Fearful or Defensive Aggression in Dogs

Claiming her space.

It is one of our joys in the business of pet sitting to meet the many different personalities of your loved ones.  Sometimes they are shy, sometimes enthusiastic, and occasionally they need to be convinced we are a good thing.  Defending their territory is a characteristic in every dog’s personality, but sometimes it gets in the way of our employees fulfilling their duties in exercising your pet at agreed upon times.  Paula’s Pet Sitting takes several measures to ensure a friendly relationship with your pets, but occasionally even the standard practices need to be expanded if the first time we visit without you present your dog is less than happy.  

The first step, when you contact our services, is to schedule a Meet and Greet.  This includes a visit with the owners to discuss needs and services offered, as well as an introduction of the Pet Care Team to your furry friend.  In nearly all cases this meeting goes well, and the dog welcomes them with open paws.  In rare circumstances, however, the dog is (understandably) more interested in protecting their home than an offering of treats or walks when the owner is not present.  This is when the training and knowledge of Paula’s Pet Sitting comes into play.

Hiding from newcomers.

Our main goal in this case is to understand that the Pet Sitter is not a threat.  We do this in two ways.  First, we start visits during the times the owner is home in order to accustom the pet to the coming and going of people other than the owners.  To do this we ask the owner to stay in a room away from the front door so that the dog does not have the owner being associated with visitors.   When the owners are home the dog is not on high alert to protect their territory and so are already in a more relaxed state.  Similarly, if a problem arises the owners are nearby to calm down their pet.  Through several visits in these circumstances, we hope to reach the next level which is visiting when the owner is not home.  By this time the dog has graduated to solitary visits with no owners and are less alarmed by visitors not associated with the owner.  Through this step we have seen excellent results.  Our second step is to constantly provide positive reinforcement on future visits to prove that we are a good addition to their home and not to be feared. We accomplish this through treats, positive body language, and play with toys.”

A recent example of just this situation recently happened.  A young couple rescued a young adult Weimaraner dog and then moved across country to the Midland area.  When the Mom and Dad both started working full time jobs, the dog was understandably confused and defensive when the Pet Care team moved into his territory.  Happily, the pet owners are willing to go the extra mile to help their new pet acclimate and we are happy to do it!  The visits are going much better and the dog is cautiously accepting his Pet Care providers into his pack – just as we had hoped!

If you have a dog which is showing territorial behavior to invited visitors or service personnel, consider  undertaking the following steps.  Early socialization with a wide variety of situations and people in the dog’s early years is often key.  You can find these experiences through your local dog park, puppy classes, or licensed pet kennel.  Sometimes, though, even with early socialization the dog can show territorial behavior despite efforts of the owner.  In some cases your pet may be a rescued pet and has additional fears to overcome.  In this case it is important to associate all visitors with positive memories.  This can be anywhere from having a treat basket near the front door for visitors to give the dog treats from to desensitization from repeated exposure to visitors.  There are many options open to you to help you with an overly helpful guard dog, please speak with your local dog trainer or pet sitter for tips on how to help.


Blog author Lauren Pescarus is an admitted Cat Person who admires all pets from afar.  She lives at home in Romania with her husband, and loves to buy things for the pets she will soon convince her lucky spouse to bring home.   For more information about Lauren’s writing services, follow this LINK.

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