How to Handle a Territorial Dog

Dogs are territorial in nature, which is a good trait in the wild because the resources found in that territory are crucial to the dog’s survival. In the home the trait is important because the dogs guard our homes and alert us when an intruder is in the vicinity. However, excessively territorial dogs can pose a danger to other people as well as to the family members.

The territorial dog might get in the habit of barking at passers-by on the sidewalk or at neighbors across the fence. In extreme cases, the dog can become aggressive to the point of wanting to bite anyone who comes near what he considers his territory or his items.

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Before trying to get a solution for your dog’s territorial behavior, first try and find out why he is acting as he does. Some dog breeds such as German Shepherds are more territorial than others because they are bred as guard dogs. The problem might also be that the dog was never properly socialized as a puppy, and he therefore does not adopt easily to new situations. Some dogs are also territorial due to medical reasons. He might be in pain and fears anyone approaching his space so that he doesn’t get hurt.

Rule out medical issues first by consulting with your vet. If the dog lacks socialization, introduce him to new situations, people and surroundings. Do so gradually and with time he will be better able to accommodate human and canine strangers.

Basic training helps tame a territorial dog. If your dog is in the habit of refusing to share or drop a toy, train him with the “drop it” command. Offer a treat and give it to him when he puts the toy down. If he understands the “sit” and “stay” command, you can use it to make him stay in the same spot when he starts barking when the door is knocked as you go to open it. If he is in the habit of barking at strangers over the fence, teach him the recall command, so that he leaves the fence and comes to you. You can also use the “stop” command to make him stop barking.

Make it clear to your dog that he gets nothing for free. If he wants to go for a walk, make him sit before putting on his leash. Before he gets a treat he has to sit. Dogs get territorial when they think they are entitled to things, but when you make it clear you are in control, the dog will be less territorial and demanding. Make sure you stick to a routine on a daily basis, so the dog is assured of a meal or a walk at a certain time daily, so that he does not feel the need to horde things to sustain himself in future.

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In a household of more than one dog, provide toys for everyone so that they don’t feel the need to fight for the few available. Also, keep triggers to the minimum. If your dog barks at strangers for example, make sure you keep him indoors and away from the fence until he learns the basic commands you are trying to teach him. As he gets used to the training, let him out into the yard gradually to see if the commands are working.

Make sure you teach basic obedience on a daily basis so that the command become second nature. The refresher trainings won’t take as long as the initial ones, so five minute trainings should suffice.

How to Handle a Territorial Dog