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  • April Schrader, CPDT-KA

Understanding Your Dog's Protective Behavior: Are They Protecting You or Themselves?

Dogs are often seen as loyal and protective companions to their human owners. We've all heard stories of dogs putting themselves in harm's way to save their human family members, and many people believe that their dogs are actively protecting them from potential threats. However, the truth is that dogs are not protecting their humans as much as they are protecting themselves.

It's important to understand that a dog's motivations are not always as altruistic as we would like to believe. Dogs are primarily motivated by self-preservation, and their protective behavior towards their owner may be more about protecting themselves than it is about protecting their human.


When a dog perceives a threat, whether it's a stranger approaching their owner or a loud noise that they don't understand, their first instinct is to protect themselves. Dogs have a natural "fight or flight" response to perceived threats, and in many cases, their protective behavior towards their owner is simply a way for them to protect themselves. For example, a dog may bark or growl at a stranger approaching their owner not because they are trying to protect their owner, but because they feel threatened and are trying to scare the stranger away.


It's also important to understand that dogs do not have the same level of reasoning and decision-making abilities as humans. They are not capable of understanding complex concepts like loyalty and altruism. Instead, they act on instinct and respond to their environment in a way that is most likely to ensure their own survival.


While dogs certainly have the ability to form strong bonds with their human owners and may display behavior that is interpreted as protective, it's important to remember that their primary motivation is self-preservation. This doesn't mean that dogs are not loyal or loving companions – it simply means that their behavior is driven by instinct and survival, rather than by a desire to protect their humans at all costs.


In conclusion, dogs are not actively protecting their humans as much as they are protecting themselves. It's important for dog owners to understand their pet's natural instincts and behaviors, and to avoid placing unrealistic expectations on their dogs. By understanding and respecting their pet's instincts, dog owners can build a stronger and more trusting relationship with their furry companions.

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