An aggressive dog, much like a small child, is unable to recognize the difference between a “friend” and a “foe.” If a small child sees an intruder, he may become frightened and shout. If the same thing happens with a dog, he may react in one of two ways. He may charge and bark, or he may growl and snap at the intruder. If the dog attacks, he will often use his teeth, a very deadly weapon.
What Is Possessive Aggression
Possession aggression is a form of protective behavior, and it’s related to fear and self-defense more than to predatory behavior. It’s more likely to be seen in dogs who, because of previous bad experiences or lack of socialization, are suspicious of strangers. A dog may become possessive about any animate object he perceives as food, such as a bone; an inanimate object such as a stuffed toy; or a person, either familiar or unfamiliar.
Any of the following behaviors may indicate possessive aggression:
- The dog “guards” an object by posturing aggressively toward anyone who comes near it. He may growl, snarl and even snap if someone gets too close. You can often induce this behavior by coming up behind your dog and reaching for an object he’s using or about to use, such as a bone.
- Your dog may go berserk when anyone gets near his food bowl or chew toys. If you interrupt this behavior, the most common result is that your dog will growl at you. This often happens during mealtimes when your dog is eating.
- Your dog may become possessive over his bed or favorite sleeping area. This behavior often occurs in multi-dog households when one of the dogs has claimed a human’s bed, blanket, or pillow and won’t allow any other dogs near it. It can also occur with stuffed toys that are adored by one of the family dogs.
What Are the Causes of Possessive Aggression
Dogs that are born into aggressive packs learn to attack. They also become territorial or protective of their food. It is estimated that 2-3% of the population of Pit Bulls have an aggressive temperament. Pit Bulls have a propensity to attack when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or when they have been frightened or injured. Many owners believe that if they give the dog a firm “no,” the dog will not attack.
The dog does not understand that it has been given an order by the owner. The owner has also been given a command and does not understand the reason for it. The dog can easily become agitated and aggressive when its orders are not met. An owner may yell at a dog, which will only escalate the situation.
Dogs that have been poorly socialized often attack when they feel threatened. It is estimated that 7% of all dogs are aggressive, but no breed is more likely to have aggressive tendencies.
Pit Bulls are considered to be highly reactive dogs. While most Pit Bulls are friendly, many owners say their dogs attack strangers and other dogs without provocation. When a Pit Bull attacks, it will bite, kick, and bite hard. These dogs are not bred to protect their families from danger, but to attack. However, Pit Bulls have been bred to be strong, and they are bred to stand up for their owners.
In general, all dogs are afraid of the unknown, but some dogs are more sensitive to fear than others. Certain breeds, such as Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and Pit Bulls are more likely to show aggressive and protective behavior when they feel threatened or fear the unknown. These are breeds that are bred to protect their families.
What to Do if Your Dog May Be Possessive Aggressive
A dog that is possessive or protective should not be exposed to any situations that would cause him stress until he becomes more comfortable with new people, places, and circumstances. If you are concerned about the possibility of your dog becoming possessive toward either an object or a person, socialize him early on.
Teach your pet what is acceptable behavior when it comes to possession by allowing friends and acquaintances to give him treats or play with toys without reprimanding him for aggressive behavior. Isolation will only encourage possessiveness toward objects, people, or food because they are all the dog has left. Start this process at an early age before your pup develops into his adult personality.
The veterinarian can determine the causes of aggression. However, he or she can also recommend behavior modification. You can use positive reinforcement to teach a puppy to behave or give an adult dog the confidence to behave calmly and appropriately.
One of the most successful methods is to place the dog’s food bowl in a different room. Then, your dog will find that his own room is peaceful and he has no need to get out to defend it. Do this in stages. The first time you move the bowl, it may seem strange and your dog may not want to eat.
However, over the next week or so, your dog will realize that he does not need to leave his room to eat and his meals are being taken care of. He will also learn that his new room is a safe place. After he has eaten and left his new room, you can give him a reward when he comes back. Then, move his food bowl to the new room, and give him a treat for eating there.
Some owners start the training when their dog is a puppy, but if you wait until the dog is six months old or older, it may be harder. However, when you are dealing with an older or more aggressive dog, you may need to begin working with the dog when he is young to prevent him from being aggressive in the first place.
How to prevent possessive Aggression in Dogs
A dog that has been well socialized is less likely to become a possessive aggressive problem. Early socialization efforts should include being around friendly dogs of different breeds and sizes. Some dogs have a greater tendency of becoming possessive of toys or food than others do, so it is best to introduce them at an early age before any problems arise. You will also need to train your dog or puppy how you want him to behave with other people.
In general, the earlier you start training your dog on what type of behavior is expected from him, the better his chances for success and good behavior in the future. A new pup should learn that he can play with his toys without biting too hard and humans can take away his possessions when asked. Food aggression can be reduced by teaching your pup to give his toys up when asked and not to play with them when there are people around. This also reduces the chances of him being possessive over food because he has no reason to protect it.
Possessiveness is not a behavior that should be encouraged, so do not buy into the myth that dogs don’t know what they want or need. If you have given your dog toys that he does not seem interested in, do not force him to play with them because he will only become more possessive toward them later on if you do.
Teaching your dog good manners is difficult enough without encouraging bad behaviors along the way. These types of problem behaviors include becoming aggressive when certain things are removed from his reach or when they are given to him. If you have a problem with your dog being aggressive over food, toys, furniture, and other objects either give them away or put them out of sight until you can show your pet how to behave appropriately around them.
Early training is important because these behaviors become more deeply ingrained the older the dog gets. The adult dog may require help in learning what is acceptable behavior and some dogs may never learn that certain behaviors are unacceptable unless it is taught to them as a puppy. It takes patience on your part as an owner and lots of positive reinforcement for good behavior to achieve success with these types of problems.