Although the idea of territorialism in dogs isn't pleasant, it's often a reality for the four-legged creatures. Pooches, sweet as they can be, sometimes exhibit strong innate territorial instincts, just as their wolf kin do. Dogs can be extremely protective and possessive when it comes to their individual turf.
Dogs are naturally territorial as a means of staying alive -- and thriving -- in the competitive and often brutal wild. While your pet might live a cozy indoor life complete with duvets and doggie beds, those urges are sometimes still alive and well in him, at least to some degree. When dogs live in packs, their goal is to keep intruders away from their designated territory. Their specific territory is home to all of the things that enable the pack members to keep on living, from secure sleeping areas to valuable sustenance. The unwelcome presence of invaders can often mean death to dogs.
Dogs show their territorial sides in many ways, and sometimes even with aggression. When territorial dogs are aggressive, they're trying to defend others from encroaching onto their own property. If a dog is in the backyard and is wary of people walking by, he might respond by barking persistently or giving off a threatening and deep growl, for example. He might just stare intensely at them while maintaining a motionless, rigid and tense posture. Some territorial dogs even resort to physical attacks on others. If a territorial dog attacks an animal or person in his yard, he might thrust his body to the front and bite, for example. Aggressive dogs should be kept away from animals and people, period. They also need to receive prompt, extensive behavioral training from certified pet behavior experts.
Not all dogs convey their territorial fears or frustrations through aggression. Some make their territorial dissatisfaction known through slightly more under the radar behaviors, like urine marking. When dogs urinate on objects in and around your home that they perceive to be their own, they're often claiming them. By putting their urine on things, they're essentially shouting to the world about their ownership -- and telling all potential intruders to go away. Cats, like dogs, sometimes engage in territorial urine marking.
While dogs as a group have the potential to be territorial, some breeds have particularly prominent territorial streaks. Rottweilers, for example, are highly territorial dogs. Great Pyrenees dogs are territorial livestock guarding dogs, too -- a result of their extensive background watching over cows, goats and sheep. These big dogs diligently watched over livestock as a means of keeping them safe against predators such as wolves.
- ASPCA: Complete Dog Care Manual; Bruce Fogle
- Why Men Are Like Dogs and Women Are Like Cats; Nanette Charron
- The Dog: Its Behavior, Nutrition, and Health; Linda P. Case
- Behavior Problems in Small Animals: Practical Advice for the Veterinary Team; Jon Bowen and Sarah Heath
- The Complete Healthy Dog Handbook; Betsy Brevitz
- ASPCA: Aggression in Dogs
- VCA Animal Hospitals: Aggression in Dogs - Territorial
- Michigan Humane Society: Territorial Marking Behavior in Dogs and Cats
- DogChannel.com: Territorial Dog
- ASPCA Complete Guide to Dogs; Sheldon L. Gerstenfeld
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