Signs Your Dog is Guarding You


Cassandra Nguy

Dogs have been our loyal and protective companions since the dawn of civilization. Not only do they work in the labor force, but they can protect their owners when danger hits. Some signs your dog is guarding you without aggression may include body blocking, growling or barking at perceived threats, or being observant and alert.

It’s important to understand your dog’s behavior, even when they have a protective nature. You must learn to understand the differences between non-aggressive protection and aggressive protection.

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Healthy Protection vs. Over-Aggression in Dogs

According to the ASPCA, dog aggression comes in various forms:

  • Protective aggression – Acting hostile because they think their loved one is in danger
  • Territorial aggression – Attacking someone the dog thinks is an intruder
  • Possessive aggression – Overly-guarding possessions, even when in a safe environment
  • Fear aggression – Retaliation when feeling cornered or trapped

Healthy protective dogs are alert and can quickly identify the difference between threats and non-threats. When a dog is overprotective, they act hostile towards any form of stimuli, regardless if it’s a friend or foe.

Some positive characteristics of a healthy protective dog are being friendly, easy to approach, and able to keep their cool unless a threat occurs. If you’re wondering how you can tell if your dog protects you without aggression versus over-aggression, you can tell by these signs.

Common Signs Your Dog is Protecting You

The following are steps your dog may take when guarding you from a perceived threat:

  1. Being observant
  2. Staying alert
  3. Growling or barking at any possible threat
  4. Standing in front of you in a defensive position, like body-blocking
  5. Going back to their normal state if no threat is discerned

Other healthy signs include your dog positioning themselves in ways where they can act swiftly. These positions may be sitting or lying near doorways or next to the owner, especially in public places. Dogs may also follow you closely into unfamiliar areas to act as a protector if any threats arise.

Signs of Over-Aggression in Dogs

Over-aggression in dogs happens when dogs show signs of hostility at everyone they come across. They cannot discern who’s a threat and can only be aggressive to everyone who gets close to their owner, not barring family and friends.

Therefore, understanding this behavior and training is necessary to prevent future dog bite incidents.

Signs of over-aggression can be:

  • Immediate barking and growling or baring teeth and snapping
  • Aggressive stance (head leaned forward, back raised)
  • Overactive in unfamiliar situations
  • Lunging over perceived threats or attacking, biting

You should learn to understand and socialize your dog with other humans if you feel your dog shows signs of over-aggression. Below is a guide on teaching your canine to protect safely without over-aggression.

    • Teaching your dog to be by itself in the house
    • Socialize your dog at a young age to familiarize family and friends
    • Giving treats whenever they do a trick or sit so they learn how to earn wanted attention
    • Speaking to a canine behaviorist
    • Obedience training

Training your dog can help you and your loved ones from dog bite incidents and will make you both feel closer. It’s safer for your dog to train and understand the differences between a threat and safety. Ignoring it may cause danger to those around you. It’s imperative to socialize your dog to prevent possible dog bite incidents.

Regular Signs Your Dog is Resource Guarding You

Resource guarding is a psychological fear due to dogs being protective of their toys, food, or person. Some dogs may get aggressive if they feel you’ll take their food or toy away. It’s an act of being territorial. A dog displaying resource guarding will require a lot of management. Thus, it’s best to prevent it by learning these few tips:

  • When feeding your dog, give them space and quiet, and NEVER mess with their food.
  • In a multiple-dog household, feed them separately with similar meals.
  • Never punish a dog for growling to protect their stuff.
  • Don’t take away toys and give them space.
  • Bring in a positive trainer if necessary.

Dogs may resource guard due to psychological fear of not keeping their toy or finishing their meals. Stray dogs resource guard because they had to protect their food from other animals. If you foster a positive relationship between you and their resources, they’ll most likely stop resource guarding and feel less anxiety while eating.

What Causes a Dog to Be Overprotective?

Overprotective dogs behave this way due to a lack of socialization from their owner. It may also be a necessary self-preservation tactic. For instance, food and shelter will not be available if the owner is in danger.

Ultimately, the cause of overprotective behavior is not being able to train your dog to socialize and easily perceive threats. So, it’s a necessary commitment to teach your dog to behave and discern threats if they feel the need to protect.

How to Train an Overprotective Dog

Now that you understand the differences between healthy and aggressive protective behavior, here are ways to train an overprotective dog.

  • Structure and routine. Create the best environment for your canine. For example, feed at meal times at the same time and go on walks at the same time each day.
  • Be calm in these situations. Your dog will know if you feel nervous or scared, which can trigger their aggression.
  • Keep your distance from others. When you go on walks, you should avoid passersby to avoid aggression. You can gradually introduce people to their environment to reduce their anxiety around new people. If your dog is much calmer when seeing strangers, it’s a sign of improvement.
  • Socialize your dog. Meaning having your dog smell and see new things to help with their stimuli. It will also help your dog take in new things without acting so aggressively.

These are tips to help you when training an overprotective dog. It’s also important to treat your dog every time they do what you expect out of them.

Overprotective Behavior May Cause a Dog Bite Injury

According to dog bite statistics in 2019, about 31% (15) of victims of dog bite fatalities involved owners’ family, friends, or acquaintances visiting or living temporarily. Most likely, the cause of these incidents is due to the owner’s dog’s over-aggression and lack of socialization.

A 2013 study by the National Canine Research Council explained how owners who did not socialize their dogs and have isolated them from any positive human interaction are known as resident dogs.

Over 76% of resident dogs have caused fatal bite injuries, meaning that despite whether they are overprotective of their owners or not, the owner may be at-fault for not properly training their dog.

Hence, statistics may show victims of dog bites came from visiting or staying at the owner’s home. How safe can one stay if one is unsure how overprotective their dog can be?  Thus, knowing your dog’s over-aggressive behavior and how it can affect those around you is a sign for you to step in and take preventative measures.

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Cassandra Nguy

Cassandra Tran Nguy is a legal writer living in Los Angeles, California. She graduated cum laude from California State University, Northridge with a B.A. in English Creative Writing and a minor in Marketing. Visit her online profile at