Can a Submissive Dog Be Protective? What to Expect

The world of dogs is a captivating realm, filled with intricate behavioral patterns and fascinating personalities. When it comes to their temperament, dogs can display a wide range of traits, varying from dominance to submissiveness. 

While it may seem counterintuitive, there is a common question that often arises among dog owners and enthusiasts: can a submissive dog be protective? 

In this article, we will delve into the complexities of canine behavior to understand the relationship between submissiveness and protectiveness in dogs.

Understanding Submissiveness in Dogs

Submissiveness in dogs is a behavioral trait that typically stems from their pack-oriented nature. It is characterized by a dog’s inclination to display deference, yielding to dominant individuals or situations. 

Submissive dogs often exhibit body language cues such as lowered head, tucked tail, lowered body posture, and averting eye contact. They seek to avoid conflict and may appear timid or apprehensive in unfamiliar or stressful situations.

Protectiveness in Dogs

Protectiveness, on the other hand, is a trait that is often associated with guarding instincts and a strong desire to protect their family or territory. 

Dogs with protective tendencies may display behaviors such as alertness, barking at strangers, standing between their owners and perceived threats, and even exhibiting aggression when they sense a potential danger. 

These dogs prioritize the safety of their pack and are willing to defend them when necessary.

The Potential Link: Submissiveness and Protectiveness

It might be surprising to think that a submissive dog can also be protective. However, it is crucial to understand that submissiveness and protectiveness are not mutually exclusive traits. 

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The connection between these behaviors can be multifaceted and influenced by various factors such as genetics, socialization, and individual personality.

Genetics: Canine behavior is greatly influenced by genetics. Some breeds are more predisposed to exhibit protective behaviors, regardless of their level of submissiveness. 

For example, certain breeds like German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and Doberman Pinschers are known for their protective instincts, irrespective of their dominant or submissive tendencies.

Socialization and Training: A dog’s upbringing and socialization play a pivotal role in shaping their behavior. 

A submissive dog that has been properly socialized and trained can develop a strong sense of loyalty and protective instincts towards their family. 

Positive reinforcement training, exposure to different environments, and interaction with various people and animals can help build confidence and bring out their protective nature.

Individual Personality: Each dog has a unique personality, influenced by a combination of genetics and life experiences. A submissive dog with a calm and stable temperament may exhibit protectiveness when their pack or territory is threatened. 

Their willingness to protect their loved ones may override their submissive tendencies, allowing them to rise to the occasion when needed.

Nurturing Protective Behaviors in Submissive Dogs

If you have a submissive dog and wish to encourage their protective instincts, there are several steps you can take:

Socialization: Continue socializing your dog in various environments to build their confidence and expose them to different stimuli. 

Controlled introductions to new people, animals, and situations can help them understand what is normal and what might be a potential threat.

Obedience Training: Teaching basic obedience commands and reinforcing positive behaviors can create a strong foundation for further training. 

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This will not only strengthen the bond between you and your dog but also improve their overall responsiveness and reliability.

Gradual Exposure: Gradually expose your dog to controlled scenarios that simulate potential threats. 

This could include supervised encounters with unfamiliar people, role-playing situations, or introducing them to training aids such as loud noises or simulated intruders. Always prioritize safety and consult with a professional dog trainer if needed.

Reinforce Protective Behavior: Praise and reward your dog when they display protective behavior, such as barking at appropriate times or standing between you and perceived threats. 

Positive reinforcement helps them associate their protective instincts with positive outcomes, reinforcing the desired behavior.


While the connection between submissiveness and protectiveness in dogs may seem contradictory, it is important to remember that every dog is unique, and their behavior is shaped by a multitude of factors. 

A submissive dog can indeed exhibit protective behaviors, provided they have been appropriately socialized, trained, and nurtured. 

By understanding the complexities of canine behavior and working with their individual personality, you can help your submissive dog channel their protective instincts and create a balanced and confident companion.

Remember, however, that not all dogs are suitable for protective roles, and it’s essential to respect your dog’s limitations and never force them into situations that could cause distress or harm. 

Seek guidance from professional trainers or behaviorists to ensure the well-being of both you and your furry friend.