How to Train Your Dog to Stop Being Protective

Medium
2-6 Weeks
Behavior

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.

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.

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!

The Gradual Introduction Method

Most Recommended
3 Votes
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Crack Down Method

Effective
2 Votes
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Perception Method

Least Recommended
3 Votes
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Cash
French Bulldog
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Cash
French Bulldog
1 Year

We recently rescued our Frenchie Cash. He has chose me as his person and doesn’t allow other dogs to come near me if we’re sitting together. He growls and gets aggressive towards them but is fine when they’re playing. How do I correct this behavior?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
708 Dog owners recommended

Hello Brooke, It sounds like pup is actually being possessive of you, which means pup is resource guarding you similar to how he would guard a bone. Possessiveness is usually partially a respect issue - meaning that you need to build pup's respect for you so they don't view you as something they own and can guard. I recommend following all three methods from the article I have linked below to gently build respect. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you I also recommend teaching pup the Out, Leave It, Off, and Heel commands. Require pup to work for what they get from you more - like heeling during walks, sitting before you pet, and not giving them what they want when they are being demanding - like not allowing pup to nudge, bark, or climb into your lap to get attention - if they do, make them leave the room. 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 Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Off- section on The Off command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ When pup tries to guard you, use the Off and Out commands to make pup leave the area and you. If pup is climbing onto the couch or your lap then guarding from there - no more couch or lap right now - teach Off and enforce it every time pup tries to climb up, especially when you are sitting on the couch. When you want to give pup attention, call them over to you first, or make them do a command like Sit first. I personally have no issue with a dog being on the couch if their person is fine with it, UNLESS a dog is guarding from there, then the couch becomes off limits. Some additional commands that can help with boundaries. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Honey
Jack Russell fox Terrier
5 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Honey
Jack Russell fox Terrier
5 Years

We rescued Honey about 2 years ago .. we have issues with her barking when someone walks past the house or comes to the door .We also made the mistake of allowing her to sleep with us and therefore when someone walks pass the house at anytime she will bark which startles us. We have tried putting her behind a gate when we go to bed but she cries and barks which is worse.
We also find when two of us are together in the bed she seems to feel she needs to be the leader though when just one of us she is not so protective ,

Her barking is mainly bad when we are at home in the house when out she is not bad at all unless she sees a greyhound she goes crazy

Help!!

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
134 Dog owners recommended

Hello there. It sounds like you have your hands full. I am going to provide you with information on how to correct this behavior. You won’t be able to solve your dog’s overprotective behavior in one day. In the meantime, you don’t want to put your life on hold. You can still invite guests into your home as long as you prioritize managing your dog’s behavior. You’ll need a short-term strategy to start showing your overprotective dog what behavior is unacceptable while also keeping your guests safe. There are a few ways to do this. Leash: Keeping your dog on a leash while friends are visiting gives you control over your dog’s actions. Leash him up before the doorbell rings and keep him close as you greet your guests. During the visit, you can let the leash drag and only use it if you have to. Muzzle: If you feel his behavior warrants the use of a muzzle for the time being while you work on solving this problem, then it may be a wise choice. Separate Room: Your dog won’t get better without practice, but sometimes you have to weigh the risks versus rewards. If your overprotective dog is in the beginning stages of training, keeping him separated from guests might be best. You don’t want to put a friend’s safety at risk or needlessly stress out your dog. As long as you keep working toward stopping the behavior, separating an overprotective dog from company is a temporary management solution. Start Obedience Training Obedience training is a must for every dog, and it’s especially important for overprotective dogs. Working with your dog on things like “sit-stay,” “down-stay,” and “heel,” will help build his impulse control. He’ll start seeing you as a capable leader and will turn to you for guidance. A mistake many pup parents make is stopping obedience training once their dog masters the basics skills. Being well-trained is about more than knowing how to sit when a person holds a treat in front of their face. It’s a lifetime lesson, and even senior dogs need regular training. Commit to training your dog several times a day for short periods of time. Make Your Dog Work for Affection You can’t help but smother your dog with love every time he’s within petting distance, but that isn’t always what’s best for him. He will start to feel entitled to your attention, and that’s part of the problem. To remedy this, initiate a “work for it” program that allows you to show your dog affection as long as he earns your attention in appropriate ways. Make him sit, stay calm, and do whatever else you ask before doling out whatever it is he wants. If he’s excited for dinner, make him sit and leave it before digging in. If he wants in your lap, ask him to do a trick first. Never give your dog attention if he rudely nudges your hand or barks in your face. He needs to know polite behavior, and polite behavior only, is how he gets what he wants. You ignore everything else. Involve Other People in the Dog’s Life Most overprotective dogs choose to guard only the person they feel closest to. It’s usually the same person who fills their food bowls, takes them on walks, and handles training. They become obsessively attached, and a strong bond gradually mutates into overprotective behavior. Putting some space between you and your dog will help him learn to trust other people. Enlist the entire family’s help and take a step back in your role as primary caregiver. Have someone else feed the dog a few times a week, and encourage other people to engage her in playtime. This will help him be more comfortable with different people. Socialize Socialization is best done during the puppy stages, but even adult and senior dogs benefit from new experiences. Exposing your overprotective dog to new places, experiences, and people, will help him learn that not everyone is out to hurt you. Make sure each new experience is positive, and encourage your dog without forcing him to interact. If your dog is afraid, you don’t want to make things worse. Take socialization at the pace he’s comfortable with. If he seems overwhelmed, back up and try something a little smaller. These are some general ideas and they can be modified to fit your dynamic. These behaviors do take time, I am talking months, to correct. And sometimes the behaviors get worse before they get better. So just push through that time if that starts to happen. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Thank you for writing in!

