Dogs, by their nature, can be very protective creatures. They tend to form very deep emotional bonds with their owners—and as a result, they can become protective of the ones they love. This can be both a blessing and a curse. While it’s nice to know that your dog would guard you from harm, some dogs take this to an extreme and become very possessive of their owners. This can escalate to the point of aggression in situations that do not call for it.

So, what causes this kind of possessive behavior and what can you do about it? 

Why does my dog guard me?

Whether you’ve had your dog since he was a puppy or have recently adopted an adult dog, you have probably worked hard to establish a relationship of love and trust between you and your dog. This is perfectly healthy and is something that you should strive for. 

As you build a trusting relationship with your dog, it is only natural that your dog will begin to look up to you for guidance and care. In return, it is also natural that your dog may feel a need to protect and guard you from perceived threats. This is often due to the fact that your dog has realized how much he needs you and relies on you for survival. By protecting you from harm, your dog is also doing his part to ensure that he continues to be cared for.

When is Guarding a Problem?

There is nothing inherently wrong with having a dog that is protective of you. In fact, this is exactly why you hear so many great stories of heroic dogs saving their owners from dangerous and even life-threatening situations. Of course you want to feel like your dog would take steps to protect you if you were in danger. Isn’t that one of the (many) benefits of having a dog?

Unfortunately, some dogs become unnecessarily protective or even aggressive when they go into “guard” mode. You may find, for example, that your dog growls or even nips at your friends/family members if they approach you. This is when things can become problematic, as the last thing you want is for your dog to attack somebody because he perceives a threat that doesn’t exist. If your dog is being unnecessarily aggressive or combative in an effort to “protect” you, then this is something you’ll need to address immediately in order to avoid an incident.

Why does my dog guard me when I sleep?

Have you noticed that your dog goes into “guard” mode when you go to sleep at night? This might be manifested in any number of ways. If your dog doesn’t sleep in the same room as you, you might find that he sleeps immediately outside of your door and may even growl at other members of your household if they walk by the door at night. 

If your dog does sleep in your room at night, he may stand guard at the foot of your bed or even in your bed. This can create problems if your dog becomes aggressive at a spouse or partner who attempts to share a bed with you. Often times, this type of guarding is territorial because when you share a sleep space with your dog, your dog is not only guarding you but your shared territory as well.

Sleep-guarding can also become problematic if you have recently moved in with a partner for the first time. Your dog may have been used to you sleeping alone; when a new person is thrown into the mix, this can send your dog’s already-protective nature into overdrive. Your dog may see your new partner as a threat, which can create a host of problems (especially around bedtime).

Why does my dog guard me in the shower?

Have you found that you can’t even seem to take a shower in peace without your dog following you into the bathroom and standing guard? If so, then there are some possible explanations for this behavior.

One of the most common reasons for a dog becoming anxious and going into guard mode while an owner showers is actually empathy. If your dog is not the type to enjoy a bath, then he may actually be worried about you while you’re in the shower. As a result, your dog may stand guard outside the shower or bathroom door and may even whine until you get out.

Another possibility that could explain your dog guarding you while you’re in the shower is that they simply don’t like when you’re out of their sight and thus feel that you need protecting. This can also be the case if your dog suffers from separation anxiety when you leave the house. 

If your dog seems to get protective while you’re in the shower (and if the behavior is becoming problematic or bothersome to you), then you may want to try shutting the bathroom door behind you and keeping your dog out of the room with you while you shower. Another option would be to take your dog for a long walk to get him some exercise before you shower. This way, your dog will be more likely to be tired/relaxed and will possibly take a nap or at least be calm while you wash up.

Why does my dog guard me from other dogs?

Do you have a hard time going to the dog park or even taking your dog for walks around the neighborhood because of his possessiveness of you over other dogs? If so, then you’re not alone; this is a very common problem that dog owners deal with, but it’s still one that should not be ignored.

There are many reasons as to why your dog may get possessive of you when you’re around other dogs. For starters, your dog sees you as his caretaker, as you have already established a reciprocal relationship of trust and care. When another dog is thrown into the mix (even temporarily, such as while on a walk through the neighborhood), this can trigger your dog’s threat response. In turn, your dog may show aggression towards other dogs if they approach you and may even try to pick fights with them.

Why is my dog suddenly protective of me?

What if you’ve noticed that your dog has only suddenly become protective of you? If this is the case, there are a few possible explanations to consider. For starters, your dog may have recently encountered a sudden change in his surroundings or routine. If you’ve recently moved somewhere new or if there has been another major change in the house (such as the introduction of a new pet, for example), it is common for dogs to react by becoming more protective of their owners.

Some dogs, on the other hand, have been known to become more possessive and protective of their owners when they have suffered from an illness or injury. If you have recently become sick or hurt, your dog is probably going into guard mode because he feels that you are more helpless and need his assistance. This protectiveness can last long after you have recovered from your illness or injury.

If you or someone in your household has recently found out that they are pregnant, this could also be an explanation for a dog’s suddenly protective behavior. Many people believe that dogs can “sense” when their owners are pregnant. As a result, they may become more protective of the pregnant owner and the growing baby. For this same reason, it is also common for dogs to become possessive of children as they grow up.

Last but not least, dogs will sometimes become more protective as a result of their own underlying medical conditions or injuries. If your dog seems to be acting out of character with guarding you or anybody else in your home, then it may be worth scheduling a vet appointment. This is especially true if your dog seems to be displaying aggressive behavior in an effort to guard you or your loved ones.

Addressing Protective Behaviors

While there is nothing inherently wrong with having a dog that wants to stand guard, things can quickly become problematic if your dog is perceiving threats that aren’t there or if your dog is becoming aggressive or violent with other pets and animals. If you’ve ruled out medical issues with your dog causing the possessive behavior, there are some other things you can try to address it.

A lot of times, dogs that are overly possessive of their owners simply need to be better socialized. If your dog doesn’t have much experience being around other pets or people, then it’s probably time to make a more concentrated effort to socialize your dog. It is important to do this slowly and gradually, of course.

Some dogs also become more easily agitated (and thus protective of their owners) when they haven’t had enough exercise or stimulation. Make sure that your dog is getting plenty of opportunities for both mental and physical stimulation throughout the day. 

Remember, too, that your dog will pick up on your own feelings and behaviors. If you are exhibiting signs of stress, there’s a good chance your dog will react to this and try to guard or protect you even more. 

Finally, don’t hesitate to reach out to a pet behavioral specialist if your dog’s possessiveness is getting to be too much. A behavioral specialist will be able to help you get to the root of your dog’s behaviors while also working on methods to correct it. For the best results, try to have your dog’s obedience training done at your own home rather than another person’s house or training facility. 

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.