Solve Aggression in Dogs
Guarding Furniture or Territory

Solve Aggression in dogs guarding furniture or territory with positive and effective methods. Is your dog growling and snarling while on his crate?

Or maybe on his bed or couch, when you (or other people) approach him?

Do you observe territorial barking in your hound? This type of aggressive dog behavior is often called Resource Guarding. It can happen with your pet's favorite places or even the whole house. Canines can also guard their food bowl, toys and even their owners.

Treatment for aggressive dogs need specialized training programs. You may even need meds for aggressive dogs prescribed by your veterinarian.

A Note of caution about Aggression in dogs guarding their place or territory

If you have never done any obedience training read the main Resource Guarding article to start with the basics.

Resource guarding in dogs can be dangerous, specially if you do not have experience in dog training for aggressive dogs. Therefore, I highly recommend you find a certified dog trainer to safely help you.

There is always a risk of injury when working with animals, please read our full disclaimer.

Lastly, I want you to understand that your dog is NOT trying to be dominant, these theories are outdated and have not scientific grounds. Learn how to be a confident leader to your dog and never use punishment!

Tips for solving territorial aggression in dogs

  • Take away anything around the house that triggers aggression in your pet.

For example, does your dog growl and bark at your spouse when he wants to get in bed? Keep the bedroom door closed.

Do you see territorial barking when he is on the couch? Buy a dog bed and reward your pooch for staying in his bed instead of the couch, block the couch if necessary.

Does your dog bark and growl by the window or in the backyard? Do not leave your pet in the yard alone and keep the windows closed when your dog is left alone. Read about alert barking for help with hounds that bark at passersby. Taking every trigger is important because any aggression outburst will set you back.

  • You will start training the dog yourself, but eventually you will need every member of the family and even distant family and friends to help you as well. This will make for stronger learning.
  • Other useful commands to solve aggression in dogs are "quiet" and "settle".
  • The training program outlined below is quite long and in practice it can take you months before you see big changes. To solve aggression in dogs it is important to go slowly and practice a lot. Please read carefully and completely the step-by-step tutorial below before you start.

The way to your dog's heart is through his stomach!

A very important aspect when helping a dog overcome his fears and anxieties and respond with joyful behaviors instead of aggression is ... FOOD! Food is a primary reinforcer, which means it makes your hound feel instantly good. To work on the exercises below, find a treat that makes your pooch go nuts! Liver treats are always a hit!

Treatment for aggression in dogs guarding furniture

Step-by-step guide

This is a sample tutorial that contains 10 stages, each one consisting of several steps. You will most likely need to change it depending on your particular situation, but the process is the same. The whole idea is to give you a template you can follow and adapt to your unique case.

If you think your dog will bite you, please wear protective gloves or have your dog wear a muzzle in the beginning.

STAGE 1: "Touch" command

Important Tip!

Save the best treats for later. You will need a very high value (your dog goes nuts about it!) treat for the next step when we actually teach your furry friend to get off the furniture nicely.

Goal: To treat aggression in dogs guarding furniture it is useful to have your dog follow a target or even approach it from a distance if cued to do it. This is called target training and will enable you to move your pet away from a piece of furniture without pushing him away.

What you will need: A target (this could simply be the palm of your hand, a fist or tip of your index finger). You can also use a more sophisticated device like a wooden spoon or even a commercial target with a clicker attached to it. You will also need food rewards such as dog treats, regular kibble, pieces of chicken, cheese, carrots, and anything your hound likes. A treat pouch is another useful tool to have treats handy.

Target Stick for Dog Training

NEW Ezy Treat6 - Treat Bag with MAGNETIC Closure

1. Stretch your fist (palm of your hand or target stick) out when your canine friend is looking at you. If he looks at it, approaches or even touches it click and treat!

2. Repeat many times. If your dog is only looking at your fist but not approaching it try using shaping to get him to touch it. Shaping is a method in which you will reward smaller approximations to the end goal. For example, first you reward him for looking at your fist, then you reward him (click and treat) for moving closer, and so on until he has his nose glued to your fist. 

dog target training

3. When he starts putting his nose against your fist, start moving him around (he should follow your hand, nose glued to your fist). Start by moving your hand a few inches, reward if he follows, then a little bit further and so on. Keep doing this until you can move him all around your house.

4. Now say the command "touch" or "target" (whichever word you like best, but pick only one and stick with it). After you say it extend your fist, click and reward when your pet touches it.

5. After many repetitions your hound should start approaching you after your say the command and before you extended your fist (which acts as a visual command or hand signal).

6. You are ready to go to the next step when your furry friend reliably (8 out of 10 times) responds to your verbal command "touch".

Treatment for aggression in dogs requires patience. NEVER move on to the next step before your pooch is ready.

The slower you go, the faster your dog will learn!

STAGE 2: Start with non-guarded furniture

Dog guarding furniture-dog aggression

Goal: To be able to cue your dog "On" and "Off" a location he does NOT guard. For example, if he guards his crate, then use the sofa. If he guards every piece of furniture in the house, then find a nice location and maybe throw a rug on the floor to start training.

Now you are ready to start using those extra yummy treats. These should be sacred rewards that ONLY come out during these times. Only when working on treating aggression in dogs with territorial resource guarding.

