me, and he again attacked him, was very untrusting to new people that entered the house until being there for a while to know it's okay, i was forced to give him up to someone else which was an old lady because he kept attacking my ex when he felt as though he was hurting me, never had a dog love me so much and i was sad to give him up.
Ginger on December 31, 2017:
I volunteer at a shelter by walking dogs. A dog there is very thin, and I have been giving him boiled chicken while we are out on our 30-min walk. I walk him 2-3 times weekly for several months now. Lately if anyone he doesn't recognize walks near us he lunges, and has bitten three times! He doesn't do this if any other volunteer walks him, just me. Help!
Christy on December 13, 2017:
I just rescued a 1 year old healer mix. She is very frightened of new people, barks and hides behind me. Now I have had her for three weeks and she barks uncontrollably at new people and tries to nip at their hands like she is protecting me. I am not sure what to do, she is absolutely the best dog in the world except for this. My dad was over a couple of days ago and he hugged me and she tried to bite him, scarey
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 23, 2017:
Julie, you can have your dog the way you want, but just because your dog is on leash, doesn't mean people are safe. Dog attacking behavior may escalate from a lunge to a bite. Your dog may decide to bite a person one day and that can cost an arm and leg in medical bills and you can even lose your dog. The other day my mom was bitten by a dog on leash, it happened really fast and the owner had no time to pull the dog away to prevent it from happening. Actually, when she did intervene and pulled the dog away, the skin on my mom's finger was torn more as the dog didn't let go.
Julie on November 11, 2017:
I have an akita who is very protective , I feel safe with her & would not want to change her.she loves family and friends but if anyone else comes near uninvited or who she senses is strange she will go to attack, she is always on the lead so can't bite.
what's wrong with that????
I wanted a guard dog!!
Rather that than dog that trusts strangers
Rosemarie on October 26, 2017:
I took a four year old Chihuahua from a human center..The dog is very loving and gental with me..but will not let anyone get close to me..I have had her for four months..and she will bit if my family tries to get close..How can I help her?
Catherine on September 27, 2017:
Hi, I have a miniature schnauzer who doesn't seem to turn aggressive but constantly barks whenever he sees people or other animals. This seems to be worse when he is with me compared to when he is by himself. I believe this is due to lack of socialization as a puppy and have paid a lot of trainers to help him but nothing has helped. One thing I noticed is he does seem to like people once he is introduced to them and has gotten to see them more than once. Any advice or referrals would be greatly appreciated!
Ivori on September 26, 2017:
I have 3 dogs my first male is 2 years old he growls at my other male that try's to get near me.how can I stop that?
Courtney on June 29, 2017:
I have a 2 yr old Malchi that I've had since he was 4 months. He's always been the sweetest thing and anyone could pet him. We live in a big building in Manhattan and have a big group of friends with dogs, so he's grown up being very social.
In the last 6 months he's begun to show aggressive behavior to strangers, people walking by, new friends, my family and even other dogs. But NOT to the people that he's known for a while. It's gotten to the point where he becomes vicious and bites... I keep a close hold of his leash, so I'm the one that gets bitten!! His nickname has become Cujo.
After reading your article, I'm sure I encouraged this behavior without knowing it... I work from home and he sits by me all day long and follows me if I go into another room. When I leave he lays by the door waiting for me - even if his "best dog friend" is over. It's really sad. Especially since he's really good otherwise - he doesn't chew things (other than his toys) and never potties anywhere except his potty pad (and only when he's home alone).
I'm really at a loss and don't know how to break him of this... hopefully he's still young enough that with the correct discipline I can get my sweet little boy back!!
Any suggestions or referrals to other articles or professionals in Manhattan would be most appreciated.
Desiree on June 13, 2017:
My friends yorkie is only agressive toward me when his owner is present, I love I'm the home and I'm getting concerned her been actually biting me now, he's a totally loveable dog when she's not home. It's gotten worse since I moved out of the bedroom on the main floor and into their basement apartment, he only does it when I'm leaving not when I'm entering, I'm very hurt and concerned. She doesn't discipline him and had alot of negative energy, is he sending this or knows mom will allow him to misbehave?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 07, 2017:
Caroline, please have a force-free trainer help you out in person. Sounds like a dangerous situation and someone may get hurt. In the meanwhile, keep your dog in a room or somewhere where she is prevented from rehearsing the behavior.