Add a comment to Honey's experience

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Question
Honey
Jack Russell fox Terrier
5 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Honey
Jack Russell fox Terrier
5 Years

We rescued Honey about 2 years ago .. we have issues with her barking when someone walks past the house or comes to the door .We also made the mistake of allowing her to sleep with us and therefore when someone walks pass the house at anytime she will bark which startles us. We have tried putting her behind a gate when we go to bed but she cries and barks which is worse.
We also find when two of us are together in the bed she seems to feel she needs to be the leader though when just one of us she is not so protective ,

Her barking is mainly bad when we are at home in the house when out she is not bad at all unless she sees a greyhound she goes crazy

Help!!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
708 Dog owners recommended

Hello Glenda, First, I recommend recruiting some friends to practice the Quiet method I have linked below, and the door greeting video I have linked below. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Barking at the door video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpzvqN9JNUA For the night barking, I recommend getting pup used to sleeping in another room if she is being protective of you. To do that, first, work on teaching pup the Quiet command from the article I have linked above. Once pup knows that, during the day practice confining pup behind the gate while you are away from her - to get her used to not being with you, and give you a chance to practice when you are less tired like at night. Whenever pup stays quiet behind the gate for 5 minutes, return briefly and sprinkle some treats onto the other side of the gate without opening it, then leave pup again. As she improves, only give the treats every 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 1 hour, 1.5 hour, 2, hour, 3 hour. Practice confining her away from you during the day for 1-3 hours each day that you can. Whenever she cries behind the gate, tell her "Quiet". If she gets quiet - Great! Sprinkle treats in after five minutes if she stays quiet. If she continues barking or stops and starts again, spray a quick puff of air from a pet convincer at her side through the crate while calmly saying "Ah Ah", then leave again. Only use unscented air canisters, DON'T use citronella! And avoid spraying in the face. The details of rewarding are similar to this method of crate training - with the crate and with the gate, what you are teaching is more independence. Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Repeat the rewards when quiet and the corrections whenever she cries. Practice for a few days until she is doing well during the day. Continue what you are currently doing at night during this process. Once she is doing well during the day, confine her on the other side of the gate at night too. When she cries at night before it has been 8 hours, tell her Quiet, and correct with the pet convincer if she doesn't become quiet and stay quiet. Don't give any treats at night though - you want her to simply go to sleep. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Stella
Blue Heeler
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Stella
Blue Heeler
3 Years

Our dog is a good dog, but lately she has become very over protective lately and last night she went after another one of our dogs, she has done this once before but she was challenged. This time it was out of no where and she really likes this other dog what should we do?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
708 Dog owners recommended

