There is no question that some dog breeds are born with a propensity to stand their ground. Many dogs protect their homes and families with a fierce devotion. While some people confuse these actions with aggression; in many cases, this is not at all the truth. Some dog breeds were purposefully bred with protection instincts that remain a vital part of their emotional makeup today. Are there some dog breeds that are naturally territorial and which ones are they?
What is Territorialism?
Territorialism, also referred to as territorial aggression, takes place when a dog becomes overstimulated by the presence of a person or an animal encroaching on its fenced yard or home. Though territorialism can happen with any breed, there are some dogs that more readily display this tendency on a continuous basis.
Some dogs inherently guard things they consider to be valuable. This practice is known as resource guarding. Some of the most common items dogs may guard are as follows:
- Favorite family members, visitors, and friends
- Dog beds
When a seemingly dog social dog attacks another canine family member in its home, this is most often the reason why: the dog or cat was approaching the valued resource, and the dog felt threatened and responded accordingly. Dogs that are territorial will often include their fenced yard and property as areas that require their protection.
What are Some Signs of Territorialism in Dogs?
There are several different signs that indicate a dog is territorial in nature. These include:
- Persistent barking at the presence of an unfamiliar person or an animal
- Racing along fence or property lines
- Lunging at people or animals through windows or fences
- Bite attempts (in rare cases)
- Raised hackles
- Baring of teeth
- Tail tucked
- Rigid, vibrating, straight tail
- Urine/scent marking
Some experts dislike the use of the term “territorial aggression.” They feel the phrase is inaccurate since often the territorial behavior is not always about protection by means of aggressive tendencies. Though some dogs do feel a need to keep what they perceive as an intruder away from those they love most, some dogs engage in this type of behavior to protect themselves from potential harm. In addition to this, persistent barking may not be an attempt to lure someone away from the home but is instead simply a response to being over aroused or stressed.
Why are Some Dogs Territorial?
As much as we dislike it, the penchant towards territorialism is quite normal in dogs. Dogs learn from an early age to bark when a stranger enters the home; whether a family friend or an unfamiliar person. Anything that separates a dog from interacting freely with a stranger or an animal approaching their property also becomes the target of repeated, and often menacing sounding, barking. Some of the items that elicit a torrent of territorial barking in dogs are:
- Baby gates
When dogs engage in persistent barking, it can be almost impossible to get them to stop. If this behavior is allowed to continue, it will cause a spike in the dog’s stress levels which can trigger an aggressive reaction if the dog is provoked. To prevent this from occurring, owners must take any signs of territorial behavior very seriously and enlist the help of a professional dog trainer to help curb these actions in their dogs.
Though many people believe that territorial dogs are aggressive; most often, these dogs are not brave; they are very insecure. By trying to control and protect his environment, the dog is able to feel safe.
What are Some of the Most Territorial Dog Breeds?
It would be impossible to compile a completely exhaustive list of territorial dog breeds as this trait can be present in any dog; purebred, mixed breed, or hybrid. However, there are some dog breeds in which this penchant has been consistently observed. These include the following:
- Doberman Pinscher
The elegant Doberman Pinscher’s regal, imposing appearance strikes fear in the heart of some who behold this breed’s power and beauty. A working breed, the Doberman Pinscher is naturally territorial and has garnered a reputation for aggressive behavior though this is not the norm.
The Doberman Pinscher, affectionately referred to as a “Dobe” by aficionados of the breed, is highly trainable and is motivated to please those it loves most. The breed excels at guardian work and can be taught to protect its home, hearth, and family members with relative ease. The Doberman is agile and quick, making this dog breed an excellent choice for families hoping to keep intruders at bay.
Though the Rottweiler is a powerful breed with impressive brawn to its credit, this dog is naturally gentle, affectionate, and very sweet. However, this dog type’s musculature, awe-inspiring looks, and courageous heart makes him well suited to work as a protector and guardian. The Rottweiler will not back down when a threat is perceived. A dog that instinctively protects its home and hearth, territorialism comes to this breed naturally.