Caroline Laramie on May 02, 2017:
I have a Great Pyranese when as soon as a person who comes to our house turns their back, she snaps to bite them. she has missed twice now and she will not let them leave in their car. She blocks their ability to leave. We live in the country and she has an underground fence with 3 acres to run. I am so scared she will bite someone.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 15, 2017:
Sbf, yes, while you wait to see your behaviorist, use management. In other words, do as much as you can to prevent your husky mix from rehearsing the problem behavior. This often means keeping him in a separate area, especially when there are situations that you know can trigger his behavior (children around,etc). You should set up a baby gate area for him. The more he rehearses the problem behaviors, the more they put roots and more difficult they become to eradicate. Not to mention, the risks for the behavior to escalate.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 15, 2017:
Katherine, you should keep your Rottie away (like in another room) when you give Dragon his meds. It's important to prevent rehearsal of problem behaviors. The more the behavior is rehearsed, the more it put roots and you need to be undisturbed when giving dragon his meds! Alternatively,( if you have help, like a family member and want to work on the issue) have your helper hold your Rottie on leash at a safe distance where he can see you are giving pills but from where he doesn't get too upset about it and every time Dragon get his meds, your Rottie gets several small pieces of high value treats in a row with lots of praise for being good boy. You want to teach your Rottie that great things happen when Dragon gets his meds!. Once dragon gets all his meds, then all the good treats are gone and all the fun ends. Please make safety your top priority, and for correct implementation and safety, you should have a behavior professional assist you in behavior modification. I hope this helps!
Katherine Watson on April 15, 2017:
Hi there please help!
I have a beagle (nearly 9) and a Rottweiler (14 months old). 2 weeks ago I found out my beagle has cancer and that it could be weeks or months before he need to go to sleep before that pain gets to much.
Over the past few days dragon (beagle) has been getting worse and we are seeing if the new meds might help. But during this time our Rottweiler pup has be come over protective of dragon. Is there anything I can do? And is this normal she nudes me out the way when I’m giving dragon his meds.?
sbf on April 12, 2017:
We have a one year old husky mix who has been around very small children since we got him at 8 weeks old. He is well socialized with dogs, people, and has never had any noticeable aggression issues. However in the last month, he seems to be incredibly protective of my husband (even though I'm the pregnant one). He recently was aggressive towards our small niece and nephew when they were playing with my husband. With us bring a new baby into the family soon, I am incredibly worried about this behavior. We know we should bring a behaviorist in immediately, but is there any advice we can start doing to limit this while we get someone to come in and help?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 09, 2017:
Mackenzie, if your dog seems like he has intent to bite, it would be best to have a force-free behavior consultant walk you through behavior modification. In my experience, it's best to err on the side of caution and allow him to make positive association with everyone. I had one person train the dog to be protective and the day he had a stroke EMT couldn't come in because of his dog guarding him fiercely. It's better to invest in a security system and alarm system than leave the responsibility to our dogs. There are too many liabilities involved.
Makenzie on March 31, 2017:
My husband and I were robbed last year and it was absolutely devastating. Shortly after that, we got a great dane puppy. Anytime he would bark at someone outside I would tell him "good boy" and give him a treat. I made the mistake of thinking this would teach him that strangers are not allowed to come in, but he thinks NO ONE is allowed to come in, especially men. It takes several times of someone coming over for him to have a positive association with them. He is VERY obedient and listens to me when I tell him to sit, lay down, or stay in the presence of a stranger in the house. But he still tries to bite them. I'm extremely worried because of his size and he will not hesitate to bite. Any suggestions on how to get him to tell the difference between friend and foe? Or would it be better to teach him that everyone is a friend? Thanks!!!
Donna on March 24, 2017:
My 12 yr old dog has just recentley become "protective" to me. If he hears me yell out from a stumped toes, hot water from the sink etc. He runs to me and places himself close with a side stand. Nothing new has happen in our home, or lives. Im confused.
