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Possessive and Territorial Aggression in Dogs

Some dogs are dangerous to other dogs, and even to humans, while they are eating. In fact, dogs can be aggressive in guarding everything they consider their possessions, such as food, bowls, items they steal or find, and toys. They are also very territorial and will defend any area they consider to be under their domain (e.g., the home).

Is this aggression dangerous? Absolutely. However, this is normal behavior. Dogs are bred to protect, and at times it may be an issue of training and learned behavior. A secure fence is one solution but be aware that no fence is absolutely secure. In some dogs the behavior can be modified, but first you need to understand what the underlying cause is.

Symptoms

  • Growling
  • Lifting the upper lip
  • Aggressive Barking
  • Snapping
  • Lunging
  • Biting
  • Extreme reaction when someone approaches the dog’s space (e.g., backyard)
  • Doorbell may bring on a frenzy of aggression

Causes

There are times the dog develops the habit of defending food, objects, and territory by being aggressive because it has had successful results in the past. Other common causes include:

  • Underlying medical conditions
  • Poor socializing as a puppy
  • Sexual maturation
  • Inbreeding
  • Environment
  • Pack order behavior
  • Genetic (or normal to the particular dog or breed)

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian will first rule out any underlying diseases. If nothing is found to explain the behavior, they may refer you to an animal behaviorist who specializes in training dogs.

 
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