Overly Protective Dog!

by Tisha

My dog is 8 months old Rottie/Shepherd. He has a behavorial problem of growling at strangers that come near me or try and pet him.

I've taken him to a local dog park to play with the dogs there. On one occasion, when an elderly lady came up to me to talk about my dog, he tried to jump at her while he was growling.

When I walk him on the street and someone comes too close to me he starts growling and barking! I've tried telling him "No" and pulling him away from the stranger, as well as take him back home for time-out.

I come from a big family, and as such I have a lot of family members that don't come around very often. I'm worried that he might treat them the same as he does stangers on the street.

If you could please help me out with the steps that I should take to change my dog's behaviour, it would be much appreciated.

Thanks for participating in our online forum, Tisha!

The one thing that you have going for you is that your dog is only 8 months old - the bad habit is not concrete, yet. Aggression doesn't usually start to show itself in a dog until they reach 12 months or so.

My first recommendation is to book a couple private lessons with a good balanced trainer who can work with you in a hands-on manner to fix this problem. This is by far the best thing you can do for your dog!

A couple things that can trigger this type of behaviour - too much rough housing or play fighting (either as a young puppy or now), a stagnant social circle or your dog being undersocialized as a puppy (number one reason for aggression!), letting your dog be the dominant member of the house, or a history of abuse.

Dogs live for the moment, so both reward and correction have to be for the moment. Taking him home and putting him in time-out will do absolutely nothing to help the problem. By the time you've gotten home and put him in the crate, he has no idea what this is for.

The only way to fix this type of problem is by reward and correction. He needs to be given a leash and collar correction when he displays the inappropriate behaviour, and lavishly rewarded when he reacts the right way.

While training, if you are afraid of him biting someone (or yourself), the best thing to do is put a wire basket muzzle on him. This would only be for the time being until you are confident in handling him.

This problem can easily be solved, and any good balanced trainer should be able to help you. I would look for someone who can do private lessons with you, out on the sidewalk in a "real life" scenario.

Again, thanks for your question and good luck!

Shannon Pennings

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