Sometimes you wonder whether your dog is just clingy or protective.
They stick by your side at all times.
But you’ve never seen how they act in an intense situation.
Such as you getting attacked, or a burglar breaking in.
So how can you know for sure if your dog wants to protect you?
Read on to discover:
- What ‘resource guarding’ in dogs is.
- 13 signs that show your dog is protective over you.
- How to tell your dog’s response to a threat by their tail.
- Ways you might have rewarded protective behaviors that can lead to aggression.
- And much more…
How do I know if my dog is protective over me?
You’d know if your dog is protective over you if they react in specific ways to possible threats. These are sitting on your feet, getting between, and running around you. More signs include yawning, growling, upright tail, tightened mouth, and exposed teeth. It also depends on your bond with them.
13 signs your dog is protective over you
#1: They get excited when they hear your name
“Does my dog recognize me?”
Yes, they can!
Most of all, they can recognize you by your smell.
Dogs have 60 times more smell receptors than us. This allows them to smell and differentiate about 60,000 to 100,000 odors.
Your dog can recognize your face along with your voice, too!
Research tells us that dogs look longer when the picture of their owner doesn’t match their voice. It indicates that dogs may have been recalling if that’s how their fur parents sound like.
Now, how about your name?
Can your pooch recognize it?
With proper training and a little getting-used-to, your dog can learn your name. Just like the way they learned their tricks like ‘sit’ or ‘up’.
If you live with someone else, your dog can quickly learn your name.
Dog parents in a multi-people house can attest to that. It’s because your dog learns what and how others call you.
If your dog can recognize your name, that shows a strong relationship between you.
There’d have to be a familiarity for dogs to recognize and get excited just over your name.
So, that could be one sign of your dog becoming protective over you.
Even when you’re not currently present, they stay alert and get excited with the mention of you.
#2: Getting in between you and the “possible threat”
You’re currently enjoying a book on a park bench. Your dog, on the other hand, is lying down near your feet.
Then, a friend comes across you. They decided to say ‘hello’ to you and ask how you have been.
You noticed that your dog is now standing upright. As if putting a barrier between you and your friend.
What your dog did is a sign that they’re protective over you.
Maybe they’ve never seen your friend before. Or they just perceive that your friend’s threatening.
Other times, they could get jealous, too.
After all, research tells us that dogs get jealous even upon ‘perceived rivals’. This jealousy that dogs have evolved to protect important bonds and possessions.
So, your four-legged friend gets jealous. Now, they’re between you and your two-legged friend to protect you.
Read also: Why does my dog sit in front of me?
#3: Your dog is sensitive to your emotions
Did you know that dogs can recognize your emotions?
A study finds that dogs can recognize and categorize human emotions.
Your dog is also able to tell which emotions are positive or negative.
With that, your dog can be sensitive to what you’re feeling.
They’ll likely be able to tell whether you’re down or not.
And, as they can tell how you’re feeling, they can react accordingly.
If your dog senses that you’re feeling down, they might exhibit a comforting behavior. These behaviors are licking your calf or arm or resting their head on your lap.
If your dog’s able to tell when you’re frightened, they might start to show that they’re ready to be protective over you.
There are numerous explanations why your dog yawns.
Other than it’s contagious, a dog’s yawn could mean relaxation, too. Or they’re letting go of stress.
There are times that your dog yawns to release tension.
Dogs are capable of making themselves calm down through yawning.
That’s true. This study mentions that yawning is a dog’s ‘calming signal’.
Have you seen your pooch yawn with a new person or dog around?
If you have, that’s Fido telling themselves to chill.
Want to make sure?
Here are other behaviors that tell you your dog’s trying to be calm:
- Playing bow.
- Muzzle and nose licking.
- Hip nudging the ‘threat’. When they approach the ‘threat’, turn around and gently bump them with their hip.
You might also be interested in: 11 reasons why your dog yawns when you pet him
#5: Your dog sits on your feet
If your pooch is sitting confidently on your feet, they might be feeling protective over you.
