Why Some Dogs Become Protective of Owners
Is Your Dog Dangerously Overprotective?
When somebody attempts to say hello or give you a hug and your dog inserts himself in between, growling and snarling in the most threatening way, this can be a real problem. A protective stance can be a blessing in an emergency situation, but surely isn't when the dog attempts to protect its owner from people who are not doing anything wrong.
Excessive protectiveness is a dangerous situation. Some dogs resort to aggressive behaviors in order to prevent strangers or even family members from getting too close to their owners. These dogs are a big liability because they may even feel compelled to bite. Worse of all, these dogs attack unprovoked. In other words, these dogs will attack without good reason (from a human perspective, that is).
But why does a dog feel compelled to attack in such a 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.
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
My shepherd is all of a sudden biting people for no reason! He 9 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 all of a sudden do this? I also have my period at this time. He is a neutered male but would this have anything to do with it?
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 easily 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.