When I was a kid, a friend of my parents had a Chihuahua that would snarl and try to bite us if we got too close to her owner or her toys. One time when we were visiting, the dog bit me because I had gotten too close to a toy she had hidden under a bush outside. Possessive behavior in dogs can easily turn into aggression if it’s not corrected.
A possessive dog is trying to control and dominate people and other pets in the home by claiming things like his toys, sleeping area, food bowl, and even his owner. He sees threats all around him and it makes him uncomfortable, so he reacts in an aggressive way. The possessive dog is always on high alert and refuses to give up what he thinks is his and won’t back down.
Possessive behavior says your dog believes you can’t and won’t protect him, so he has to do it himself. He’s confused, stressed out and insecure from always being on guard. Small dogs that display possessive behavior are often laughed at by their owners who think their dog’s aggression is cute, but it’s not. He’s a very stressed out and extremely unhappy little dog.
The best way to keep your dog from developing a possessive behavior is to establish yourself as his leader from day one. Your interactions with your dog tell him where he stands in your pack, and you need to be the one holding the top spot. You don’t become the leader by trying to dominate a dog, you prove yourself as a fair, compassionate and understanding leader, and earn it. Most behavior problems can be avoided when the dog is allowed to be just a dog while you make all of the decisions and show him you will protect all members of your pack, including him.
Food aggression and guarding the food bowl
You are the one who controls the food, not him. Food aggression is a serious behavior that needs to be dealt with immediately. Growling at you, the kids or other pets that come too close to his bowl is food aggression. Instead of putting your dog’s full bowl on the floor, have him sit in front of you and keep his food up away from him. Hand feed him his meals for three or four days.
It’s not always easy to determine if your dog is acting out because he’s trying to protect you or is a jealous or possessive dog. Sometimes it could be all three, but there is a difference between the behaviors. Just because a dog is jealous doesn’t necessarily mean he’s possessive or protective. Your job is to figure out what’s bothering him before you can address his behavior.
A possessive dog is trying to dominate and control. He may claim his toys, food bowl, sleeping area or owner as his own. Other dogs, cats and humans can be as risk from a dog that feels he has to protect his things. An adult or child that accidentally gets too close to a toy may be bitten. Two dogs may get into a fight over food if a possessive dog thinks the other dog is too close. He may even growl at you if you approach his food bowl, whether it’s empty or full. The possessive dog sees a threat, but unlike a protective dog doing his job, possessive behavior keeps a dog on high alert and he won’t back down, even though there’s no real threat.
When a dog showing possessive behavior growls, snaps, whines or attacks another pet or person, he’s telling you he feels insecure, confused, and has a lack of confidence. He’s always on guard and stressed out. And when people tease a stressed out, insecure dog, he uses aggression to protect himself because in his mind, his owner isn’t protecting him. He’s afraid someone or another dog will take something he cherishes. Aggression is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with immediately. Anytime your dog is showing aggression, have your vet check him out to make sure there’s no medical issue bothering him. You may need the help of an animal behaviorist to deal with a possessive dog’s aggression.
The jealous dog sees other people or pets as a rival for your attention and love. He tries to force himself in between you and someone else or another pet. He may challenge a spouse when they try to snuggle next to you on the couch or in bed. A jealous dog may attack another pet that gets too close to you. He’ll try to push another pet away so he can get your attention. He’s afraid of losing your love and attention.
Even the friendliest dog can demonstrate aggressive behavior at times. There’s a number of reasons why your dog can suddenly become aggressive towards you, another pet or a stranger. But what a dog considers to be normal behavior is certainly not acceptable to us. It’s important to remember that just because your dog is acting in an aggressive manner, it doesn’t mean he’s become aggressive. Before you can change your dog’s behavior or know if he even has a problem, you need to understand what caused the aggressive reaction in the first place.
Dogs are social animals and consider their people and other pets as members of the pack. It’s normal behavior for a dog to protect his family and he may, at times, show a protective aggressive behavior if he feels a threat from outside his family. It becomes a problem when the dog can’t distinguish between friend or foe. The dog guarding a new baby may be cute until no one is allowed to see the baby. It’s natural for a mother dog to protect her puppies, but not to the point where she refuses to let anyone close to them.
Possessive aggression is where the dog will protect whatever he considers important to him. It can be his food or even his empty bowl. A dog may feel he needs to protect toys, beds, treats and his owner. If he feels threatened, it will trigger aggressive behavior. Some dogs will even take their favorite things and stash them in hiding spots around their home. If another pet or human is unknowingly near one of his hiding spots, the dog can become aggressive if he thinks his “treasure” has been discovered. The dog protecting his human may lash out at anyone or other pets who get too close.
Dogs who are afraid will show fear aggression. Usually, this dog won’t attack someone or another animal unless they feel cornered or trapped. You can tell if a dog is fearful because they’ll try to not look at what’s causing their fear. Their tail is tucked between their legs and they may have a hunched back posture. Do not turn your back on a dog with fear aggression. There are different reasons why a dog is fearful and if one is showing fear, caution should be used because they can lash out in an aggressive attempt to get away from what’s scaring them. This kind of aggressive behavior can be sudden with no warning signs.
Territorial aggression is a bit like protective aggression. The dog feels a need to protect his home and yard from strangers or other animals who violate his space. Like the protective dog, this can be a problem when people come to visit or if other animals, wild or domestic, wander into the dog’s territory.
A dog who has been injured or is in pain for any reason can exhibit pain elicited aggression. Even the most loving, friendly dog can lash out at the person or animal who caused his pain. Many owners have been bitten while trying to treat a dog’s minor injury or while grooming a dog with painful hips or joints. Long haired dogs who need their coats combed to remove tangles can bite when a stuck tangle pulls too hard.
Predatory aggression is when the dog chases bikes, cars, people running down the street, the neighborhood cats, squirrels, rabbits or anything else he sees moving. When his prey drive is activated, the dog with a more aggressive behavior may act on his natural instinct to capture his prey and he may harm what he catches if it’s another animal. A dog showing predatory aggression is also apt to bite the person on the bike or the person jogging down the street.
Other types of aggressions include defensive aggression, social aggression, frustration elicited aggression, redirected aggression and sex related aggression.
A dog can show aggressive behavior at any time in their life. Any one of the above conditions can trigger a forceful response. Aggression can be reduced if you understand why they became that way in the first place. Any time your dog displays aggression towards you, another family member, other pets or outside people coming into your home or yard, it’s always best to speak with your vet, because medical conditions can spark an aggressive outburst. However, if there’s no medical reason for your dog’s behavior, your vet can recommend a qualified behaviorist who can help you and your dog deal with his aggression. There are different ways of dealing with different types of aggression, and some are more controversial than others. Always make sure you are comfortable with any recommendations given to you by a behaviorist.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.
Possessive behavior in dogs is actually quite common. We often see them guarding their favorite toy or sleeping spot, or making sure other pets in the house stay away from their feeding bowl or treat “cookie jar.” In a way, it’s hard to blame them for protecting what they believe belongs to them, and that includes their human. After all, we display the same tendencies toward other people. Being possessive of a toy or favorite resting area is one thing, but if your dog is jealous, that’s another ballgame that can quickly get out of control.
Jealousy in dogs is not cute, and we unknowingly encourage bad behavior each time the dog is allowed to display this emotion with no correction from us. Jealousy can occur when you bring in a new pet, start a new relationship, have a baby or when there is any other change in your life which takes your attention away from your dog. In his mind, he has stood by you through thick and thin, and given unconditional love— and now you are giving your attention to someone else. How rude.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.