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Managing Territorial Aggression in Dogs

It’s in the nature of dogs to be territorial. They like to guard people, places, or things but it becomes detrimental to the canine-human relationship if it becomes aggressive, excessive and obsessive.

Some dogs can become aggressive towards their own family in an effort to guard things they consider their possessions. This can include food, toys, people, and territory. Dogs who display this sort of behavior can, at the least, become worrisome to live with, and at worst can cause serious damage to people and other animals. Living with a dog with aggression issues can be stressful and potentially dangerous.

While territorial behavior like barking is fairly normal, for some dogs, this increase in arousal or anxiety levels can lead to aggressive behavior. If your dog is exhibiting territorial behavior, you’ll want to take steps to address the issue before it potentially escalates to aggression.

Tips on Dealing with Territorial Aggression in Dogs

Although dominance-based territorial aggression is easier to manage than fear-based territorial aggression, both forms of territorial aggression can be addressed reasonably well by means of management measures, proper control, and containment.

1. Desensitize Your Dog

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.

To desensitize your pooch, you will need to practice having people or dogs walk by your property in a very controlled, safe, and systematic environment.

At first, the person or dog may start by walking on the other side of the street. Over time, the person will start walking closer and closer to your property.

Your pup should always remain under his threshold level during these trials. This means That he doesn’t react to the trigger (the person or dog). He will see the strangers, but because they are at a comfortable distance, he can feel safe and remain calm.

If at any stage he starts to become anxious or reactive, take a step back to the last successful step and work from there.

2. Basic Obedience Training

You can’t hope to change your dog’s behavior if you aren’t able to control him. Basic obedience is the foundation for controlling and changing your dog’s behavior. So make sure he has a grasp of basic commands first.

Teach it first to sit and relax on a verbal command. Do this in a neutral location and use food rewards in tiny pieces to avoid food aggression during these exercises; reward non-aggressive behavior also.

3. Socialization

Territorial aggression can be prevented or minimized with early socialization and good control. Young dogs should be taught to sit and receive a reward as each new person comes to the door. To reduce potential fear and anxiety toward visitors, you should ensure that a wide variety of visitors come over to visit the puppy while the puppy is young and developing its social skills.

4. Exercise His Body

Regular daily exercise is important for almost all dogs but it’s even more important for territorial dogs. When his body is well-exercised and tired, even a territorial dog will be more apt to take a nap. A long game of fetch, a good jog with you, a run alongside the bicycle, will all work. Find the exercise best suited to your likes and your dog’s willingness to do with you.

5. Containment

A dog that is left in an un-fenced area tends to believe that they own quite a large area and may become territorial even out of the property limits. On top of this, there are many risks with having off-leash dogs. It is best to fence off your property so your dog has some sort of boundary to remind him that this is his place and so he’ll stay out of trouble.

When you have visitors, be sure your dog is kept behind a secure door or in a crate.

6. Keep Your Dog on Leash

As a general rule, dogs who have behavioral issues should never be in a situation where they are unsupervised. They shouldn’t be off leash and exposed to other dogs or people to whom they could cause injury. Depending on what triggers the aggression, it is usually best to keep your dog on a leash at all times. This is so that you can use the leash to maintain control by calmly and gently moving your dog away from any potential triggers.

7. Medications

While there are medications on the market for this behavioral disorder, they are not recommended. If your veterinarian does prescribe medication, it should only be utilized in association with behavior modification. It should never be utilized alone, as it will not solve the problem.


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