A fellow dog-lover recently asked an interesting question: “my dog keeps stealing my seat, is this a sign of territorial aggression?” Knowing the difference between normal dog behavior and aggression is important, so I thought I’d talk a bit about it.
There seems to be a trend of a topic becoming the subject of a hit TV show, and everyone is an expert. Your friend is a devoted watcher of HGTV and suddenly, sans real estate license or real-life experience, she is an expert on selling real estate. Your kid-free friends think if you just watch Supernanny, you will have the tools to end your kid’s temper tantrums overnight. A new dog with some behaviors you’d like to correct? Just watch a little Dog Whisperer, and you’ll be set. Right? Wrong.
Now, I will readily admit that Cesar Millan is good at what he does and I’ve gotten some good tips from him. Like with every media sensation, though, you have to realize there is some level of hype. On a pet forum, I recently came across the question above from an owner of a 4-month-old rescue puppy. Two days into bringing the puppy home, this dog owner was worried that the puppy was showing signs of territorial aggression because he kept stealing the owner’s seat.
I thought I’d make things a little easier for everyone. Here are some signs to look for to determine if it is or is not territorial aggression.
Is it a sign of territorial aggression?
Yep, it’s territorial aggression:
- When your dog tries to bite you.
- When your dog growls at you.
- When your dog pees on your chair.
- When, while you’re out of the room, your dog drags all of his toys and your shoes onto your chair and he’s eating your shoe when you come back in the room.
- When your dog grabs your chair in his beastly jaws and with his superdog strength throws it against the wall.
Ridiculous, right? Most things your dog does are not, in fact, signs that he does not respect your role as his “leader.”
It’s definitely not territorial aggression when:
- You vacate your seat and your brand-new 4-month-old rescue puppy (who may have already had a rough 4 months of life) snuggles into the warmth and now-familiar scent you left behind since it’s probably comforting.
- Your dog cuddles up in-between you and your spouse while you’re watching a movie.
- Your always-hungry large-breed dog tries to steal your food (that’s a bad habit!).
- Your dog lies in front of the door, preventing you from getting out. (In my case, there is an air vent right near the door – she hangs out there because it’s cool!)
- You’ve been away from home and your dog is glad to see you. I recently read this excitement (and jumping) is territorial, and I just don’t buy it. What do you think?
We have to remember that domestic dogs and their wolf ancestors are not the same animal. Much of what drives a domestic dog is the joy she derives from the relationship she has with her human. She wants to play with you, be near you, and be comforted by you. Would you call that territorial aggression? Yeah, me neither.