How to Train Your Dog to Stop Being Protective

How to Train Your Dog to Stop Being Protective
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon2-6 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

When you’ve taken your dog for a quick stroll in the evening and you see a loud and slightly intimidating group across the road, having your protective dog at your side can certainly put you at ease. As soon as someone comes within 10 feet of you he starts to growl and stares menacingly. He’s also the same when someone comes to the door. The postman must dread having to approach the steps, knowing there’s a fierce guard dog on the other side of the door. 

While this protective nature can come in handy at times, it also prevents you being able to embrace friends and family. If you can train your dog to stop being so protective you’ll no longer be known as the ‘neighbor with the terrifying dog.’ You also won’t have to worry about him going too far one day and biting somebody.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Defining Tasks

Training will be a gradual process where you socialize your dog with other people and pets. You’ll need to gradually bring his guard down and show him that it isn’t his responsibility to protect you. You will need to alter his position in the perceived pack so he won’t always leap to your defense. If he’s a puppy and the protective nature is only a recent development, then it may take just a couple of weeks to tackle. If this protective aggression has been going on for years, you may need up to 6 weeks to stamp it out entirely.

Getting this training right is essential if you want to avoid an accident one day. All it takes is a one-off when somebody accidentally gets too close and your dog bites them in a panic. That could result in serious injury or even a court order to have him put down.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Getting Started

Before you can get going, you’ll need to gather a few things. A secure leash and a body harness will be needed to ensure you retain control and to reduce strain on your dog's neck. 

Your furry companion's favorite food or some tasty treats he cannot resist will also play a vital role. These will be used to motivate and reward him throughout training. You’ll also need to set aside 10 minutes each day for training in a quiet space, away from distractions.

Once you’ve got all of that, you’re ready to get to work!

arrow-up-icon

Top

The Gradual Introduction Method

Most Recommended

4 Votes

Ribbon icon

Most Recommended

4 Votes

Ribbon icon
1

Approach slowly

When your canine companion is about to meet a new person or pet, approach them very slowly. Keep him on a leash, securely at your side.

2

Reward

As you approach the new person or pet, quietly praise him for as long as he remains calm. You can even give him the odd treat to reinforce that this is the behavior you want to see.

3

React promptly

As soon as he does start to display signs of aggression, turn around and pull him away. Walk away from the person or pet until he has fully calmed down. Once he has, you can turn back around and slowly approach again. It may take several attempts before you can get within 10 feet.

4

Stop within 10 feet

At 10 feet, you need to calm the storm again. Have him ‘sit’ or ‘drop’ and then instruct him to ‘wait.’ You then need to position yourself in between him and the strangers to show him you are pack leader, and therefore it is you that is responsible for protecting him and not the other way round.

5

Be consistent

You need to use these steps whenever you approach new people and animals over the next few weeks. Each slip up you have will set back the end result. So take it slow, retain control and reinforce calm behavior constantly.

The Perception Method

Effective

5 Votes

Ribbon icon

Effective

5 Votes

Ribbon icon
1

Secure the leash

Whenever anybody comes to the house or an unknown person approaches, have your dog securely on a leash. Also, ensure you are in front of him. If he is between you and the approaching person, he will feel like leader of the pack and responsible for protecting you.

2

Be confident

Dogs mirror their owners' behavior and pick up on their emotions. If he can sense you are worried (probably about his reaction) then he’ll be more likely to panic himself and get aggressive. So be calm, confident, and assertive and it will put him at ease.

3

Always react

If he does start to bark or show any signs of aggression, quickly shout "NO". Don’t terrify your dog, but make sure he knows you mean business. At the same time, give the leash a quick pull to reinforce the point.

4

Practice obedience commands

Teach your dog to ‘sit’, ‘roll over’ and any number of other things. This training will help cement your position as the pack leader and will give you the best chance of retaining control in testing situations.

5

Show him you are leader

Make your dog wait for his food, make him wait a minute before you take him out for a walk. By doing this, you’re showing him who is in control. If he knows you’re always in control he won’t feel the need to be protective over you in the first place.

The Crack Down Method

Least Recommended

2 Votes

Ribbon icon

Least Recommended

2 Votes

Ribbon icon
1

Stop over indulging

If your dog gets unlimited attention and doesn’t have to abide by any rules, then curbing his aggression will always be a challenge. Set rules to assert your position as the pack leader. It could be no climbing on furniture, only going to the toilet in specific places, etc.

2

Exercise

It may sound crazy, but a lot of aggression stems from built up energy. Give your dog an extra walk each day or walk him for longer. If this isn’t possible, play fetch during the walk--the constant short sprints will tire him out. If he’s knackered, he won’t have the energy to defend you from everyone you meet each day.