  1. Cue your dog with your "touch" command to get "on the couch" (or whatever piece of furniture you are working with). You should see no dog growling, snarling or barking).
  2. Immediately Target your dog "off" the couch, as soon as he does it click and treat!
  3. Repeat 3-5 times. Then start adding a different word: instead of "touch" say "On" (or "Up", "inside" whatever you like) and "Off" (or "down", "out").
  4. After many repetitions your hound should start understanding the verbal command "On". Try it by saying the word and waiting a few seconds before using the fist as a hand signal.
  5. As you start fading out the treats (never go below 7 treats out of 10 good responses, your pet might get frustrated at this point). Try to reward with food only if your pet responds to your verbal cue without the hand signal.
  6. Repeat meant times "on" the couch, "off" the couch. Remember that your are mostly rewarding the "off". Only "reward the "on" if you see your pet loosing interest, but don't do it too often.
  7. You are ready to move onto the next step when your pet reliably steps on and off the couch on your command. Note: This is only on a couch (or place) he doesn't show any territorial barking or growling.

Important: the sequence is as follows

You say the command "on", then you extend your fist as a visual cue to target, then dog touches it and gets onto the piece of furniture, then you say "off", then you extend your fist as a visual target. After your hound gets off, you click and treat!

STAGE 3: Move on to guarded furniture

Goal: To be able to cue your dog onto a piece of furniture he DOES guard.

You are getting the idea right?…we are adding small difficulties one at a time, going SLOWLY is the key to solve aggression in dogs! Be patient and soon you will no longer have a problem of aggression in dogs guarding furniture.

  1. Repeat the steps in STAGE 2 but now on a location your dog DOES guard.

The number of times you need to repeat each step depends entirely on how your dog is reacting. If he is calm and happy, move on to the next step; if not, keep repeating the same step. You will need LOTS of repetition in the beginning, so just be patient. If at any point your dog shows overt signs of aggression (barking or growling) you need to step back. Review systematic desensitization and counterconditioning for more help.

STAGE 4: Add time

Goal: To be able to cue your dog onto a piece of furniture AFTER he has been there for a while. Many times, aggression in dogs that guard their furniture happens because they might feel less inclined to get off the couch/bed/crate if they have been there for some time and are comfortable. You need to teach your pet that no matter how long he has been there, he needs to get "off" when you ask.

  1. Repeat the steps in STAGE 2 but now wait 1 second before you command "off".
  2. Then wait 5 seconds.
  3. Repeat alternating times randomly (1-3-2-57-10-3 sec). They idea is to prevent your pet to predict WHEN you will ask him "off".
  4. Keep adding time until you reach up to 30 minutes. Remember always keep it random!
  5. At some point you can also start adding other difficulties like you leaving the room and coming back. Again always with small increments!
  6. Also add different directions you are coming from, leave to different rooms of the house, etc.

It might seem obvious to you that if you teach your dog to step "off" the couch when you leave to your bedroom…well the same should be if you leave for the kitchen! Right? Wrong…most dogs are very bad at making those assumptions, so we need to teach them one by one. The good news is that eventually they do get it and will start generalizing the concept to different situations. Territorial guarding is a serious issue and you need a lot of training.

STAGE 5: Ask other people to participate

Now you will actually repeat Training STAGES 1-3 but with different family members. This will teach your pet to nicely get off a place whenever ANYONE asks him to. To treat aggression in dogs, generalizing a concept is extremely important to help your pooch understand the concepts better.

Your dog should be showing no signs of aggression by the time you reach this step. You do not want to put other people in front of an aggressive dog. If you are not sure, find a certified trainer with aggression in dogs expertise who can do the exercises. It will count as a different person!

Repeating the steps above you can always add different difficulties when treating aggression in dog with resource guarding. Here are some examples.

STAGE 6: repeat STAGES 1-4 adding distance (ask your pet to get off the furniture from different distances)
STAGE 7: repeat STAGES 1-4 after petting your dog (start by reaching out your hand, then petting him for a second, 2 seconds, etc.)
STAGE 8: repeat STAGES 1-4 After you sit next to your pet (start by bending a little bit but not sitting all the way, then sit and slowly add time)
STAGE 9: repeat STAGES 1-4 The sky is your limit! Be creative in adding difficulties that could come in handy later on. The more you work with your canine friend the better the chances you will solve resource guarding and aggression in dogs.

Of course your list might look differently, it's OK as long as YOU KNOW what is important for your dog to know, you will be fine.

If your dog is likely to bite please do all of the above steps with a muzzle and then do them ALL OVER AGAIN without it. Aggression in dogs is heightened when stressed so all measures of security should be taken.

STAGE 10: Just reminders...

This the end of the step-by-step guide to dog training for aggressive dogs. Your hound should be doing great by now. All you need to do from now on is once in a while ask him to step off a piece of furniture and give him a treat when he does it. Randomly mix duration, distance, location, people, everything you did above. These should be like little test-reminders.  You do not need to do this every day anymore, just once in a while to make sure things are OK.

If at any point of this tutorial you notice NO changes in your dog, or you can't even get him to relax to start with the program, I suggest you visit your vet and ask about meds for aggressive dogs. Medication will help your dog relax and be able to learn better.

Hope this example helps you create a plan to treat your particular case of aggression in dogs. If you have any questions or would like to tell us how things are going please fill out the form in this link! You need to write at least 150 words and upload a picture of your dog for the question to be answered and published.

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