Hello Grace, I recommend hiring a professional trainer who specializes in aggression and behavior issues to come to your home to evaluate pup and the household. I suspect more trust and respect for you will need to be built so that pup is acting less possessive of people, more boundaries - like staying on Place, working for what they get by doing a command first - like sitting before petting, wait before feeding, ect...practicing obedience with the dogs together - like a structured heel, where both dogs focus on you and follow you together, and some new rules and boundaries between the dogs - like if one dog is stealing toys from another, blocking another's way, guarding objects, hovering around food, bothering while the other is sleeping, ect... and you making and being the one to enforce rules between dogs, and not the dogs trying to control each other's actions. All of this needs to be done carefully, to avoid you being bitten while getting between the dogs or addressing other underlying issues - look for a trainer who comes well recommended by their previous clients for helping with these types of issues. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Buddy
American pitbull terrier
4 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Buddy
American pitbull terrier
4 Years

He is a rescue - was emaciated and terrified when he came home(3 weeks ago)
He was initially very friendly to everyone that came into my house or my office. After 1.5 weeks his behavior changed. He is still great on walks, easily redirected from a squirrel or other dog(not aggressive in this situation) but if a human comes into my house he displays protective behavior. Hard barking low growling He is great with me and with my husband and my chihuahua and resident cats

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
134 Dog owners recommended

Hello there. It sounds like you have your hands full. I am going to provide you with information on how to correct this behavior. You won’t be able to solve your dog’s overprotective behavior in one day. In the meantime, you don’t want to put your life on hold. You can still invite guests into your home as long as you prioritize managing your dog’s behavior. You’ll need a short-term strategy to start showing your overprotective dog what behavior is unacceptable while also keeping your guests safe. There are a few ways to do this. Leash: Keeping your dog on a leash while friends are visiting gives you control over your dog’s actions. Leash him up before the doorbell rings and keep him close as you greet your guests. During the visit, you can let the leash drag and only use it if you have to. Muzzle: If you feel his behavior warrants the use of a muzzle for the time being while you work on solving this problem, then it may be a wise choice. Separate Room: Your dog won’t get better without practice, but sometimes you have to weigh the risks versus rewards. If your overprotective dog is in the beginning stages of training, keeping him separated from guests might be best. You don’t want to put a friend’s safety at risk or needlessly stress out your dog. As long as you keep working toward stopping the behavior, separating an overprotective dog from company is a temporary management solution. Start Obedience Training Obedience training is a must for every dog, and it’s especially important for overprotective dogs. Working with your dog on things like “sit-stay,” “down-stay,” and “heel,” will help build his impulse control. He’ll start seeing you as a capable leader and will turn to you for guidance. A mistake many pup parents make is stopping obedience training once their dog masters the basics skills. Being well-trained is about more than knowing how to sit when a person holds a treat in front of their face. It’s a lifetime lesson, and even senior dogs need regular training. Commit to training your dog several times a day for short periods of time. Make Your Dog Work for Affection You can’t help but smother your dog with love every time he’s within petting distance, but that isn’t always what’s best for him. He will start to feel entitled to your attention, and that’s part of the problem. To remedy this, initiate a “work for it” program that allows you to show your dog affection as long as he earns your attention in appropriate ways. Make him sit, stay calm, and do whatever else you ask before doling out whatever it is he wants. If he’s excited for dinner, make him sit and leave it before digging in. If he wants in your lap, ask him to do a trick first. Never give your dog attention if he rudely nudges your hand or barks in your face. He needs to know polite behavior, and polite behavior only, is how he gets what he wants. You ignore everything else. Involve Other People in the Dog’s Life Most overprotective dogs choose to guard only the person they feel closest to. It’s usually the same person who fills their food bowls, takes them on walks, and handles training. They become obsessively attached, and a strong bond gradually mutates into overprotective behavior. Putting some space between you and your dog will help him learn to trust other people. Enlist the entire family’s help and take a step back in your role as primary caregiver. Have someone else feed the dog a few times a week, and encourage other people to engage her in playtime. This will help him be more comfortable with different people. Socialize Socialization is best done during the puppy stages, but even adult and senior dogs benefit from new experiences. Exposing your overprotective dog to new places, experiences, and people, will help him learn that not everyone is out to hurt you. Make sure each new experience is positive, and encourage your dog without forcing him to interact. If your dog is afraid, you don’t want to make things worse. Take socialization at the pace he’s comfortable with. If he seems overwhelmed, back up and try something a little smaller. These are some general ideas and they can be modified to fit your dynamic. These behaviors do take time, I am talking months, to correct. And sometimes the behaviors get worse before they get better. So just push through that time if that starts to happen. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Thank you for writing in!

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