For years, dogs have been used by law enforcement, farmers, families, and individuals as a source for protection and defense. A protective dog is doing what they believe is best: protecting you by surveying surroundings and ensuring that things are safe. When you’re on an evening walk or home alone, having your protective pooch by your side certainly provides a sense of comfort. While a protective dog can be beneficial, it can also be too much. If you’ve been thinking: wowmy dog is overprotective of me. That may indeed be the case.
Some dogs can be too overprotective and territorial over their humans, making it difficult for regular interactions to take place without the dog’s interference. It’s important to understand the difference between protection and protective aggression in dogs to prevent negative behaviors. How do you know the difference? We’ve outlined some of the signs your dog is protecting you, when it might be too much, and tips and advice for adjusting behaviors.
Signs Your Dog is Protecting You
It’s important to note that protective behavior in dogs is not a bad thing. Protectiveness is a behavior that comes naturally in many dogs. Here are some of the signs your dog is protecting you, and not displaying aggression:
- Being constantly vigilant
- Standing alertly
- Immediately focusing on new stimuli (e.g., person or animal) in the environment
- Growling or barking at the perceived threat(s)
- Moving between you and the perceived threat
- Returning to normal if no threat is perceived
Signs of Protective Aggression in Dogs
Signs of aggression are much different than the signs your dog is protecting you. You know that your friends and family coming close to you is a safe situation, but your dog may not believe so. Maybe you’ve realized that no one can get close to you without your dog growling at them. Does that sound like your dog? Other signs of protective aggression in dogs include:
- Immediate barking or growling
- Overly aggressive, threatening stance (e.g., head forward and raised hackles)
- Overreacting to new situations
- Lunging towards their perceived threat(s)
- Baring teeth or snapping at the perceived threat
- Urinating to mark territory
Causes of Overprotective or Aggressive Behavior
My dog is overprotective of me, but why? Protective aggression in dogs is a common behavior in dogs and typically caused by external stimuli. This behavior is usually learned, which can lead to serious problems down the road for the dog and the owner. Like the different signs your dog is protecting you, there are various signs and types of protective aggression in dogs. Your dog may exhibit territorial aggression, aggression towards people, aggression towards dogs, predatory aggression (against smaller animals), or overly guarding resources.
So, where does this behavior come from? Reasons for overprotective behavior can be complex, and depends on the type of aggressive behavior your dog exhibits. Some causes of this behavior could include a lack of rules or structure in the home, prior abuse or attack from another dog or animal, a previous lack of resources like food and water, or a lack of proper socialization. It could also stem from the purposeful or accidental rewarding/reinforcement of behavior with treats or praise.
My Dog is Overprotective of Me, Now What?
Knowing the signs your dog is protecting you and when it’s too much is essential for those with seemingly protective pups. Protectiveness is surveying a situation and reacting appropriately; overprotective behavior is the immediate aggressive response to stimuli. My dog is definitely overprotective of me, so what do I do now? Is there a way to fix the overprotective behavior?
Luckily for you and your furry friend, aggressive behavior in dogs can be reduced and possibly even eliminated. While it can’t be fixed overnight, your dog can begin displaying more positive behaviors with the right tips and tricks.
Creating Structure and Routine
Now that you know the signs your dog is protecting you and when they’re being overprotective, you can address their behavior. Like children, dogs need structure and routine to feel calm and safe. If your dog is overprotective, you want to keep them on the same general routine each day. For example, you should try feeding them around the same time each day and going on walks around the same time daily.
They should also have established rules in the household, such as sitting before they get their food. Having rules and being obedient are important for overprotective dogs.
Dogs can often feel and feed on our emotions. Some can feel if you’re anxious or nervous in a situation, and will behave the same. This can be one of the signs of why your dog is protecting you and this behavior can trigger their aggression. If possible, you should remain calm in potential situations. Should you find that to be difficult, there is nothing wrong with removing your dog and yourself from a challenging situation to stay calm.
Distance from Others
My dog is still overprotective of me and I have a general routine and structure in my home, what else can I do? While you’re training your dog out of overprotective behavior, it may be best to place distance between your dog and other humans and dogs. When you’re on a walk, give space between others a little more room than usual to avoid potential situations. If your dog can remain calm and alert around others that’s a sign your dog is protecting you and not being overprotective.
Slow Approach on a Leash
A protective dog should consistently be kept on a leash around others. Keep a firm hold on the leash, but do not tense up. Pulling on the leash could be interpreted as a reason to be overprotective or aggressive towards others. When meeting people or dogs, the two of you should approach slowly on the leash so your dog can get accustomed to the new individual and their scent.
Socialization is a vital aspect of training dogs and getting them used to interacting with people and other animals. Being alert and aware of surroundings during a walk are some of the signs your dog is protecting you. Aggressive behavior towards others is not. Exposing your dog to new stimuli helps them learn that not all situations are dangerous and require protection. If my dog is overprotective of me when around others, how do I socialize them?
First thing to ensure in a social situation is that you’re calm and assertive. Remember that your dog may read your energy and respond accordingly. Those you choose to socialize with (dog or human) should also be calm. As your dog progresses, you can introduce them to different situations and environments. You could also try going on walks with others to get your dog used to other dogs and people.
Try CBD Oil
CBD can provide positive effects in overprotective, aggressive dogs. If your dog is exhibiting fear, anxiety, or aggressive behavior, CBD can help them relax and calm their nervous system. CBD products can also be incorporated into your dog’s routine. Try adding the oil to their food or giving them a delicious treat to reward their positive, protective behavior.
Now that you know the signs your dog is protecting you and the indicators that they’re anxiously protecting you, you can better distinguish between the two for behavioral correction. Try following some of our tips to help your dog have more positive interactions with others.