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Territorial Aggression: "managing x correction"

Territorial aggression is characterized by dog attitudes when protecting an area or location. It can be confused with Possession Aggression when the dog defends an object or person.

If we were to cite the case of the dog defending the armchair again (I used as an example in the last post about Possessive Aggression), we could even say that it was Territorial Aggression, but we see the armchair as an object and not an area or place, so we classify it differently.

            The most classic cases are those dogs that are docile, but when a new individual enters your house, bedroom, passes through the house gate, or shows up in the backyard, aggression is established.

            Barking, growling, and biting are usually the symptoms of dogs suffering from this problem. Dogs that bark excessively when they see someone through the window or in the yard can be included in this category.

            In this case, the behavior we see in the dog is classic. He is not scared and is not motivated by conflict either, but simply learns that whenever he behaves in this way the “threat” moves away.

            Try to see this from a dog's point of view. Someone passes in front of your house, or you see someone through the window, and you start barking madly. What happens next? The person, or cyclist, or car, or whatever it is, just keeps passing by, leaving the area. At that moment, the dog understands that he was responsible for having “expelled” that threat. That’s it! Rewarded behavior!

            Day by day, week after week, and month after month, this scenario repeats itself and the behavior escalates. A few weeks later, the dog trained himself to respond that way to anyone who approaches his territory.

            And what to do to stop this behavior?     

            There are two processes to correct this. One we call “managing” and the other we call “correction”.

            Managing, or “management”, refers to controlling the exposure of triggers that lead a dog to behave inappropriately.

            For example, if your dog starts barking relentlessly every time someone walks through your window or across your yard, you need to get this situation under control. Close the window blinds or don't leave your dog in the yard unattended for a while. By doing this, your dog will not be exposed to the triggers that lead to the bad behavior and will stop reinforcing the behavior, preventing the problem from escalating further.

            “Correction” means that you will expose your dog to the triggers that lead to the behavior but will be there to correct it and redirect it to a different response. That is, keep the windows open when you're around. When your dog responds inappropriately, apply a mild correction that just redirects attention back to you. At that moment, you reward him. Repeat the operation several times, rewarding the dog every time the trigger is there, and he decides to look at you instead of barking.

            Depending on the dog, this process can take from days to weeks, but the persistence and consistency of the owners is essential to achieve the results you want.

Marco Magiolo is a bestselling author, trainer, and speaker. Connect with Marco on social media and subscribe to future newsletters and updates.

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