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Is My Dog Protecting Me? or Is He Scared?

Dangers of Protective Dog Behavior

This is a difficult question to answer because human feelings are being used to describe a dog’s reaction. Many pet owners feel their dogs are protecting them from threats. It’s a comforting feeling for humans, but dogs feel frustrated. When dogs growl at people approaching, while sitting in their pet owner’s lap, this is called resource guarding. Yes, your growling dog is protecting his resource, which is you, but protective dog behavior is dangerous that will get worse, if not addressed quickly.

Why Dogs Resource Guard Owners

Guarding valuable resources is a natural dog behavior, but it can cause issues within human homes. Dogs will guard beds, food bowls, high value toys, treats, space and people. Every dog has a different personality, but most will resource guard whatever they find valuable to a degree. Humans are certainly valuable because they put food in dog bowls, provide treats and toys, keep them safe, and can open doors.

Some dogs can bond so deeply with a specific person that they will start to resource guard her from other dogs, people and even children. Sometimes, resource guarding goes undetected until another person or dog enters the home, and then the chaos ensues. Resource guarding should certainly be addressed as soon as possible, as it can result in biting behavior. Plus, no one wants to live with a bully.

How to Change Protective Dog Behavior

While many pet owners feel flattered when their dog resource guards them, it’s important to know this behavior will only escalate, if not addressed immediately. When a dog is protecting a person, he’s reacting to a dog or person approaching the pet owner and himself. Protective dog behavior manifests differently for different dogs. Dogs will either freeze, glare at the approaching person, snarl, show teeth, snap or even bite. It’s important to change a dog’s perspective of people approaching while he’s next to his pet owner.

Southernwind recommendations

At Southernwind we recommend that this issue should be monitored and eradicated from the very start, this is a behavior we do not accept and we need to let our puppies or youngsters know its not acceptable at all. This is a behavior we may have allowed without realizing we have and we understand many times the new dog owner cannot detect this in time to correct it from its roots. We believe in structure and obedience since the first moment our puppy steps into his new home, we believe in creating good strong bond but not to the point were the puppy relies on everything and creates a codependency to their owners, for this is very important to know the limits and were to stop. Socialization is very important, but correct socialization, for the puppy may be showing this bad behavior because he is scared or feels he is threatened. We do not want that , we all want a well behaved, self confident dog by our side, (at least that is what I feel it should be).

Allowing your dogs to socialize also helps in lessening their aggressive behavior.

Come to think of it, desensitizing and allowing your pets to socialize are closely associated. If you analyze if further when you desensitize your pet, you are allowing them to meet and experience people and animals. Here are some tips when allowing your pet to socialize

  • Schedule your dog for long walks in your neighborhood when traffic is busy

  • Keep a firm hold on the leash but use a calm tone when leading your dog

  • Give your dog a treat once he comes in contact with a person or animal before they start barking

  • Repeat this process once your dog comes in contact with another person or animal

Now if we by an chance have bypassed the socialization aspects and because of lack of knowledge we are getting aware we are creating a little "Monster " (LOL) from our puppy, there are alternatives, no worries, we can work with this.

Recognizing Aggressive Behavior vs. Protective Behavior in Dogs

As a dog owner, having a pet with protective behavior is a plus factor. But it pays to know when your dog is acting protectively and when he is being aggressive. Just remember that when a dog is protective, he is calmly scrutinizing the people and animal around him before he reacts.

Aggressive behavior, on the other hand, the dog no longer surveys the people or animals around him but just violently reacts. Be vigilant, when your dog shows signs of aggressive behavior as this can lead to unfortunate situations such as injury, damage in and in severe cases euthanizing your pet.

Lets Start

Lets start with pointing at the first signs of of the resource guarding reactions on your puppy or youngster

Find treats your protective dog absolutely loves, and then chop them into pea-sized treats. Cheese, hot dogs, baked chicken or diced lunchmeat are excellent examples of high value dog treats.

Have a seat on the sofa (or wherever your dog usually resource guards you), and ask your dog to join you. Then, ask a friend to slowly walk into the room and stop at the entrance. As your friend approaches, ask her to toss a steady stream of treats toward your dog’s mouth., BUT make certain he is not growling or doing any aggressive behavior because then you would be reinforcing the bad behavior with the treats. After a few seconds, ask your friend to leave the room. Pairing good things with scary situations will change your dog’s perspective, and soon he’ll learn that an approaching person makes treats rain from the sky.

Oops, He Barked

If your dog barks or growls at the approaching person, ignore him until he stops. Once your dog stops barking, say “yes” and reward with treats while your friend walks out of the room. Next time, practice with your friend standing a bit farther than last time, and continue having her toss treats to your dog. Dog Training Sessions should last 2-3 minutes maximum. You need to do this in different situations, in the park, walking your dog, taking him to different places and ask strangers to offer him treats if he behaves correctly... But remember not to reward him is his behavior is not the correct one!

When to Get Help

Resource guarding can be tricky to address, so it’s always important to partner with a professional dog trainer who truly understands Behavior Modification/ positive reinforcement. If a dog lunges, bites, muzzle punches (hits person with muzzle) and/or snaps at someone, then it’s time to bring in a professional. Timing of treats and distance are critical components of resource guarding, and a professional dog trainer can address issues quickly and effectively.

All of this could had been avoided if the first puppy training steps would have been taken assertively, many of us treat our dogs as if they were humans, (Humanize) and forget that their brains and instincts work differently and when we do that we are triggering lots of undesired behavior.

We highly recommend these videos, subscribe to their channel and take advantage of his incredible psychology about dogs and his training methods

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