My dog Cooper is a 1 1/2 year old Lab mix, and for the last few months, he has been constantly aggressive. It's odd because he is totally normal away from home. Inside, he growls and bares his teeth at my 5 year old little sister whenever she comes too close to him or pets him. He guards my bed at all times, guards random areas in the house, trash, and (especially) his food bowl. We've resorted to muzzling him at all times because he has already attacked our other dogs twice and snaps at people other than myself for different things. (He's tried to bite my cousin over the socks/shoes in the bottom of my nightstand!)

Other than his resource guarding and apparent dominance issues, he's a really great dog. He goes to a dog park once a week and does amazing with the people and dogs there, so whatever is wrong has to do with our house. I won't have the funds to pay for a trainer for at least a few more months, and I have no intention of giving him away.

Has anyone had a similar experience? If so, do you have any tips/advice?

  • Sounds pretty serious. What do you parents say?
    – paparazzo
    Feb 12, 2017 at 2:45
  • Why only indoors? Because it is his territory. He does have dominance issues and he clearly is very territorial. I guess you would have to solve the dominance problem first, then with your new found alpha status you can teach him it is your job, not his, to keep the packs territory safe.
    – skymningen
    Feb 13, 2017 at 9:24

2 Answers 2


You've answered your question: your dog has dominance issues.

In my experience, this can turn your dog into a dangerous dog.

You mention he goes to the park once a week and behaves fine. That's also a problem. Your dog lacks exercise and training. He has too much energy and doesn't know what to do with it. On top of that, it seems he lacks leadership. Labs are very active dogs and can go for miles. It's important you research the breed to understand what your dog needs:


Here are a few tips:

There are several line of thoughts behind dogs "bad behaviour".

I have had dogs my whole life including rescues showing lots of unwanted behaviours.

My attitude towards dog has always been the same: they are pack animals and need some sort of leadership. Even if people and dog behaviourist have new thoughts on the matter.

Your choices are:

1) Ignore a bad behaviour, show no interest or emotion once that behaviour occurs(for mild case)

2) recognise that the behaviour is bad enough that it needs a "negative" intervention. Basically disagree with the dog and use something simple like:"no!"

3) is the same as 2) but most effective of all: Start with 2) and then use what's called behaviour replacement therapy. Basically say "no", I disagree and then replace that behaviour by a command like"sit" followed by a reward.

You need to decide what's what and how you wish your dog to behave. Positive reinforcement is always best(the third option), however not always possible. This where training comes in. All of the basic commands(sit, stay, down...). This will give you and your dog structure and excellent communication. It's also very rewarding for both of you and will increase your bound. Be sensitive and start small, in a room your dog is comfortable in with few distractions and build from there.

To train a dog, it's like 3). Patience is required. You never force a dog into a behaviour, you let him work it out. Wait for the behaviour and then reward it. There are plenty of books available to help you. Your dog needs a leader. If he doesn't have one, he will be forced to lead and let's face it, being a leader can be stressful and difficult. If a dog hasn't had another older dog show him what to do, he will make it up and it generally turns to aggression.

Dogs have always worked with humans. Historically, it's thought that wolves got closer to humans to get an easier meal. In exchange for food and security, they guarded, hunted, herded and so on. These days, they don't work and find it hard to have a purpose. You need to make your dog work for rewards.

Rewards is not just food but it is a big part of training(adjust your dogs diet to compensate for treats) but also hugs, cuddles, toys, whatever is going to enrich their life has to be earned and not given for free.

This is a book used by many trainers: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81H3RZUhYyL._AC_UL320_SR208,320_.jpg

I would also read articles from Cesar Milan the ultimate dog whisperer.

As a side note, it would be useful to visit your vet to eliminate any medical conditions that could trigger this behaviour first.


I had a similar problem with my best friend Kratos, a 5 year old Tibetan mastiff, lab mix. All the answers and methods above are quite valid, but unfortunately after almost 9months of trying them, the problem did not stop. So I took an unorthodox approach and it worked.

Everytime Kratos would snap, I would try to fill my house with as much people as possible to make him feel uncomfortable. I would invite my family, friends and neighbours into my home as often as I could. I would often encourage people to pet, play and call out his name. I did this to reassure him that there was no danger and no need to act aggressively towards other people. That was a year ago and now he's the most loveable dog I know.

Like I said it's very unorthodox but it worked for me. Hope you give it a shot. Good luck!!

  • 1
    what do you mean when he would snap?
    – user6796
    Dec 30, 2019 at 12:07
  • Snap, when he would become aggressive and overprotective of me towards my partner and my helper whenever I would laugh or give them more attention than him, especially in the evening or early mornings. Also when I would come home from work late with a friend (kratos waits for me at the gate everyday at around the time I usually get off) or when I get home in the am with my partner from a night out.
    – T Maniac
    Dec 30, 2019 at 23:07

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