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Canine Behavior/dog is overprotective/guarding human from husband


QUESTION: We adopted what we believe to be a long-haired shar-pei, approx. 2-3 yrs of age, about 6 weeks ago.  We believe he may have been abused due to his condition when he was picked up by animal rescue.  I am the one who brought him home, and am home with him a lot of the day. He follows me around often and is anxious when I leave (even when other family members - husband and 2 teen children - are home).  The big problem we are running into is at night.  When we get into bed, he jumps on the bed.  I get up and tell him "off".  He obeys, but will eventually jump back on the bed.  For the first month we had him, after about 10 minutes, he'd settle himself down onto the daybed in the next room.  We sleep with the door open.  He will then jump on the bed in the morning when we get up.  If my husband tells him "off", he stands on the bed by me and will bark.  If I get up and tell him to get off, he will listen, but will jump back up.  The past two nights we decided to try to sleep with the door closed.  This was a mistake and made it worse.  He slept by the door, and when my husband got up for work, Andy barked and quietly growled (the growling did not last long).  After 2-3 minutes, he stopped.  I do want to add that he recently had eye surgery for Entropion which had never been treated.  We believe he has some vision loss.  He also seems confused when he wakes up (e.g. if he's asleep and one of the kids walks downstairs, he will startle and bark, race to the hall and bark for a moment). We do use a sort of NILIF - making him sit before treats, food, and going outside.  Outside of bedroom, no other instances of being protective - from other dogs we meet, other people that come into our house or husband.

ANSWER: No such thing as a "long haired" Shar Pei. Has to be a hybrid of some sort.  Without a photo, I can't guess but hybridization of two breeds with opposing genetic tendencies can result in a difficult, confused dog.  Especially this is true if the dog has experienced unfair training practices from ignorant former owners (as you can see, I have zero tolerance for such "training" in this year 2013 lol).

The dog does not belong in your bedroom, nor does he belong upstairs or privy to other bedrooms.  With sight loss there is confusion and anxiety; he has not adjusted to his new surroundings or the people in them, either.  (It takes months for an adult dog to make such an adjustment).  You must find a safe place for him at night.  The first few nights, he may vocalize so be prepared for a few sleepless nights.  Do NOT respond to his vocalizations and tell your children the same thing.  This place can be the kitchen with strong baby gates or doors that close: a soft, orthopedic bed, a Buster Cube (with some kibble in it, he will soon learn to roll it around for the kibble to fall out), a soft night light and even a radio playing soft music (choose station carefully).  You can even put a CD player with him, there is actually music for soothing dogs:

You prepare the dog for this confinement by randomly and casually confining him for a few short intervals with the Buster Cube.  Ignore any complaints he may make.  Do not release him (open door, remove gate, etc.) if he is anxious.  Stand and wait, do nothing, say nothing, until he calms: ask for "sit", open door/gate.  Confine him at night and whenever you leave the house.  If there's a back door it would be good to use that to take him out so he can make an even better association with this safe space.  He cannot be put into the basement or garage, this is far too punishing. So you must figure a way to create this place in your home.

I am uncomfortable with the growling and with the hilarity at the noise of your teens in the home.  The dog is demonstrating fear.  Give him a calm, structured environment (much as you did for your kids when they were very young).  Fair, kind treatment, along with positive reinforcement training, will slowly allow him to feel safe, protected (so he does not have to DO the protection), and a better companion.  Dr. Ian Dunbar has a wonderful, free course of Sirius Dog Training on You Tube and at his site.  Be sure to stick to HIS videos:

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for your response.  We think he is a bear-coat shar-pei.  We purchased the music, and are beginning to give him brief periods of time in his crate with the gate closed.  Our house has a very open floor plan, so there is really no room to put him in.  He's doing much whining. It has only been since recovering from his eye surgery that his behavior has gotten so protective/guarded. The growling at my husband is only at night but he is also becoming more guarded with the kids as well (he snapped at my daughter he got into the recycling bag and she tried to take it away).  We continue to work with NILIF, and will look into the Sirius training as well.  He is such a sweet dog...otherwise.  

What do you think about the thunder jacket - would it help in a situation like this?  (He also has separation anxiety).  Do you think any of his behavior is just breed-related (he's bonded with me, so thinks it's his job to protect me.)

The thunder jacket can't hurt but the dog cannot be confined to a crate.  This is punishment and isolation.  At this point, given the "guarding" with the kids (and active aggression: snapping at your daughter), this dog requires evaluation by a certified applied animal behaviorist.  His developing behavior is a serious problem for me and it would be unethical for me to determine treatment because I cannot see the dog, I cannot evaluate his temperament, I cannot interview kids and adults in the home.  I strongly urge you to find a CAAB (NOT a dog trainer) from one of the following sites or by calling the veterinary college in you geographical area and asking for referral.  The dog might benefit from a short term dose of propanolol which is a beta blocker that will help truncate the rush of adrenaline that fuels a fight/flight response:

The guarding of the recycling bag is "resource guarding".  This can be the result of the dog having been starved at some point earlier in life (so that he had to scavenge) or simply an indication of rank opportunism (since it involved a younger member of your household). Either way, a growl should NOT result in a "snap" unless the dog HAS previously learned that growls do not work (and not in your home, of this I'm fairly sure) and has now escalated to contact.  This will get worse without treatment.  NO ONE should attempt to take anything away from this dog at any time.  Put him on STRICT NILIF until you are able to find a CAAB.  If the dog growls, stand your ground, break eye contact, turn your head, lick your lips (a calming signal), teach the kids to do this.  Wait until he disengages (turns his head, drops eye contact, stops growling, changes physical posture) and then walk away from him and put a closed door between you for at least ten seconds.  This is a measure that will prevent the growling from escalating to instant "snap" (because the dog will see that growling isn't having the effect it used to have) WITHOUT in any way escalating his aggression.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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