Dogs are, perhaps, the most loving and loyal animals to keep as pet. They respond wonderfully to love and care of the owners. Their constant companionship and almost human like dependency are the main reasons why one must have dogs as pets. Hence it is not without reason that a dog is called man’s best friend. But you have to train him to be your best friend as an untrained pup can be an annoying creature for you.
Despite being the most beloved and widely kept pet, dogs descend from the most aggressive and predatory species. The trend of keeping dogs as pets has somewhat domesticated them, but the natural instincts still remain. Although with proper training and a systematic approach, most behavioral problems can be dealt with easily. But sometimes instincts may take over and different issues may manifest. To deal with such situations, you have to have a knowledge about the various breeds, their behavioral patterns, levels of aggression, etc. One such aggressive behavior exhibited by dogs is possessive aggression. Possessive aggression encompasses food, toys and sometimes even the owner himself. Recognizing this possession is healthy to some extent, but it may become dangerous after a certain level.
Understanding Possessive Aggression
So what exactly is possessive aggression? Possessive aggression, also known as resource guarding, is a behavior that dogs exhibit when they safe guard to what they consider theirs. Dogs have wild ancestors, which meant that they fought and competed for all kinds of resources. These included food, water, living space as well as potential mates. Dogs, despite being mostly tamed now, still exhibit this behavior. It is tolerable up to a certain limit, but can become undesirable when such behavior becomes aggressive and harmful to others.
Usually when a dog thinks that something is valuable to him, he often attempts to run away with it. Excessive barking and growling if another person or animal approaches his possession, is a common sign of possessive aggression. This may become especially harmful to people, such as children who may attempt to play with the dog. Food guarding is not as aggressive and dangerous.
Recognizing Symptoms of Possessive Aggression
Although growling or excessive barking may be seen as the most common sign of possessive aggression, there are also various other signs that may show that your dog is exhibiting possessive aggression. Baring the canines or lifting the upper lips to display the teeth, is the dog’s way of showing aggression as well. He wants to tell the approaching person that he is capable of hurting. Similarly, snapping at the person who comes to take away food or toys or jumping at him is also a sign of possessive aggression. Some dogs have been even reported for biting which can be really harmful for the others, be it a person or an animal.
Many a times a dog may become so possessive towards the space he considers his own or at times he may show the same domineering behavior for the owner as well. He may attack and become frenzied when any guest arrives. This can be a very difficult situation as it may make the arrival of any guest or lesser known person very problematic. Such behavior from a dog can severely limit socializing of the owner with other people, since it makes arrival of guests and interaction with them unpleasant and uncomfortable.
Finding Out the Various Underlying Causes
Dogs get accustomed to display possessive aggression because they may have done it in the past and gotten away with it. This encourages the possessive streak in them and they start behaving more and more aggressively. This may happen due to lack of self-control. Also you need to train your dog with a firm hand to avoid such behavioral problems. Then again, just like any other living thing, dogs are unpredictable. What may seem as possessive aggression but may not necessarily be. Before anything else, you must take your dog to a vet whenever it exhibits any unusual behavior to make sure that there aren’t any obscure health problems.
Besides the health problems, there are several other problems which may also be present, one such major reason is lack of social activity at a young age. The dog’s life starts revolving around his place, his food and his owner. Therefore, he has not understood the meaning of sharing or tolerance at all. Another reason maybe that sexual frustration has reached at the age of maturity. Similarly such behavior also arises when the dog cannot let go of his pack behavior. Whatever the reason is, it has to be thoroughly understood and investigated before trying to solve it.
Overcoming Possessive Aggression
Before you try to solve the problem of possessive aggression, it is very important to remember that punishment or coercion is not going to work at all, especially if the dog is mature. First of all such aggressive behavior is deeply ingrained in the dog. You cannot expect a dog to completely let go his natural behavior. You have to begin a proper training at a young age. Teach him to tolerate other people around the house and around you as well as near to his belongings. You must make your dog socialize so that he should not harm others as he matures.
Another important thing is that you have to take action once the dog shows such behavior. Train it to listen to your command and change the mode of training. You must become sterner and a bit harsher at times. Stop interacting with your dog as a punishment if he misbehaves and make him feel that he has done something wrong. Delay dinner times, so he realizes that he is being punished. Change its place of resting if possible and keep rotating it to keep the dog from becoming possessive about a certain place. And remember that all this is effective only when done at an early stage.