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Tired Myth #1…”My dog is protecting me when he barks and lunges at other dogs and people”.

A dog who barks and lunges at another dog or human is more than likely feeling fear than a need to protect you. 

Of course, there are other variables to be considered, and it could very well be caused by something else entirely, but not likely. The fear, in most cases, often stems from a lack of socialization.

The dog is not familiar with the approaching person or dog and that creates insecurity within him. This insecurity, aka fear, makes him bark and/or lunge in an attempt to keep the object of fear at a distance.

If he could speak he may be saying, “Hey look at me. I’m mean and scary so you don’t want to come closer unless you want a piece of me.” It all mounts up to a bunch of smack talk in an effort to intimidate. Sometimes it works. When the other person or dog walks away, for whatever reason, the dog’s behavior is validated and reinforced and he now feels that this is the way to behave towards frightening things. In other words, his new motto becomes…Bark and lunge and the scary dog or human goes away.

We need to get our heads straight

It’s a popular notion to think that your dog is protecting you and looking out for you. Many people easily believe that when their dog barks and lunges it’s just protective behavior. We get all sorts of romantic ideas of our dog as body guard harking back to Lassie and Rin Tin Tin, when the truth is closer to Scooby Doo.

In actuality, your dog isn’t looking out for you, he’s looking out for himself and doing a suck ass job at it too. But this isn’t a sexy concept so it isn’t readily accepted. I get it. We prefer to live in a fantasy world where our dog should be all Disney-like most of the time but suddenly become Cujo when a threat is looming. Sorry to break it to you but, no, that’s not how it works.

This isn’t as charming to your friends and neighbors as you may think.

Dogs can be taught to be “protective” but that learned behavior is reserved for military training, or law enforcement. Well, at least it should be.

The average owner doesn’t need a guard dog. Unless of course you feel threatened by the neighborhood kids, or the mail man, or just about any person who walks your way. Or you’re growing a crap load of weed on your property. If that sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. You don’t need a dog to protect you.

You’re doing a disservice to the dog, and making it harder on yourself, when you fail to acknowledge and come to grips with this reality.

Dogs do not think like us. They do not possess our values, morals, and beliefs. There are areas of dog behavior in which you can find similarities between dogs and humans. Areas in which human psychology can be applied to your understanding of dogs…this is not one of them. A dog that has not been adequately socialized can, in many cases, have strong negative reactions to unfamiliar objects, people, environments, and situations due to fear. Period. By learning this one simple concept you’ll put yourself light years ahead of the majority of dog owners.

This Post Has 6 Comments
  1. Great article and blog, totally agree with the above. I have a dog aggressive BC, she is 6 yrs old.
    She will get friendly with other dogs if we get a chance to do the meet and greets very slow, walking together, looking at each other from far away at first. It requires the other owner that she/he does not freak out at the first scary reaction of the fearful dog. It also takes time and some effort, which a lot of people are understandably not inclined to offer.

    1. Absolutely right Vera. This is why typical outdoor experiences are not always the best for training your dog. Depending on the severity of your dogs reactivity it may require that you set aside specific times for training in a potentially less stimulating environment.

  2. Love these articles!
    It’s good to find articles based on facts and not our own romantic notions about these amazing animals!
    People try to humanize them and that takes away from their most endearing qualities!
    Good writing, keep it up!

  3. I dont agree with all of this. My first born was protective of me. I was in a not so nice relationship. If she was in the other room when we start arguing she would try and break the door down. If she was in the room she would go after him. And now my tonka truck was going to work every day with me since the day I found him at work. Lots of guys up there. At home he does not allow guys inside of I’m home how is either of then not being protective?

    1. “Protective”, and other ways of identifying behaviors, is a subjective misinterpretation of Canine body language and actions.

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