Signes Your Dog is Protective Over You | Animal Behavior College (2023)

Dangers of Protective Dog Behavior

This is a difficult question to answer because human feelings are being used to describe a dog’s reaction. Many pet owners feel their dogs are protecting them from threats. It’s a comforting feeling for humans, but dogs feel frustrated. When dogs growl at people approaching, while sitting in their pet owner’s lap, this is called resource guarding. Yes, your growling dog is protecting his resource, which is you, but protective dog behavior is dangerous that will get worse, if not addressed quickly.

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Why Dogs Resource Guard Owners

Guarding valuable resources is a natural dog behavior, but it can cause issues within human homes. Dogs will guard beds, food bowls, high value toys, treats, space and people. Every dog has a different personality, but most will resource guard whatever they find valuable to a degree. Humans are certainly valuable because they put food in dog bowls, provide treats and toys, keep them safe, and can open doors.

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Some dogs can bond so deeply with a specific person that they will start to resource guard her from other dogs, people and even children. Sometimes, resource guarding goes undetected until another person or dog enters the home, and then the chaos ensues. Resource guarding should certainly be addressed as soon as possible, as it can result in biting behavior. Plus, no one wants to live with a bully.

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How to Change Protective Dog Behavior

While many pet owners feel flattered when their dog resource guards them, it’s important to know this behavior will only escalate, if not addressed immediately. When a dog is protecting a person, he’s reacting to a dog or person approaching the pet owner and himself. Protective dog behavior manifests differently for different dogs. Dogs will either freeze, glare at the approaching person, snarl, show teeth, snap or even bite. It’s important to change a dog’s perspective of people approaching while he’s next to his pet owner.

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Make It Rain Cheese

Find treats your protective dog absolutely loves, and then chop them into pea-sized treats. Cheese, hot dogs, baked chicken or diced lunchmeat are excellent examples of high value dog treats.

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Have a seat on the sofa (or wherever your dog usually resource guards you), and ask your dog to join you. Then, ask a friend to slowly walk into the room and stop at the entrance. As your friend approaches, ask her to toss a steady stream of treats toward your dog’s mouth. After a few seconds, ask your friend to leave the room. Pairing good things with scary situations will change your dog’s perspective, and soon he’ll learn that an approaching person makes cheese rain from the sky.

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Oops, He Barked

If your dog barks at the approaching person, ignore him until he stops. Once your dog stops barking, say “yes” and reward with treats while your friend walks out of the room. Next time, practice with your friend standing a bit farther than last time, and continue having her toss treats to your dog. Dog training sessions should last 2-3 minutes maximum.

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When to Get Help

Resource guarding can be tricky to address, so it’s always important to partner with a professional dog trainer who only uses positive reinforcement. If a dog lunges, bites, muzzle punches (hits person with muzzle) and/or snaps at someone, then it’s time to bring in a professional. Timing of treats and distance are critical components of resource guarding, and a professional dog trainer can address issues quickly and effectively.

(Video) How to Train Your Dog to Alert on Command.


How do you tell if your dog is protective over you? ›

When a dog is protecting a person, he's reacting to a dog or person approaching the pet owner and himself. Protective dog behavior manifests differently for different dogs. Dogs will either freeze, glare at the approaching person, snarl, show teeth, snap or even bite.

How do you tell if your dog knows you are Alpha? ›

If your dog sees you as the alpha, they will permit you to eat first and refrain from snatching or stealing food. This is a sign of respect. In your home, you set your dog's feeding schedule. If your pup sees you as the alpha, he or she will patiently wait for food or subtly ask for table scraps.

Why is my dog super protective of me? ›

A protective dog is showing a natural behavior when he reacts in an aggressive way if he feels you're in danger. Some dog breeds were specifically bred to guard their family and home. Don't interpret a dog being protective as jealous or possessive.

What makes dogs protective of their owners? ›

Dogs consider their owners to be part of their pack and thus inherently feel the need to protect them in case of any threats. They also naturally get protective of things they consider theirs such as their house or shelter and resources such as food, toys, and dog beds.

Are male dogs more protective of female owners? ›

There is no significant difference between male or female dogs in terms of protective behaviors.

