How To Manage An Overprotective Dog

There are times when having a protective dog by your side puts you at ease. Whether it’s deterring robbers from your home or providing that extra sense of security on a late-night walk. 

However, when you have an overprotective dog, you might soon find that every person is perceived by them as a threat. When people come to visit they might be met with aggressive growling or barking or your dog might even try to bite. 

If your dog can’t leave your side and sees all outsiders as potential sources of danger, then it’s time to fix this overprotective behavior before it reaches a more dangerous level.

Why are some dogs overprotective?

For the most part, overprotectiveness in dogs is a learned behavior. Dog owners may have reinforced traits such as guarding and possessiveness by rewarding such behaviors in the past. 

There is a difference between overprotectiveness and aggression, however. If your canine has demonstrated prolonged aggression such as snapping, biting, and barking toward other animals and humans (including children) then a different course of action will be required. 

Signs of aggression are typically a result of fear or lack of socialization in the early developmental stages as a puppy. This is where help from a vet or animal behaviorist may be beneficial.

Overprotectiveness on the other hand is usually a response to behaviors that have been accepted in the past whenever the dog had shown signs of jealousy and guardedness. 

Overprotectiveness in dogs can present as the following traits:

  • Guarding only the person they are closest to.
  • Attachment anxiety.
  • Showing signs of stress when someone comes between you and them.
  • Signs of jealousy or possessiveness.
  • Growling or barking at anyone who comes close to you or your family members.
  • Becoming distressed when they see you interacting with an outsider.
  • Guarding their food, toys, or favorite spot in the house.

Dogs will come to understand that their overly protective behavior is acceptable if it has often been met with laughter, a pat, or a treat. Many owners don’t realize they are causing this problem in their pet until it becomes too late. By which time, the dog will need obedience training to fix their overprotective behavior and learn more appropriate ways of interacting with strangers. 

Ways to manage an overprotective dog 

Behavioral management training for these types of dogs is a must. It doesn’t matter how long the overprotective behavior has been going on, the priority is to nip it in the bud before it progresses any further.

A professional dog trainer will provide you with the right exercises and basic pet care tips to manage overprotectiveness and help your dog let its guard down. 

Obedience training will instill in your dog new behavior limits and boundaries as well as correct bad behaviors. Your dog may require weeks of training before they reach a level of acceptable obedience. In the meantime, you can help manage your dog’s overprotectiveness by:

  • Keeping them on a leash when around visitors or out on walk, making sure the collar or harness is on correctly 
  • Fitting them with a muzzle if they are a bite risk to others.
  • Keeping them separated from guests.
  • Putting some space between yourself and your dog by allowing other family members to perform ‘dog duties.’
  • Exposing your dog to new environments and people.
  • Rewarding polite behavior with treats, pats, and verbal praises.

Certain breeds of dogs are more susceptible to protective behaviors than others, while some dogs have learned these behaviors from an early age. Regardless of the stage, your dog is at, or their level of overprotectiveness, enrolling them into obedience training and setting clear boundaries will help them to learn to trust new people and scenarios. 

If your dog does show signs of aggression or intense fear, avoid punishing them. Rather, calmly remove them from the situation. When meeting new people or pets, keep your dog on a leash at a distance and demonstrate calm. With time, your dog will come to understand that not everyone is a threat and will only protect you when it’s needed!