However, don’t be fooled. When not at work to keep intruders away, the Rottweiler spends a lot of time cuddling with his favorite people and catching up on his sleep.
The Bullmastiff’s original purpose was to serve as a guardian of its owners’ estate. As a secondary role, these dogs also kept busy protecting their owners from potential harm.
A member of the Molosser family, the ideal Bullmastiff is quiet by nature and remains alert at all times. Both full of courage and lacking in fear, the Bullmastiff will not back down from a threat.
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
A dog breed that originated in South Africa, the Rhodesian Ridgeback accompanied its owners on hunts for lions and other large game predators. Their main role was to keep these hardy animals away from their families and their livestock. The Rhodesian Ridgeback can sense predators even at a great distance and will alert their owners to their presence. They also take immense pride in regularly roaming their property on the lookout for intruders.
- German Shepherd
Highly intelligent, athletic, and versatile, the German Shepherd is exceptionally trainable and can fulfill a wide number of different jobs. Intended to function as herding dogs, the German Shepherd is also a skilled police dog and excels in its role as a guardian of its people and their property.
German Shepherds are not only innately territorial, they are also a breed with a strong desire to keep track of its people. This dog type must know where each of its loved ones is in order to feel at peace.
- Giant Schnauzer
Another dog breed hailing from Germany is the beloved Giant Schnauzer. This dog type has been in use as a livestock guardian and protection dog since the 18th century. The breed will eagerly patrol its property, ensuring it is free from intruders and pests. They are on their guard at all times, remaining alert, watchful, and ready to spring into action.
Help! My Dog is Territorial! What Can I Do?
If a dog is displaying territorial tendencies, it’s important to address the problem as quickly as possible. When allowed to continue, these behaviors can become a danger. It is best to enlist the help of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist to successfully deal with this issue.
Here are some of the steps that will help a territorial dog to change its behavior:
· Desensitization using positive reinforcement techniques
Desensitization to known triggers is a highly effective strategy to reduce and even eliminate territorial behavior in dogs. However, it is not for the faint of heart and is not a quick fix for this problem.
To desensitize a dog to people or animals approaching his space, you will need to be prepared to have people come close to your fence or property while rewarding your dog for remaining calm and non-reactive to their presence. At first, you will need to assess your dog’s threshold level. Only allow the person to come as close as your dog will permit without eliciting a reaction. If the person crosses that boundary, you will need to take a step back. Progress can easily be made in this fashion, but you need to be aware that this is a lengthy process that requires consistent practice and a lot of patience.
· Practice impulse control
Teaching your dog to redirect undesirable impulses to something positive is an excellent tool for dealing with reactive behavior like territorialism. The best way to do this is to teach your dog better coping strategies; things that are more socially acceptable and productive for him. Teaching your dog to relax in the face of a trigger can seem like a challenging task, but with the help of a professional trainer, it is an invaluable skill that will help your dog better deal with his daily stresses.
· Build a bond with your dog
When you become the most interesting thing in your dog’s life, you will be able to help him most in times of fear and stress. Teach your dog to “check in” with you when feeling unsure. This simple action creates an important bond that allows your dog to look to you for direction when feeling confused, overstimulated, stressed, or afraid.
The most effective means to help your dog learn a better way to deal with territorialism is to make use of redirection. For example, when your dog is tempted to bark at a stranger out for a walk out front of your home, call your dog to you then scatter a handful of treats in the grass for your dog to find. Through the use of games, distraction, and redirection, your dog will quickly learn that whatever you happen to have up your sleeve is a lot more interesting than the neighbor’s cat walking the top of the fenceline.
· Do not permit your dog to run along fencelines or boundaries
Behaviors you allow your dog to engage in will be repeated and reinforced, making it more difficult to change them down the road. Running along fencelines and boundaries promotes over arousal, the state in which a dog expresses its strongest territorial tendencies. This should be strongly discouraged.
Are some dogs naturally territorial? Yes, some are, but since dogs are highly individual, any breed can be affected by these tendencies. Follow our top tips to help your pooch reduce his stress level and better enjoy his time in the great outdoors.