Janie Carpenter on March 16, 2017:
I need help I have a yorkey Schnauzer mix tha a friend rescued from a breeder. The friend had him for about a week before I got him he is 9 months old recently neuthered. I take him to work everyday trying to get him socialized as he has not been around people. Main problem he tries to bite. My husband will hand feed him treats and few minutes later as my husband turns his back to leave the room the dog tries to bite the back of his leg, no growl warning just a bite. This has happened three times with my husband and 1 time with a man at work. How can I help this dog change this behavior? I am not going to be able to keep him if this can't be fixed and I won't be able to rehome him if he bites and I hate to think about having him put down. Please can you help?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 09, 2017:
Yes, because staying on the lap allows your dog to rehearse the problem behavior, and the more it is rehearsed, the more roots the behavior puts. You will have to find though a behavior professional to help walk through this problem, there are chances the behavior will eventually start occurring as well when off your lap.
Debra Burris on March 08, 2017:
I adopted a 2 yr old pit bull he has been very close to ME from day one. My son and daughter live with me, when he is on my lap, nobody can get near me at all or he will bite them. Should I not let him on my lap????
Karen on February 06, 2017:
One night a few weeks ago my dog slept under the bed instead of in his own bed and basically since then he has started going for my partner at night when my partner goes into the bedroom. I don't know why this has started but it's not a good situation. Any suggestions?
Karen haymond on January 31, 2017:
I adopted a 6 month old terrier mix found on the streets by a vet tech. The Vetranairian took the pup in her office, cared for her posted her pic on line and I fell in love. It took some time she was aggressive but soon became a great family member. I have 2 parrots she is fine with, they are always out of their cages. She plays with my grandson. Several family members are in and out and she was fine. But always with me, im retired. Several weeks ago she is aggressive when we sit in my chair and family comes over even my grandson she loves. I take to one of my sons homes, she plays with his dogs is fine, but she sits on his couch with me and she's aggressive when someone walks or comes upon to me including one of my sound dogs a boxer. When back on the floor she's fine with Astro or anyone else. She also used to love to go with me in the car. Get excited to see her harness. Now she run and shakes and doesn't want any part of it . Im very concerned and need to correct it. I am afraid she will bite its come very close. Appreciate any help you can give
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 16, 2017:
Dog owner, I am sorry you feel this way, meaning that you are so on guard and think we live in such a dangerous world. I hope your dog doesn't feed too much off your anxiety/insecurities toward strangers. We had a case once of a dog owner who had a dog that was protective and wouldn't let the EMTs in the home to provide emergency assistance. The owner had a heart problem and he had to call his son to keep the dog away which made him lose precious minutes.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 16, 2017:
Kerstin, this article is about "why" not about "how to." If you have any questions, I can provide some tips, please consider though that solving dog behavior problems is not as easy as to fix a faucet, so writing a "how to" guide on this topic would be inappropriate considering all the variable involved. If you read through the comments you may find some general guidelines, but you definitely need the aid of a professional to guide you through in person.
Kerstin on January 14, 2017:
Who writes an article about a problem behavior, but then doesnt have a section on how to stop it? If I wanted parroted information, I would have just went to wikipedia. Thanks though. Now I have to find the second half, more important, part of the problem.
Latisha on January 03, 2017:
My boyfriend just got a puppy 2 weeks ago, bringing her into our new 5 month relationship. We disagree about her sleeping in our bed and I have noticed over the last week she growls n barks at me more. Is this because she senses our disagreeing?
dog owner on January 01, 2017:
Who ever wrote this article is an idiot.It is in a dogs nature to protect their alpha.It is your responsibility to teach them to stand down when told to.I would rather my dog be lery of any stranger as I am. If it be a family member then that is a problem and proper training is required. Dogs don't have insecurity issues unless abused. If well loved and treated right they will be protective. I would rather my dog be on gaurd than just not when someone with bad motives comes along. Remember we live in sometimes a dangerous world.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 27, 2016:
Lorene, please have a veterinary behaviorist help you out. Your dog is not safe and obedience training will not do much at this point, you need behavior modification.