Throughout history, dogs have been used for the protection of people and property. It’s comforting to know that our furry friends may do what they can to ensure our safety if we’re ever in danger. But in most people’s every day lives, they don’t need their dogs to bare their teeth, growl, lunge, and bite.
Unfortunately, there are many pet owners who have dogs that exhibit aggression because they are being overprotective. If this behavior is left unchecked, it can cause inconvenience or even have tragic consequences. The dog that can attack a burglar who enters your home can, without training and discipline, just as easily attack a visiting friend.
In general, the overprotective dog is one that is in control of the household. The dog is the leader, not the human. This is a big problem because when the dog assumes the leadership role, he/she takes all responsibilities. That means they are in charge and won’t listen to those pack members lower on the totem pole (you).
Since they are in charge, they must protect their territory, which includes space, objects, and people. If anyone outside of the pack tries to encroach on the overprotective dog’s territory, they will react with aggression.
Common signs of aggression include growling, snarling, curling the lip, lunging, snapping, and barking. When these signs occur when someone outside of what your dog would consider the “pack” enters your space, then your dog is probably being overprotective.
Before you decide your dog is just being overprotective, make sure there is nothing medically wrong. Sometimes pain or illness will cause a dog to act aggressively.
When you have identified your dog’s aggression as over-protectiveness, realize that you have to take charge as the leader and provide the proper discipline and training for your dog. Remember to see things as a dog would. Dogs in the wild live in packs and there is room for only one leader. You have to be that leader and be the one to decide who is the threat to your pack and who is not (friends, family, the mail carrier, etc.)
Of course, it’s best to identify and address this issue when your dog is young, but older dogs can ALWAYS be trained to behave appropriately.
Contact a qualified professional dog trainer and/or behaviorist to understand your dog better and to find ways to train your dog to behave.
One of the most important things to recognize is that the dog is not being “bad” and should not be punished. The dog is only doing what comes naturally — protecting his pack as the leader. It’s up to you to take on that role for you and your dog.