Dogs that try to keep people or other dogs away from their property or cars usually do so because they are worried about what they might do to them or their family. Territorial dogs often have a mistrust of strangers that can remain hidden until certain circumstances occur, such as them finding themselves close to a gate when a stranger or another dog tries to enter, or the door is left open when the postman tries to deliver letters.
A dog that does not fear people or other dogs has no need to keep them away from the house, garden, or territory.
There is also a genetic component with dogs of some breeds being more likely to be territorial than others, or show the behaviour more strongly. Breeds that have a tendency to be territorial are those that have been developed as guards (different breeds have been selected to guard different things, such as people, possessions or flocks). In addition, some breeds have been selected for reactivity and sensitivity and are more likely to choose to use aggression when fearful, such as terriers, or are likely to be more fearful than other dogs, such as dogs from herding breeds.
Dogs that have been encouraged to guard or see off intruders will be much more likely to show aggression. For example, dogs that have been encouraged by their owners to chase cats out of the garden are likely to see them as a threat and may be very aggressive to them if they catch them.
Why at the boundaries?
Ask yourself would you fight to keep an intruder out if they were trying to come through the front door or get into your car? What if you came into the room and they were sitting on your sofa or they were already on the back seat? Just like us, dogs have a strong sense of territory and they are much more likely to be aggressive when someone or something they are worried about is attempting to cross the boundary.
What can be done?
If your dog is territorially aggressive to others, it is best to treat it as a fear-based problem even if you don't see this behaviour at any other time.
Deliveries to your property
From a territorial dog’s point of view, postmen and women, and people carrying and delivering parcels are threatening to them, their property and their family, and they will do all they can to keep them away, including using aggression.
In the UK, householders have a legal obligation to provide a safe access to their property for the delivery of mail. It is also important that you take care to protect any delivery person who may go to the back of your property to leave a parcel. Making sure that doors are not left open and that your dog is kept safe at all times is difficult and tiring. Sooner or later, it is likely that a mistake will be made and your dog will bite someone. Therefore, if your dog is territorially aggressive, it is best to get professional help to solve the problem. Ask your veterinary surgeon for a refer to a pet behaviour counsellor or try the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors.
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