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Training a Territorially Aggressive Dog – Back to Basics

Are you finding your dog being aggressive around other people and pets? Are they constantly being territorial?

Dogs that tend to be territoriality aggressive can be quite dangerous and a huge problem for homeowners. If their behaviour goes unchecked it can increase in severity and put visitors and other pets at risk.

Lucky for you, we’ve provided basic training to help with the well-being of your dog and the safety of yourself and others.

Dog 1

Why is My Dog Territorial?

Dogs, like most creatures, are territorial by nature. It is not uncommon for dogs to inherently guard resources and possessions deemed valuable to them such as their food or owner.

Some dogs, more than others, are genetically inclined to have a greater aggressive tendency. This is due, in great part, to selective breeding for dogs that are best suited to guard us and our property.

Other underlying causes of territorial aggression can occur due to the lack of early socialization or underlying medical issues. Since there is most often a genetic tendency to territorial aggression, the goal is not to cure the problem but to control and manage it in an effort to decrease severity of possible aggressive displays.

Dog 2

Signs

The subtlety or severity of aggressive displays or behaviours in response to a real or perceived threat can vary on a wide scale and include some or all of the following signs:

Freezing when approached

Turning away

Lifting of the lips

Growling

Barking

Snapping

Lunging

Biting

Dog 3

Suggestions

1. Basic Obedience

Basic obedience lays the groundwork for troubleshooting problem behaviour, and basic commands can be incredibly useful in a tense situation. For example, if your dog has mastered the art of “sit-stay,” you can use it to keep them calm in another part of the house when someone knocks on the door.

Pet gates and a crate will also help as you’re working on the command. Even if you’ve already been through basic obedience training with your dog, a refresher will help both of you focus and bond. Aim for a few five-minute sessions each day, and be sure to make training worth it by offering rewards such as dog treats or new toys. Make sure to only reward them when following commands properly.

2. Recall

Recall, or coming when called, is among the most important things you can teach your pup, and for a territorial dog for that matter. You should be able to work on recall anywhere, but if your dog is especially territorial in the yard, indoors is a good starting point. Start by picking a recall command, other than your dog’s name, and only use it when they are either running towards you or can be enticed towards you with a dog treat.

Again, be sure to reward them for getting it right! You want your dog to know that good things come to those who come when called.

3. Nothing in Life is Free

Once your dog has mastered the basics, you can reinforce good behaviour by practicing “Nothing in Life is Free” training.

It’s time to re-train your dog (and yourself) that all resources come from you. Again, start small: require your dog to “sit” before you reward them by putting the leash on to take a walk, or sustain a “down” command for a few minutes before being released to eat their dinner.

Asking your dog to work for everything they want is a positive, safe way to remind them that you control the resources, and can greatly reduce guarding behaviour.

4. Quiet Down

If you find that your dog barks when they sense a threat to their territory, teach them a command that means “be quiet.”

Don’t wait for your dog to be stuck in a barking loop in the backyard, before teaching them to calm down.

Start in a peaceful environment such as indoors, and gradually introduce more distractions as your dog becomes better at calming on cue. The idea is to reinforce a calm emotional state. This is a step beyond the basics, but when practised and reinforced, a “be quiet” command can help an anxious, territorial dog relax.

Dog4

Training can go a long way, but while you’re still working on these basics, it’s up to you to reduce potential prompts. This may mean closing the curtains, feeding in a private place, and gating your dog away from the front door when guests are expected. Good luck!

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