Dogs are territorial and will aggressively protect their home against intruders. This behaviour is seen frequently among dogs that live in packs that defend their territory from other packs. These types of territorial behaviours include barking, growling, snarling, and biting.
At the same time, dogs that act this way are not inherently aggressive towards other dogs. They may feel threatened by an unfamiliar dog or individual who invades a personal space too quickly. Some breeds have more intense territorial instincts than others, such as the Rottweiler, German Shepard and Doberman Pinscher breed. They will feel the need to defend their territory more intensely which typically includes barking when someone is near or chasing someone who is running away and biting them if they continue to approach towards their territory.
What causes Territorial Behaviour
Having an idea of what causes aggressive territorial behaviour in dogs will help you manage it. For example, if your dog lives with the rest of his family acts territorial and aggressive when they are outside only when someone approaches the fence or gate. This is caused by wanting to protect his family from potential dangers. Most dogs are socialized enough when they are young that they will learn to control their growling and barking at strangers, but some breeds like German Shepherds simply don’t know how to do this without proper and ongoing training. Their territorial instincts can be overwhelming, and they may feel like they are doing the right thing by protecting their territory from intruders.
How to Teach your Dog to Minimize Territorial Behaviour
The first step is helping your dog learn how to control territorial tendencies while you are training him. You will need to learn how your dog becomes territorial in particular situations, and then help him relax in these situations so that other people or dogs do not feel threatened by his behaviour. The secret to doing this is giving your dog something else to do when he feels the urge to become territorial.
Sometimes, a simple walk around the block usually does the trick to calms your dog down. At other times, you will need to distract him using a toy or treat. This is particularly true of dogs who are territorial towards other dogs but that don’t feel threatened by people.
Look for Early Warning Signs
Any dog can get territorial if he feels like his territory is being threatened, but some breeds are more prone to this than others. For example, German Shepherds and Border Collies are known for getting territorial when they hear noises approaching or close to their own territory. Other more aggressive breeds will become territorial when they see or smell other dogs.
In order to reduce territorial behaviour in dogs, you need to know what will make your dog get territorial. This may take a little work on your part, but there are steps you can take to determine which situations set off your dog’s instinctive territorial behaviour.
Use Positive Reinforcement When Your Dog is Calm
Once you know what triggers territorial behaviour, you can manage it. Walking your dog or playing with a toy is a good way to get his mind off of things and make him feel more relaxed. It’s a good idea to take your dog on long walks if he feels territorial in certain environments; like on the other side of the gate.
For example, if he starts barking when he sees another dog on the other side of a fence, you could walk him for at least 15-20 minutes before letting him back inside. This will make him get used to the surroundings and give him the chance to stop barking at the other dog.
Use Positive Reinforcement When Your Dog is Territorial
The next step is training your dog how to properly manage his behaviour when he feels territorial. This will mean that you will need to train your dog how to respond when he feels the need to growl or snarl. If he knows what he is supposed to do, then he won’t have a reason to act territorial in certain situations.
To begin, you should first teach your dog some basic commands such as “sit”. It’s important that he knows that this is the command for when he should stop whatever he is doing and interact with you instead. If your dog already knows how to sit, then you can skip ahead to the next step, which would be applying the collar.
Get Your Dog Used to the Collar
The next step is getting your dog used to wearing a collar if he isn’t already. This will make it easier for you to connect him with his territorial instincts so that you can start training him properly. If your dog doesn’t know how to wear a collar properly, this can take a few days. Make sure you stay calm and don’t get frustrated if he acts upset when you put the collar on him.
It is very natural if you see some resistance from your dog as they attempt to shake it off or bite it. This is normal behaviour and will pass in time, but if you are worried about hurting your dog while you are training him, then you can try one of these safe choke collars instead: Safe Choke-Free Collars for Pets.
Determine What Triggers Territorial Behaviour
The final step is determining what triggers territorial behaviour in your dog. The first step is to make a list of everything that you know triggers territorial behaviour.
Think of times when your dog has been territorial and try to think of what caused him to behave that way. For example, if he growled at your neighbour’s dog while it was on the other side of the gate, then you could ask your neighbour’s permission to let your dog out during training sessions so he can work through his territorial behaviour.
Once you have a list of triggers, you can then go about making them less stressful for your dog. Another reason could be, if walking by another dog makes him bark or growl, then take him for a walk when it isn’t busy outside and don’t walk past too many dogs or people.
Once you have worked through your list of triggers through trial and error, it will become easier for you to plan to let your dog work through his territorial behaviour in an environment that is conducive to training. This means you’ll have to practice handling your dog when you are out in public so that he learns not to get territorial over other dogs.
Stop Treats and Praise Worst Possible Situation
Once you’ve worked through your triggers with your dog, it’s time to stop giving him treats or praising him for the worst possible situation. This means he won’t have a reason to react to the people and dogs that walk by his territory because he won’t get any more rewards for it.
Work Off Excess Energy
The last thing you need to do is make sure that your dog has an appropriate way to expend his energy. Always make sure he gets at enough exercise, (exercise differs per dog breed) before leaving your home, or you risk him being territorial for the entire walk.
If your dog is territorial because he doesn’t have enough energy, then look for things that will be more difficult for him to guard. For example, if he is territorial over people walking by his territory, ask a friend to walk with you and work on some of the common training tips that we’ve talked about earlier in this article.
No matter what the cause of your dog’s territorial behaviour is, it will always have a negative impact on how your dog interacts with other people and dogs. You should also understand that this isn’t something that you can work on in a single day, because it takes time for dogs to learn new behaviours and unlearn old ones.
If you are dedicated to changing your dog’s actions, then I’m confident that you’ll be able work through the issues with your dog and bring together a closer relationship.