Protection Dogs: a problem not a virtue

Michael Peer, Professional Dog Trainer, Glen Echo, Md: Posted on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 10:24 PM

I often visit homes and encounter a dog whose behavior can be aggressive right at the front door. Most times this can be attributed to an overzealous owner who has actually helped shaped this behavior. if someone comes to your door and you immediately grab hold of its collar telling Spot to back-up and are nervous, then you might as well be telling your dog to "watch him!". Our nervousness and restraint sends dogs the wrong message. This especially holds true for dogs that have pampered their canines. See, when owners cater to their dog's every need like a human baby, the dog becomes enamored with the owner. The owner becomes a special resource, due to the heavy amount of attention given, and many dogs will protect this very human. I'm not saying our dogs shouldn't protect us and many owners worry about this. Strong leadership teaches dogs to listen to us and adhere to our wishes. Recognizing leadership our dogs will naturally protect us if something went awry and out of character from the everyday human interaction they observe. Too much unearned attention doesn't allow dogs to learn to feel confident and relaxed. When you and I make a big deal of a visitor coming in, our dogs may respond in an aggressive or heightened sense of alert. Proper leadership directed in a calm, decisive manner tells the dog "I'm in charge and I'll let you know if I need you; otherwise, chill. Among others, an often seen problem is when dogs "guard" their adult owner from a family member. They may growl to ward the "other attention seeker"(child or spouse) from the protected resource (parent/spouse). if the warning is not effective in the dog's view, this may lead to a lunge or worse. The picture is clear, too much attention constantly given to a dog that is not utilized as a reward for performing good behavior is a bad practice. We all know that practice makes perfect, but under these circumstances, it's a recipe for disaster.