It’s not something that a lot of dog-owners consider a major problem. If anything, more people are concerned that a stoic pooch might not love them as much as they would like. But the opposite extreme can be just as much a problem. A dog that’s overly attached to its owner can develop dangerous behaviors as a response. They can become territorially aggressive over their owners, or they can even develop separation anxiety. Both will play a role in making them harder to command and to take control of a situation, which is especially unhelpful if you’re training them to be a useful partner, not just a pet. So, what do you do about it?
Assert some discipline
One of the reasons that a dog’s affection of you might get out-of-bounds is that they may not necessarily see you as their pack leader. Rather, they may very well consider you lower in the chain of command than them and, in response, will treat you more like a member of their pack or a possession. They think that you are theirs and act accordingly. Alongside signs of territorial aggression, this will often show as overt disobedience. Make sure that training is complete and ongoing with them and that you can tell the difference between them being disobedient or just reacting with excitement to certain stimuli.
If they are well trained and listen to your commands, then it’s about finding the stimuli that set them off. For many dogs, those stimuli may be strangers and other dogs. If they’re too protective of their own, they might react to these situations with a high-tension response, which can make them difficult to keep control of. All dogs can be socialized. Even when they’re full adults, it’s not too late for them to learn new behavior patterns, though it’s certainly easier when they’re younger. Take them on walks and introduce them to other dogs. Many fear a negative response from their dog and will pull on their leash or shout if they worry about them becoming too excitable or aggressive. This often has the opposite effect, however. Be calm, in control of the situation, and touch your dog to reassure them they’re okay. Just be sure to use a muzzle if your dog has growled or barked at other dogs in the past. Remove the risk from the situation.
Greetings and farewells
You may very well be the stimuli, yourself. There are two big emotional high points that a lot of owners have trouble with. That’s saying goodbye and saying farewell to your dog. Pet your dog, and say your greetings or your farewells, but don’t let it escalate. Acting overly excitable creates a rush for them that keeps them in a high-tension state. It might be all fun and games when you’re there, but it translates into separation anxiety when you’re not there, as Psychology Today states.
Calming on cue
It might seem like it’s too good to be true, but you can command your dog to be calm. Alongside “heel”, the “settle” command is one of the most useful tools a dog owner can use. Start by using the command indoors on their leash, when their attention is already on you. When they successfully come to a stop, give them a treat. As time goes on, give them distractions to deal with and, eventually, start the training outside. Before too long, you will have them able to “settle” without any treats at all.
Spread the love
Getting them used to other people is just as important, too. Having more than one authority figure in a dog’s life is an important way of ensuring they know that even that they’re beneath you in the hierarchy, that doesn’t mean that they’re above all other humans. Using a dog walking service can be a great way to teach that. However, this is only true if you’re using a real professional. Whistle has a list of great questions to sort out the people who are truly equipped to handling and showing authority to a stranger’s dog, and not just someone making money off a hobby. In particular, make sure you ask how they might handle any behavioral issues that might come up. If they have no examples of how they’ve dealt with a dog that’s territorial or disobedient, they might not be the right person for this lesson.
Make sure they’re well cared for when you’re not around
Being cared for and treated well when you’re not the one with them is just as important as making sure they can act disciplined with other humans as well. Boarding a dog with separation anxiety or territorial behavior is a big step, but if you do, then places like Fon Jon Pet Care are usually the right solution. Make sure that any dog boarding services you use have experience with training dogs and know that if your dog isn’t yet fit to be socialized that they shouldn’t be.
Much like with greetings and goodbyes, you should endeavor to keep a closer eye on your own behavior with the dog. Owners might very well often say that they have a deep emotional connection to their dog, and that’s not untrue. Dogs react off the energy of their own. If you approach a situation with a calm and a sense of control, your dog will feel safer in that situation. If you react to every display of anxiety or aggression in them with an escalation, they will continue to do the same. That’s because they’re reading your cues and believing there really is something to be so tense about. Obsessive affection can spread much the same way. Dogs learn from their owners, so make sure you’re a good teacher.
You don’t have to be entirely strict and unemotional with your dog. They need emotional fulfillment just as much as humans do and work better to their task when they have it. Just be cautious of the signs that they’re getting too territorial when you’re there or anxious when you’re not.