Helping a Dog Get Learn to Stop Being Possessive of His Owner Around Children

OusOus is a six-year-old Australian Shepherd mix who has become possessive of one of his owners when her young nieces come to visit.

When I arrived for the session, Ous met me at the door and showed a normal level of curiosity. He seemed confident and while he was excited, it was not excessive. As I introduced myself to his owners I kept an eye on him for any signs of stress or aggression. Ous showed none of the above while we chatted in the entryway.

I have found that many possessive and aggressive behaviors are result of the dog perceiving himself to be equal or superior in authority to his owners. Sometimes this occurs when a dog’s owners do not incorporate clear rules, boundaries and structure into the dogs life. Not every dog needs this type of structure, but when a dog shows signs of stress or aggression, adding structure is a good place to start.

Ous’ owner’s recently relocated which can be a stressful and confusing time for an older dog. Adding to the issue, Ous had little to no experience around young children prior to moving to his current home. Its not uncommon for dogs that lack exposure to young children to have difficulty interacting with them. As any parent knows, children can be loud, active and unpredictable.

I started out by suggesting a few basic rules to help ensure that Ous sees himself in a more subordinate position to the humans in the home. Making a dog sit before going through an open door, not allowing it on the furniture or requiring it to follow a command before getting attention or affection are simple easy to enforce rules that help define the authority roles in the home.

I also went over a few basic communication methods for commands and corrections. Dog communication is a very subtle thing that many humans do not notice. By teaching his owners the basics, they will be able to get better response from their dog. This will also help them learn how to read his body language and other methods of communication.

Next we practiced a leadership exercise to introduce the concept of rules and self-restraint to Ous. At first he ignored me and tried to get the motivational treat himself so I blocked him and kept at it. A few minutes later Ous had mastered the exercise so I walked his owners through it and suggested that they practice it daily for the next week or two to really cement the lessons to their dog.

As one of their owner’s nieces lives down the street, I went over a plan to gradually expose Ous to the young ones in a slower, more deliberate process. Some of the highlights included some safeguards, warnings to watch out for and having the children come over one at a time so that the dog doesn’t feel overwhelmed.

By assuming the leadership role, enforcing structural rules and boundaries and communicating in a way he understands, Ous’s owners will change the dog’s perception of his authority. Once this change has taken place, they will be able to start gradually introducing the children in a paced and structured format that allows the dog to become used to their presence. With time, Ous will not only tolerate them, he will look forward to their visits and attention.

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