We hear the words, “My dog is protective of me and I think that is why he/she is aggressive.” Or some variation of this, a lot at Off Leash K9. Here is what most people simply don’t understand… most of these dogs aren’t actually aggressive. They are worried! That’s right… worried.
Many fearful or insecure dogs act just like this… growling, posturing, barking when people come near their “person”… however, their body language will actually tell a different story. Often times, their weight is shifted over their hind quarters and they rarely position themselves between the new person and their owner. They lack confidence and make up for it with “the best defense is a good offense” approach. Many wonder: “Why does my dog only show this behavior when they are with me?” It’s really quite simple: they only feel confident or “brave” enough to show how they feel when they have “backup”. Simply stated, we all feel a little braver when our buddies are nearby. It is no different for dogs. They are a social being and most social beings (humans and dogs included) tend to act more aggressively if they are part of a group they believe will back them up.
Now, this is not to say that this behavior could not yield a bite because it absolutely could! It is both dangerous and unfair to allow your dog to act in such a way under a misguided notion that he/she is “protecting” you. It is dangerous to other people or dogs who could easily become victims to your dog’s insecurity if he/she ever feels pushed far enough to bite. This is a bad situation, all the way around.
The best “protection” dogs in the world are well socialized, confident and self-assured. You will never see a true protection dog who lacks confidence. A dog needs lots and lots of positive social experiences, appropriate training and a high confidence level before he can pick out a truly threatening person from someone who is just “different” than what he/she is used to. To a dog who lacks confidence, everyone is viewed as a potential threat because each new person is equally terrifying.
So, if your dog is growling and barking at people he/she does not know and does not feel comfortable with, it’s more than likely, NOT because they are protecting you… he/she is telling you they need your help! How do you help? The largest remedy is knowing how to build confidence in a healthy manner while showing your dog a more optimistic view of the world. The second part is gaining the trust of your dog and protecting him/her from the things he/she feels insecure about. You can seek out a reputable trainer in your area to help you with these things in order to build a more successful relationship with your dog while helping your dog handle the world in a healthier manner.