When your dog sits on your feet, they’re technically ‘marking’ you.
Want a more precise picture?
Someone new brought their dogs to the dog park.
Your dog, being unfamiliar with the new canine friends, sits on your feet.
Here, you wonder.
Why, instead of playing with the other dogs, your pooch sits on your feet?
It’s because they might perceive the new canines as their rivals.
And so, your fur baby shows them what’s theirs and what’s off-limits.
You got yourself a bodyguard.
You can tell this is the case if they’re sitting confidently and vigilantly.
In other cases, your dog sits on your feet because they’re showing affection or they’re anxious.
The best way to tell is to observe what their body communicates.
#6: Your dog keeps an alert stance
One sign that shows your dog is protective over you is being on their alert stance.
When your dogs sense danger, they can be vigilant.
You’d notice that they’re not taking their eyes off and staying still.
There must be something that bothers your dog and they’re dedicated to protecting you.
What is a dog’s alert stance, and how can one tell?
For a dog, going on alert mode when there’s a threat is tricky. In this stance, they’re currently assessing how to react.
That’s why your dog might also be showing hesitancy in this situation. But on the contrary, they’re preparing for the threat.
In a dog’s alert stance, they strengthen their body position to put their weight forward. They stiffen their legs, too.
They do that to appear taller and show a willingness to approach.
Alert dogs will tend to:
- Stand too upright.
- Have their ears up and erect.
- If the threat persists, they may start to growl. The loudness intensifies if it continues. This makes your dog more compelled to protect you.
#7: Over-focusing on a new environment
Since your dog is protective over you, they stay sharp-eyed in new environments.
Say you just moved to a new neighborhood…
Unfortunately, you didn’t introduce the new environment to your dog accordingly.
As a result, they tend to over-focus in your new environment.
This is an attempt to watch out and make sure you’re protected.
Dogs are naturally pack animals. It’s innate for them to look over their pack and assess their living situation.
#8: Your dog runs around you
It’s a (supposed) chill Saturday afternoon in your backyard.
You’re reading a book on your backyard porch while your dog plays on the grass.
When suddenly, your dog just starts to run around and bark.
Fido goes around you in circles, then barks at something beyond the fence. Then they run around again…
It’s a repeating cycle, unless you stop it.
Why do they do that?
Some dogs run around when they’re protective. Especially if they can’t rightfully assess the situation.
There might be an obstacle that separates them and the threat.
In this case, your dog barks at what’s behind the fence because that’s where the threat is. And sadly, they can’t see it.
They’re protective of you by trying to warn you.
Your pooch also does this to scare off the possible threat. Apparently, this behavior might intimidate the potential intruder.
#9: Teeth exposure plus a snarl
When some dogs detect danger, they’ll expose their teeth. It’s often accompanied with a wrinkly nose and a snarl.
If they do this while you’re behind them, that could mean that it’s you they’re protecting.
And they’re setting up a front which will appall the potential threat.
This behavior is called ‘resource guarding’.
An example scenario would be:
You’re out on a picnic with your friends and you brought your dog with you.
In the picnic area, there are other people around, too. These other people have brought their dogs as well.
As you and your dog are sitting, another dog approaches you.
Now, your fur baby exposes their teeth and snarls at the other canine.
As you’re their primary source of food and comfort, they hope to guard you. To add, your fur baby might be protecting the whole feast you and your friends prepared, too.
For dogs, growling is another way to communicate.
Sometimes, if it’s intended for you, it means that your dog is warning you of danger.
If your dog growls at another person or canine, it means that they should back off.
Regardless, if this behavior is not corrected, it will persist. Especially if you reward it, whether intentional or not.
“How could I have rewarded this behavior?”
Say you and your pooch are outside.
A stranger sees your cute pooch and wants to approach them.
However, your canine’s not up for it. So they growled at the stranger, which made the person back off.
