Why dogs are aggressive to their owners

First of all, I want to make clear that I am talking about behaviour problems, not a dog reacting from referred pain, or a puppy that is mouthing you etc., but a dog that may display aggression to their owner if: –

  • The owner tries to move the dog off furniture
  • The owner starts touching or adjusting a piece of equipment the dog is wearing or trying to fit a piece of equipment to the dog
  • The owner approaches another family member and the dog displays aggression to move one owner away
  • The owner disturbs the dog whilst they are resting
  • The owner tries to move around the home and the dog guards’ doors etc

And variations of the above.

I have deliberately left resource guarding out of this article as the can occur for a number of reasons, only one of them being the topic of this article.

The reason this happens is that you and your dog have a relationship problem.

This does not mean you did something cruel, mean, or painful to the dog, in fact usually quite the opposite.

It does not mean it is your fault either, some dogs temperaments may react this way to your normal lifestyle.

But what it does mean, is that you will need to reset the relationship, and this is not an easy task.

In fact, it will mean that you will need to change your role in the home, at least as far as the dog is concerned.

You will need to teach, train, manage, exercise, reward and add consequences to your dog’s choices. Why this is hard is that you likely have not being any or all these things and this is why your dog has started to behave this way.

dogs are aggressive to their owners

The home environment.

Many dogs can live in your home with little advice from you and will get along perfectly. This has more to do with their temperament than it being the right way to live with a dog.

Co habituating with your dog on even terms is not going to work most times. In fact, even when I have seen it work, the dogs were not confident and sure of their role in the home.

Dogs need (LOVE) structure, guidance, help, direction and without it, they are just guessing what they are doing is ok.

If you have a group of people with no leader, no decision maker, no one to follow, the people will always argue.


If you look at boundaries as “all the things I can’t do”, then you need to change your perspective to “all the things I can do”.

Setting boundaries to a dogs’ behaviour helps them find reinforcement by operating within the boundaries.

Staying within the boundaries limits the dog from displaying undesirable behaviours and making bad choices.

dogs are aggressive to their owners

Teaching your dog what “to” do.

It is easy to go around telling dogs what they did wrong, but that really does not provide direction. Instead of don’t, start saying “do”

  • Do lay on your bed whilst guests come into the home
  • Do walk at heel with loose leash
  • Do sit when you meet someone
  • Do wait to be released to eat your meal
  • Do come away from the front door when called

Now many people might say that they would be happy to do this, but their dog won’t listen. Well, this means you need to teach, train, and proof these behaviours.

Keep in mind that if your dog does not know these behaviours or feels like they are optional, more training is needed.

I have never met a dog that could not learn these easily, the rest comes down to practice.

Breaking down the reasons for your dog showing aggression to you

You try and move the dog off the couch.

At some point, allowing access to the couch has gone from a benefit, privilege, or reward to an entitlement, right or possession.

When you try and “take away” the right, entitlement or possession, the dog becomes aggressive as he or she does not want to lose this right, entitlement or possession.

Can you imagine how you would feel if these were taken from you?

Crate Training

Dogs love crates when they are properly conditioned to them, they provide a resting place, a place the dog can go if they are tired, worried, scared or just need some time out.

They also give the dog a place that is theirs and where they “should” go when they could become stimulated and perhaps behave poorly. Learn something you didn’t want them to learn or do something dangerous to themselves or others.

Feeding and rewarding your dog in their crate helps establish the crate into an area of reinforcement.

Feeding and Training

It can be a very simple way to improve the relationship with your dog if you remove the food bowl either fully or partially from your dog’s life and feed healthy food rewards throughout each interaction of good behaviour.

At K9Pro we do this with dogs that are with us for board and train and our own dogs too. We most often use Prime 100 SPD due to its super nutritious contents and its convenience to cut, carry and store. It is also great for dogs with allergies.

In this system, providing consequences to your dogs choice can be as simple as YES = food, NO = Lost food.

Food does not have to be the “be all and end all” of your training, but setting your dog up to work for food can certainly be a real advantage.

Yes, it is harder than dropping a bowl of kibble down, but easiest is rarely best.

Place Training

Place training is like crate training really, but the crate sides and roof are more in the dogs mind in the form of impulse control.

Crate training is a great place to start but place training is more convenient to take your place to friends’ homes etc and ask the dog to stay on place, just like they do at home.

It can replace the couch as an entitlement and stop the petty arguments over furniture.

dogs are aggressive to their owners

Just three things

If you want to see a difference in most dogs behaviour, even if they are perfectly behaved, try these three things, just for 60 days and see what happens.

Dogs with serious aggression issues will of course need professional assessment, risk assessment and training but for most dogs that are going really well, or are getting a little ahead of themselves, these three things will help change the perspective the dog has of you.

What is disappointing, sad really, is that there will be people who are getting growled at, nipped etc and they will just not change anything, they wont try these things or they might but for a few days at best.

The dog ends up escalating one day and bites them and is put to sleep, rehomed etc.

Prevention is much better than cure.

These three things are not a lot of work.

About SteveK9Pro

Steve Courtney is a Nationally Accredited Canine Behaviour Specialist, Obedience Trainer, Law Enforcement Dog Trainer and ANKC Breeder. Steve has been training dogs all his life and in these articles he shares with you his experience...

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One comment

  1. Brilliant brilliant brilliant article as usual!

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