Is my dog protective or territorial? ›

Territorial aggressive displays may range from growling and barking to lunging, chasing, snapping and biting. Territorial displays may occur at windows, doors, behind fences and in the car. Some dogs may quickly claim territory and show similar behaviors at picnic areas, park benches, etc.

What is the 3 3 dog rule? ›

Whether you rescue an older dog or a puppy, a lot of dogs tend to follow the 3-3-3 rule when getting acclimated: 3 days of feeling overwhelmed and nervous. 3 weeks of settling in. 3 months of building trust and bonding with you.

How do dogs choose alpha human? ›

Dogs choose their favorite people based on positive interactions and socialization they have shared in the past. Like humans, dogs are especially impressionable as their brains develop, so puppies up to 6 months old are in their key socialization period.

Is your dog trying to dominate you? ›

Signs of dominant behavior in dogs:

Resistance to voice commands. Aggressive response to eye contact or verbal correction. Food guarding or other aggressive behavior while eating. Persistence about leading the way on walks or through entryways.

Can a dog be too protective? ›

Dogs can become overprotective for any number of reasons. Perhaps you're projecting fearful or submissive energy and he feels like he needs to take charge and keep you safe.

Do dogs prefer female owners? ›

Dogs Prefer Adults — Particularly Women

A dog's preference for one person — or type of person — over another has a great deal to do with socialization. Dogs don't, as a rule, dislike men, but most dogs are cared for by women, and are thus more comfortable around them.

What dog is most likely to protect its owner? ›

If you're looking into the best protection dogs for your family, we suggest looking into a dog from one of the breeds below.
  • Belgian Malinois. The Belgian Malinois are brilliant dogs, highly capable, and love to work. ...
  • German Shepherds. ...
  • Rottweilers. ...
  • Doberman Pinscher. ...
  • Bullmastiff. ...
  • Giant Schnauzer. ...
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback.

Do dogs think they are protecting their owners? ›

Dogs are instinctively wired to protect and rescue their owners, new study finds. Dogs are wired to protect and rescue their owners, a new study has found — and it's more proof that they really are our best friends.

What are the seven signs that your dog loves you? ›

7 Signs Your Dog Loves You
  • Eye Contact. Natural eye contact during play or while cuddling releases the love hormone oxytocin. ...
  • Cuddling. Physical touch is a big way dogs show affection. ...
  • Sleeping Near You. Dogs are pack animals. ...
  • Excited When You Get Home. ...
  • Checks In. ...
  • Bring You Their Favorite Toy.
Jan 8, 2021

Are male dogs more clingy? ›

Male dogs are usually more affectionate than females, and some positively crave human attention. You'll find it's always you who brings the cuddling and fussing to an end – he could happily go on like this all day!

Do male dogs try to dominate females? ›

In one study on free-ranging dogs, a sex age-graded hierarchy was found, such that males dominate females in each age class, and adults dominate over subadults, and subadults over juveniles (Cafazzo et al., 2010).

Do male dogs prefer male owners? ›

“This typically has to do with how they were socialized, who takes care of them and their past experiences,” Dr. Bonk told The Dodo. “If a dog is taken care of by a female, they're more likely to prefer females, [whereas] if they're primarily taken care of by a male, they may prefer males.”

Why does my dog follow me everywhere and stare at me? ›

If your dog follows you everywhere then it's a sign that they trust and love you and that you make them feel safe. Following you very closely can be a sign that they're bored, they want something, they're feeling scared or are just being nosy.

What's the difference between an aggressive dog and a protective dog? ›

While protective dogs get the measure of possible threats present in certain situations, aggressive dogs will consider everything as a threat. Aggressive dogs do not have any monitoring or reasoning behaviors and can go full-on aggressive mode immediately that may eventually lead to violence.

How traumatic is it for a dog to change owners? ›

Changing owners can be so traumatic for dogs, says the American Kennel Club, that they can stop eating, lose weight, lose interest in physical activity, and exhibit symptoms of canine depression. That's why any decision to re-home dogs must be taken seriously.

What's the 90 10 rule for dogs? ›

When it comes to where dog's get their daily calories, we recommend following the 90/10 rule: 90% of calories from a complete and balanced diet, 10% from treats! Treats can be considered the splurge, but more often, the actual act of giving a treat means more to the dog than the actual treat itself.