3

Desensitize

If your dog is going to meet a new person or pet for the first time, introduce them carefully. Keep him at a distance and show your dog that he’s got nothing to worry about by being calm and confident around that person.

4

Avoid his territory

It will also help to meet new people and pets outside of his territory to start with. If they come into the room where his bed is he will feel like he needs to defend you in his area. Instead, meet people outside or in a room he’s less familiar with.

5

Never punish him

If your dog does show aggression, don’t punish him. Doing this will only scare him more, increasing the chances of him being aggressive the next time. Instead, calmly remove him from the situation. Don’t give his aggressive behavior any attention.

By James Barra

Published: 11/07/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

Have a question?

Training Questions and Answers

Dog nametag icon

Boone

Dog breed icon

Golden Retriever

Dog age icon

Three Years

Question icon

Question

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

I recently got a puppy, and my older dog Boone has gotten very attached to her. He does well around dogs, but whenever she is brought into the mix he gets very protective over her. It doesn't matter if I am holding her or if she's on the ground. He's been doing well around my mom's dogs with her, but he sees them more often. When we see dogs that he doesn't see quite as often he immediately growls, and I have had to break up one dog fight already.

Aug. 31, 2022

Boone's Owner

Expert avatar

Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

Recommendation ribbon

1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I would work on building Boone's overall respect and trust for you, so she sees the puppy as your responsibility more. I would also work on counter conditioning her to other dogs being in the area (but not in her face) when the puppy is around, starting with the dogs at a far distance at first on leash, and rewarding whenever she stays calm, working on her listening and responding to your commands then too. As she improves, gradually decrease the distance between the puppy and the other dogs slowly over time as your reward Boone's calm responses over several sessions slowly. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PhqFdaNduo Be sure to take safety measures like leashes, appropriate distance, back ties, or similar setups to prevent fights during training also though. Ideally this would be done with a trainer who has access to lots of other dogs so you can control the training environment, repetition, distance, and even behavior of the other dog you are working with to some extent. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Aug. 31, 2022

Dog nametag icon

Toffee

Dog breed icon

cocker spaniel cross

Dog age icon

2 Years

Question icon

Question

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

We have 4 dogs in a shared house, different owners. Toffee is protective of me, her bed/any space she is in. She is a rescue dog we've had her 6months. She gets aggressive towards the other dogs when they approach me or the space she is in. She immediately retreats under a chair when the other dogs approach, she will run and walk with them without issue .

July 13, 2022

Toffee's Owner

Expert avatar

Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

Recommendation ribbon

1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Mandi, I highly recommend working with a trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression in person for this issue. Look for a trainer who has access to other dogs to practice the training in scenarios you can control and set up at first. This process typically involves things like gently building pup's overall respect, trust, and listening with you to that pup doesn't think they own you and so that their behavior is easier to manage and so that they feel more secure and can defer to your leadership when in situations that make them uncomfortable. It also tends to involve gradually desensitizing pup to other dogs being around, one dog at a time, with safety measures like a back tie leash or basket muzzle in place (introduced gradually ahead of time using treats so it's not just associated with the other dogs and stressful), starting with the other dog being further away at first, and working on pup's obedience with you around the other dog in the background to help pup remain calm and not get overly aroused and fixated on the other dog, rewarding any calm responses around the other dog. This can sometimes also involve interrupting pup's aroused state, but that should only be done under the guidance of the trainer and with proper safety measures in place, because with any aggression there is always the risk of the dog redirecting their aggression to whoever is closest when stressed. Structure for gentle building listening, trust and respect for you: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you The following commands can also be useful for giving boundaries - like pup leaving the area if they are trying to guard it, not getting on the couch (which I would make a rule right now until things improve), and moving away when uncomfortable instead of guarding. Watch Me is a good command to practice with other dogs around to get pup thinking about working with you, focusing on you instead their nervousness about the other dog, and give you an opportunity to reward pup with another dog around when pup does well focusing on you instead of acting aggressive or fearful of the other dog - directing pup's attention to something more productive. Practicing commands you can reward with other dogs in the background, in general can give something more productive to focus on around other dogs, while building respect for you, and allow you to reward pup without rewarding the aggression so pup associates the other dogs' presence with good things when they are around. Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Off- section on The Off command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ Drop It – Exchange method: https://wagwalking.com/training/drop-it Watch Me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zeZrOPzO-c Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

July 14, 2022


Training assistant
Need training help?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews

Install


© 2022 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.