My Dog Is Overprotective of Me
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Walking our dog is not only important for exercise. It is a vital opportunity to meet and interact with other dogs and people. Proper socialization is necessary for young dogs to be able to interact in a healthy way later in life. Just as important is the fact that dogs enjoy being around others, it is often their favorite part of the day. Since we take the dog to meet others, it is equally important they are comfortable when other people or dogs are around us. If they are not comfortable, it is a clear sign they are being possessive or overprotective.
In this AnimalWised article on my dog is being overprotective of me, we look at the reasons behind this possessive behavior. Once we find out why your dog won't let anyone approach you, we help you to stop this problem behavior or prevent it happening in the first place.
Overprotectiveness in dogs
Many people don't realize they have a jealous dog until they go outside. Our dog might be very relaxed and seemingly comfortable when at home with their immediate family, but then behave differently when they meet others. This is how we can differentiate possessiveness and being over protective from other types of aggression in dogs.
Some dogs have faced trauma and will behave erratically in various situations. But when our dog won't let anyone approach their guardian, they fear something bad will happen. It is a sign of insecurity since they don't trust that their guardian can protect themselves. Either they have had bad experiences in the past or they have simply never learned not to have irrational fears with stranger dogs or people.
We can see it if somebody simply comes up to us to say hello. If we go to hug someone or even shake a hand, our dog may react badly. This could happen with complete strangers, but it can also happen with people the dog should know fairly well.
Although an overprotective dog may seem to behave well at home, our treatment when not around others can influence how they are when in company. It can even be a reason they are afraid of other people.
Reasons why your dog is overprotective
A strong bond is important for relationships between dogs and their guardians. Without it, they can become fearful and distrustful. However, strength of bond is not the only factor in their health and well-being. If our dog is strong, but they are overly dependent on us, their behavior will be affected. The following factors usually influence overprotectiveness in dogs:
- Abuse/neglect: when a dog has suffered abuse or neglect in their past, it will have an effect on how they relate to others. When this abuse is at the hand of humans, it is understandable they will at least be wary of strangers approaching them. Many dog guardians adopt dogs who have had traumatic experiences and work hard to build up a bond of trust. Unfortunately, this can also lead to the dogs becoming overly-reliant on their guardians. When other people or dogs approach, they may fear something bad will happen to the person who has made such as positive impact on their life.
- Traumatic experience: even if a dog has had a happy upbringing with their needs well cared for, they may have a traumatic experience which makes them wary when others are around. They might be attacked by another dog or even have a road accident which affects their behavior afterwards.
- Poor socialization: a specific form of trauma a lack of or improper socialization. The socialization process is the period when a young dog experiences meeting others and learns how to relate to them. This period begins when they are still with their mother and siblings. This is one of the reasons removing a puppy from their mother too early can be detrimental on their development. Poorly socialized dogs might also be negatively affected in a way which makes them possessive over objects as well as their guardians.
- Poor education/training: it is important to ensure a dog knows the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Dogs are not humans and need to have clear boundaries to help them live a happy life. If we don't delineate these boundaries with proper education and training, they may become possessive over us in the future.
- Reinforcing bad behavior: a form of bad education is when we actively reinforce overprotective behavior. If we encourage our dog to defend us, then it should be no surprise when they are indiscriminately aggressive when people approach us.
Symptoms of an overprotective dog
If your dog shows any of the following behaviors when someone approaches you, it is a clear sign they are being jealous or overprotective:
- Barking: if a dog starts barking uncontrollably every time another person or animal approaches you, they are trying to get your attention. They might also be trying to ward off the other party, telling them to ‘back up’ in case they get too close.
- Urinate inside: when a visitor comes into the home, an overprotective dog might urinate inappropriately inside. If the dog has experienced trauma, it is possible they are doing so partly in fear. However, if they are being overprotective, it could be a way to mark territory and show the ‘intruder’ whose property they are in.
- Stick by your side: if your dog chases you when you speak to another person, it's because they don't want to lose sight of you. We might see this as being endearing or even find it funny. However, for the dog, they will be anxious and in a state of alert, something which can seriously affect their health and well-being.
- Aggression: this is the most acute and dangerous symptom of overprotectiveness in dogs. When someone approaches you, they will show their teeth, growl at them or even try to bite them. In these cases, the dog will be considered dangerous. You will need to seek a professional to stop this behavior otherwise it can lead to serious problems.
- Other behavioral changes: each dog is different and will display jealousy in their own way. The anxiety which overprotective dogs experience can lead to obsessive behaviors such as licking their paws constantly, overeating, eating things they shouldn't and other expressions. Before the situation becomes untenable, we will need to consult a professional.
How to stop a dog being overprotective
If your dog doesn't let anyone approach you, we need to find our the reason for their overprotective behavior. This is not always possible since some dogs come to us with an unknown history or their behavioral problems are otherwise idiopathic. For this reason, we need to find ways to ensure the dog knows how to properly behave in the presence of unknown people or animals.
It is important we reassess their education. We need to find ways to deescalate their behavior and to avoid aggression. When these problems are not addressed, it will mean we are unfit to care for the dog as we are dodging our responsibility.
Every time your dog starts to be jealous when other people are around, you will need to tell them to stop it with a firm ‘no’. We must never do the same to the person. Unless the other person is genuinely being aggressive, it is the dog who is at fault and they need to understand this. However, we should not reinforce their negative behavior by giving them too much attention either since this is what they are looking for.
Since we cannot ignore them, nor give them too much attention, we need to find the right balance. This is also where their education and training comes in since we can use basic commands such as ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ to limit their behavior. When they listen to you, then you can given them some positive reinforcement via petting or a treat.
We can let them approach the person calmly and understand they are not a threat. We must never punish them or use violence as this will be counterproductive and further traumatize the animal.
If the dog is not aggressive, we can ask friends to meet and do exercises with them and the dog. The three of you can go on a walk, let the other person give them a treat or play games together. This will help the dog positively acquaint themselves with others. If the dog is aggressive or does not make progress, we need to speak to a canine ethologist or specialized dog trainer.
Are overprotective dogs dangerous?
Every dog is an individual. Even if the reasons for being overprotective are the same, it doesn't mean they will react in the same way. It might take us some time for us to educate the dog not to be overprotective, but this doesn't mean they will necessarily become dangerous. Other dogs might have had traumatic experience which can mean aggression will come to them more easily.
It is important we don't see their protective behavior as cute or endearing. It is actually dangerous to them since it causes anxiety and can lead to serious problems. This is often the case when we see a dog suffers separation anxiety. If a dog does become aggressive, they may not be able to go outside and interact with others. If they were to attack someone, then it can even become a criminal matter.
Since overprotectiveness can lead to aggression, we need to ensure we do what we can to prevent the dog from getting this way. Socialize them properly, use positive reinforcement and ask for help when you need it.
Below we share a video which helps you to know how to educate a puppy so they learn from an early stage how to behave around other dogs and people:
If you want to read similar articles to My Dog Is Overprotective of Me, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.