Territorial Aggression - A Matter of Leadership
The Yorkie sat regally on the backrest of the couch and surveyed his living room domain. Nothing escaped his attention. He dealt with any movement with lightening speed, rushing down the cushions growling, baring teeth, and biting ankles. He was five pounds of fury, ready to respond aggressively to any interloper. In his mind he was the leader, and as the leader could decide what was right.
The Yorkie's behaviour, although bizarre and unacceptable from a human view is not at all uncommon in the world of dogs. The ancestors of our domestic pets banded together to survive the challenges of nature. Packs communicated clearly with each other by marking and defending their territories.
Within each pack the position of members was displayed through a pattern of ritual behaviours. Submissive members assumed a down posture when approaching dominant members. An erect tail, intense eye contact, or a stiff gait conveyed power and challenge. The stronger and more determined members asserted their leadership, and the submissive members showed deference and followed. The pack leader was clearly in charge and decided the rules.
Dogs recognize authority. They need direction to feel comfortable and secure. If they perceive a lack of leadership they will make their own decisions, and like the Yorkie may make disastrous choices.
The first step in developing leadership is by controlling resources and movement. Avoid leaving the food down for the dog to free feed. If the dog is not respecting a younger family member have them feed the dog. This raises a child's status.
When entering or leaving the house or vehicle, insist the dog wait until you give permission to move. As you approach the door tell your dog to sit. When it sits, praise the dog and then move forward. At the other side of the door, tell the dog to sit. Do not proceed on your walk until the dog listens. Your dog will quickly learn to wait for your direction before reacting.
Provide your dog with a specific spot to rest in. When visitors arrive insist your dog remain in their spot until released. This lets the dog know your guests are welcome in your territory. Be firm, fair and consistent. Be the leader!Noel Pepin -- Noel Pepin Canine Behaviour Specialists