What is the rule of 7 for dogs? ›

Adapting from the earlier work, the rule of 7 by Pat Schaap, a professional dog trainer who maintained that by the age of 7 weeks, a puppy should be exposed to 7 different surfaces, played with 7 different toys, been to 7 different locations and met 7 different people.

Will dogs cuddle the Alpha? ›

Do dogs snuggle with the Alpha? While some dogs prefer choosing an Alpha to sleep with for their own security, there are those that go the other way. They know that the toddler needs more protection from harm than the adult and will sleep next to them to step into the role.

Do dogs lick Alphas? ›

Dogs Show Their Respect

Since dogs got used to licking the alpha of the pack or the more dominant pack members to show their respect towards them, licking as a sign of respect and appreciation can be noticed nowadays as well.

What is pack mentality in dogs? ›

Dogs as pack animals will often seek to dominate others in their pack or family (acquire more status and authority) if they feel they are able. A dog that seeks to dominate may use aggression as a means to elevate its perceived power and authority, or to make others respect its wishes and not challenge it.

Should you look a dog in the eye? ›

Staring Can Make a Dog Feel Challenged

For a dog, a stranger staring at them might be seen as a challenge, threat, or something to make them uneasy. They may even fear you could be trying to take a resource, such as a toy or chew, away from them. That's why it's best to act calm around new dogs.

When should I alpha roll my dog? ›

In the book, guardians were told to do the alpha roll the minute you bring your puppy into your home. Whenever your pup does something you don't like, enforce the alpha roll, every time. You need to be the boss and dominate your dog until she submits because that's what dogs do to each other.

How do I tell my dog I am the boss? ›

Then use the “sit” command to remind your dog that you're the boss. Have him sit while you walk through the door first, while you prepare his food, before you give a treat, when guests arrive at the door, or when he tries to jump on you.

How do I show my dog I am Alpha? ›

It's not about competition, it's about being a good leader for your pack.
  1. Teach Your Dogs to Wait Patiently. ...
  2. Make the Most of Your Time Together. ...
  3. Practice Commands Regularly. ...
  4. Don't Give In to Begging. ...
  5. Never Directly Challenge Your Dog. ...
  6. Be Consistent With Commands.
Sep 30, 2022

Should I stare at my dog to assert dominance? ›

Dog Eye Contact Dominance is a Myth

There's no such thing as dominance between dogs and humans. If someone mentions staring at a dog to show dominance, explain that this outdated dog myth was dispelled by the person who wrote it. Staring at a dog won't teach him you're dominant; he'll just think you're being rude.

When a dog puts his paw on you dominance? ›

While you may think this could be annoying at times, it's your dog's way of trying to communicate with you. If your dog puts his paw on you, it can be his way of saying I love you. We pet our dogs to show our love and affection. Turns out they do the same.

Can untrained dogs protect you? ›

Usually, an untrained dog will protect its owner.

However, it is purely dependent upon the presence of a natural protective instinct which is largely based on an individual dog's personality. Additionally, a dog's protective capacity may be influenced by its breed.

How do dogs choose their favorite person? ›

Dogs choose their favorite people based on positive interactions and socialization they have shared in the past. Like humans, dogs are especially impressionable as their brains develop, so puppies up to 6 months old are in their key socialization period.

What is guarding behavior in dogs? ›

Resource guarding occurs when dogs exhibit behaviors like growling, lunging, or biting over food or toys. This behavior is also known as “possessive aggression” and may occur in dogs of any breed. Training early and often can help discourage resource guarding before it becomes too problematic.


1. How to deal with a dog that gets possessive over the owner
(Roddy kirk Be Pack Leader)
2. Watch me battle a dominant Alaska Malamute
(Beckman's Dog Training)
3. How to Train Your Dog to Alert on Command.
(Nate Schoemer)
4. Dogs Tested to See Whether They’d Defend Owner During Home Invasion
(Inside Edition)
5. How to STOP “Food Aggression”/ Resource Guarding in Dogs- WITHOUT FORCE
(Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution)
6. 8 Things You Must Never Do to Your Chihuahua
(Animal Insider)


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