Mickey: Territorial Aggression Case Study
Dogs and people get along great because we serve as perfect companions for one another. Often times, a person will adopt a dog so that they or their family have a companion animal in the home. Sometimes in addition to this, a dog will serve (or at least pose) as a guard dog, for unsuspecting strangers in the neighborhood.
Dogs are territorial animals by nature, and they will exhibit different signs of territorial behavior. The most common act is when a dog will eliminate, or “mark” a spot with their waste. Some dogs will even intentionally mark another dog’s elimination spot, as if in a way, they were laying claim to that area. Dogs may also demonstrate territorial behavior by barking at people they are unfamiliar with that are approaching the home. This is something that many people will want from their dogs, so that people are alerted of the dog’s presence inside the home.
While a dog’s territorial behavior is linked to their instinct, we must be careful so that our dogs do not take their territorial behavior to an inappropriate level. Your dog may be marking territory when other dogs pass by, or they may bark and snarl when a stranger passes by, but if the owner does not demonstrate solid leadership and boundaries, that territorial behavior could backfire on the dog and owner.
Last week, I finished the final lesson with a client I had been working with for months. The owner had a dog named Mickey who was showing territorial behavior to people and even the owner! What started as just mild territorial behavior, soon led up to territorial marking in the home, and even growling over certain parts of the home. The owner called me after Mickey snapped at her for going to her OWN bed! She knew this had gone too far and called me to find out how to stop this territorial aggression from escalating!
In Mickey’s case, he began showing typical territorial behavior. When his actions started bordering on inappropriate, his owner had no idea how to address it. She presumed that it was just a fluke, or that he would grow out of it. Little did she know that she was accidentally reinforcing Mickey’s bad behavior by doing nothing. Mickey crossed boundaries, saw that there were no consequences for doing so, and therefore, continued to push buttons and test his owner. When we started training Mickey, we had to remind him that he was not in charge, but that his owner was. This included working carefully with Mickey’s owners, and showing her how to be a consistent and effective pack leader for her dog. By implementing reward-based techniques, she was not only able to reset the boundaries and keep Mickey in line, but also show him how to succeed and continuously reward him for his better behaviors! The last lesson, Mickey was completely different and far more relaxed. His owner was comfortable with her dog and knew how to trust him again.
As a Kingwood dog trainer, it is not my job to take the instinct out of the dog, but to make sure that the owners remain the leader for their dog and always have control. A dog will bark – it’s part of being a dog. But when you need that dog to stop barking, or to stop being so territorial, you should be able to do it with a command, because YOU are the pack leader, not your dog.
If you need help getting your dog’s territorial behavior under control, call 800-649-7297 and we’ll talk about a training plan for you and your dog!