The mail carrier approaches your house, and your dog is at the window barking. Your dog may also constantly patrol your yard, ready to bark at anyone who walks by. Territorial behavior like this can be stressful for you, your dog, and anyone trying to approach your home. While your dog alerting you to a potential threat can be helpful, territorialism can quickly become dangerous. So, how do you tell the difference between normal behavior and being territorial, and what can you do?
Why is my dog territorial?
Aggressive behavior in dogs can be driven by a variety of causes, including fear and protectiveness. These are often labeled as territorialism when they occur at home. Understanding why your dog is stressed and appears territorial helps you address the root causes of their aggressive behavior.
Many dogs who show territorial responses are often fearful and simply want the perceived intruder to leave. Fear-based aggression occurs when a dog feels they cannot escape a threat and experiences heightened stress. This is often the case when a stranger or unfamiliar animal invades a dog’s territory. With this, fear often plays a significant role in behavior labeled as territorialism.
The Veterinary Centers of America note that fear is perhaps the most common cause of aggression in dogs. It is common for shelter dogs to show signs of territorial behavior, as these dogs have likely developed fear of unknown and perceived threats to their space and safety.
Dogs are instinctively protective of their family and home. Most forms of territorial aggression occur at home when a dog feels their space is invaded, according to VCA Animal Hospitals.
While all dogs can develop territorial behaviors, some breeds have been traditionally bred to herd animals or guard people, places, or resources. For example, Trupanion notes that Akitas and Doberman Pinschers were bred as guard dogs and can be prone to territorial behavior.