Territorial Aggression

TERRITORIAL_AGGRESSION_FeaturedIt is very common for dogs to instinctively guard resources that are important to them including food, toys, beds and people. 'Territorial aggression' addresses a similar need, but on a much larger scale, and often occurs along boundaries of territory that the dog lives in, such as a yard or home. Dogs that are territorial often exhibit warning, defensive and offensive behaviors such as barking, running fence lines or boundaries, charging and sometimes biting whoever or whatever ‘invades’ the dog’s perceived territory.

Dogs that are territorially aggressive are often labeled as dominant, but like resource guarders, these dogs are most often insecure, controlling who has access in order to be safe and survive. Any unwanted visitor on the dog’s territory is seen as a threat to that safety.

Should I Train My Territorially Aggressive Dog Myself?
If your dog is aggressively protecting objects, people or territory, it is crucial to utilize the help of a qualified positive trainer. A trainer will teach your dog how to cope better in these situations, as well as use humane methods to stop negative behavior. They will quickly identify your dog’s triggers and help build his confidence so he no longer feels the need to guard and protect.

 Resource Guarding or Territorial Aggression Resource Guarding is when a dog controls access to objects, food, people or locations that are important for his comfort, safety and survival. Guarding behaviors include warning signals such as staring, growling and snarling to overt aggression, such as biting. Depending on the severity of the reaction, resource guarding behavior can be very dangerous.
A positive trainer will also:

  • Work on desensitizing your dog to triggers that set off the aggressive response, whether those triggers are a dog, human, or other stimulus approaching your dog’s environment.
  • Give you workable management strategies to ensure your dog is unable to practice the negative behavior again in the environment and other situations.
  • Develop a teaching plan that encourages your dog to listen to you and respond to your cues.
  • Teach valuable impulse control skills to modify reactivity.
  • Teach your dog not to run boundaries. Dogs that are left outside often indulge in fence running behavior that is positively reinforcing for them.
  • Help your dog accept the approach of people or other dogs onto his territory and relax in an invited person or dog’s presence.
  • Give tips on keeping your dog and guests that come onto your property or into your home safe at all times.

Bottom Line
A dog that is territorially aggressive can be very dangerous and a huge liability for homeowners. If the behavior goes unchecked it is likely to increase in severity putting any visitor at risk. The best course of action is to properly manage your dog’s environment so he can no longer practice the behavior, while increasing his confidence around people or other dogs on and off his territory.

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  • Nikki

    My 2year old female Morkie bares her teeth and snaps at my feet or when I want to pet her. This often happens as she is lying next to me even when we are alone. I have no idea how to correct this behavior.

  • Loretta Baker

    I am beside myself.our mastiff and American bull got along fine but the other day they got into a fight at the back door. Nither would give up.it was a bad situation. Now they can't be togeather. How do we get them to live in the same house?

  • Karen Phillips

    I have a min pin/chihuahua female that I adopted from a shelter. They were thinking of euthanasia because she bit all potential adopters. She bit me too, but I adopted her anyway and spent the ensuing weeks earning her trust. She would never dream of biting me now. However, she does guard resources, including food, toys and any space she perceives as hers. If she is in the car and I get gas or visit a drive-through, she snaps, snarls and aggresses toward any human near the car. She does not want any strangers near the house or yard and makes herself very clear. She's so small, I don't know how she thinks she's going to take down that great dane passing by, but she sure would like a shot at it! When she gets in that alarm mode, I think her ears close and she doesn't hear anything I say. I don't know how to get her out of it except to pick her up and physically move her away from the threat. She is a senior citizen, so I'm not sure there is any training hope for her. Hope I'm wrong though.

  • riverdivine

    Sounds like fear-based aggression. (I've always imagined that the world must be a big, scary place for tiny dogs...) ..

  • riverdivine

    Yes. I adopted my pup at 1.5 yrs, and she had resource guarding problems extraordinaire. Positive/humane training, time, patience, being a 'safe' guardian to her, successfully ended all of that. 🙂 And, here's a wonderful article from Dr. Patricia McConnell about this issue. http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/theotherendoftheleash/resource-guarding-treatment-and-prevention

  • Laura Levenson

    I rescued a (Bella)Female Kelpie/heeler mix from a neighbor who had rescued her from the shelter 3 months prior. Someone adopted her from the shelter prior to my neighbor and returned her and if she was returned again they would have euthanized her immediately. I have a female Kelpie(Xena), so I knew what I was in for. I also have 3 small dogs. The problem is Bella the kelpie/heeler x attacks my other Kelpie occasionally. My other Kelpie is more layed back and she doesn't know what to do and she fights back. My son (25) got bit no broken skin by Bella when he broke her off of Xena. I look for the body language of Bella and I can tell when she is going to do it now and I make her go in the laundry room if I could catch it fast enough. She is always so tense! We can't have toys around anymore and now it's become that my fiance can't pet her or give her attention when Xena is around because that is when she will attack also. I am fostering her, but I feel I can't adopt her out with this behavior, and I can't afford the trainers for board and train, I feel stuck. I love Bella and would keep her if she would learn to be obedient. I do not see this happening in our home. It tears at my heart

  • Rachel

    I have a German Shepherd bitch and a male rottweiler labrador cross. While my rottie lab x is so laid back I've realised after watching a few it's me or the dog programmes that my Shepherd bitch thinks that my bed is hers. If we're in the living room or anywhere else in the house, especially if there are other people about like my parents, we can have cuddles and she gives me kisses but in my bedroom is completely different, I go to give her a cuddle and she stares at me and starts growing. Once she has snapped but I had my head down. I don't let her on my bed anymore but want to be able to. How do I control this?

  • Kelley Letts

    I would like to hear Patricia's response to this post

  • Kate Silcox

    I have a 2 year old neutered male who is fine outside my home or yard. He is very aggressive inside when someone comes over and that includes the yard. HELP

  • @shleyandra

    So how to we correct this or tip on what to do when it happens?!?

  • Danielle

    I have a 4.5 year old rotti-retriever. I live on about an acre. She has always been curious and would go out to greet people passing by, but recently, she has been charging people that walk/run past with barking, teeth bared, and hair standing up. I'm worried that she is going to bite a person or attack a dog. Any suggestions?

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