Tricks to Stop a Dog From Acting Territorially Aggressive in the Yard

By: David Codr

Published Date: March 24, 2017

Ryder (left) is a five-year-old Boxer / Lab mix who lives in Bellevue, Nebraska with Shenzi, a three-year-old Ridgeback mix. The dog’s guardians set up this dog behavior / obedience training session with me after Ryder recently started running through the electric fence.

Seeing the dog break the electronic fence boundary shook up the dog’s guardians so we arranged a rushed appointment to make sure there were no repeats of that or any territorial behavior.

I was anticipating some territorial or aggressive behavior from Ryder when I arrived for the session so I adopted very soft body language and had some high value treats in may hand to ensure a good greeting.

Ryder was fine during the greeting. While the treats I gave him helped, I doubt the greeting would have gone much differently even without the treats.

When I sat down with the dog’s guardian, I found that there were few rules in place. For many dogs, this lack of structure can mislead them into thinking they are in a leadership position. This in frequently an issue I find I am faced with as a dog behaviorist.

When a dog sees itself in a leadership position, they try to contribute to the good of the group. Based on what I learned in the session, Im pretty sure the incident with the boy was a result of the dog thinking it was doing its “job,” defending the yard.

I suggested a number of rules and boundaries and went over ways to enforce them that the dogs would immediately understand and respect. This will be easier for Shenzi who is more of a sensitive dog.

By consistently enforcing these new rules, adding structure to repeating every day tasks like petting, feeding, walking and talking to the dogs, the family can help Ryder transition into more of a follower’s mindset.

He will need to build up his respect for the humans as leaders through their actions with him. A big one of these will be taking over the security job Ryder had nominated himself for. We had one of the kids head outside to play the part of an arriving guest so I could show them how to teach the dogs to respect an invisible boundary several feet away form the door when guests knock.

It took a little practice when the family’s teenage daughter repeated the exercise, but with some practice (everyone in the family should be able to do this) they should be able to show Ryder that security is under control so he can go back to being a dog.

I made some suggestions to keep him from running past the electric fence, If Ryder continues this behavior, I recommended the guardian set up a follow up session to use positive dog training to teach him to stay in the yard without the electric fence.

By the end of the session, both dogs had started to show respect for the human’s personal space, were listening to commands quicker and responding to corrections the first time.

I wrapped up the session with Ryder and Shenzi’s Roadmap to Success in the video below.

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