You may have thought it’s entertaining. Or you pet them after, with a soft voice telling them to be more friendly.
Sadly, that didn’t work. It just reinforced the behavior.
Next time a stranger approaches you, your fur baby growls.
But this time, the stranger won’t stop approaching. So your dog growls louder. Which worked and made the stranger back off.
With that, your dog has learned to growl louder and more aggressively.
Fido thinks they should act this way to send strangers away immediately.
What you can do to correct this
- Don’t immediately give them attention after displaying the behavior.
- Counterconditioning, pair the trigger with your dog’s favorite reward. If a stranger approaches them, calm them down. If they let the stranger near, provide them the prize.
- Let them be, as long as they’re not approaching the stranger or fellow dog. Gently tell the stranger your dog is not their best with people. And that they shouldn’t come any further. After your dog has calmed down, that’s when you tell them not to act that way.
Check out also: Why Does My Dog Growl At Me At Night? 5 Reasons + 5 Tips
#11: It’s in their breed
One of the most apparent signs of protectiveness is a dog’s breed.
These dogs are often referred to as ‘guard dogs’ or ‘guardian breeds’.
Some dogs are classified to have a stronger instinct to protect. That’s why they make excellent guard dogs.
However, most of them still need proper training and enough socialization. Without these, it may be hard to control their strength.
Here are 13 dog breeds that are excellent guard dogs:
- Giant Schnauzer.
- German Shepherd.
- Doberman Pinscher.
- Caucasian Shepherd.
- Australian Shepherd.
- Estrela Mountain Dog.
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
- Appenzeller Sennenhund.
#12: They tighten their mouth
When your dog observes a possible threat, you’d notice that they tighten their mouth.
Dogs that tighten their mouth are known to carry tension. This shows the rival that they tend to protect and act aggressively if needed.
“What does a dog with a tight mouth look like?”
A dog will pull a side of their lips upward. This barely exposes their front teeth. Their muzzle, on the other hand, is wrinkled on the top.
#13: They don’t wag their tail
Dog parents often base their fur baby’s tail on telling what they’re feeling.
A playful dog will vigorously wag their tail to tell you they’re excited.
However, there are also other signals that your dog’s tail communicates.
So what about the time that your dog’s tail isn’t wagging?
If your dog’s tail is upward and fixed, that can mean they’re watching something closely.
This shows your dog’s preparedness against threats to protect you.
For the menace, this tail position is a negotiation. Your dog tells the threat that they don’t want to be aggressive.
Frequently asked questions:
Is my dog protecting me or scared?
Your dog can be both protecting you and feeling scared. They react for you and for themselves.
According to PetMD, the reason for growling is not always aggression. Sometimes, it could mean that your dog is feeling fearful or concerned.
On the other hand, growling is a sign of protectiveness, too. It’s also a behavior linked to ‘resource guarding’.
With this explained, your dog can both feel protective and scared.
This shows their willingness to defend you, even though they’re afraid themselves.
Why is my dog suddenly protective of me?
Your dog is suddenly protective of you because you might’ve rewarded the behavior. This can happen whether you intend it or not. Another reason could mean that there is indeed a probable threat they’re looking out for.
You can find a given example of a rewarding scenario in reason #10.
However, you can reward this behavior in more different ways.
It could happen when you’re making fun of your friend. Maybe your dog doesn’t like your friend’s first impression of them.
Since you’re entertained, you decide to jokingly command your dog to growl or bark at your friend even more.
By doing so, you convince your dog that you think it’s fun to do that to people.
Other times, there could actually be a threat lurking. And your dog is trying to warn you. At the same time, they’re also trying to intimidate the threat.
If you see that this is the reason, identify the ‘threat’.
If it’s not that alarming, redirect their behavior.
Let your dog display this behavior first. Once they’re done, that’s when you only give them attention.
If there’s indeed a threat nearby, act accordingly. Once taken care of, your dog might appreciate a reward for being the hero dog.