Having a new puppy is akin to welcoming a new family member. There’s a new baby for everyone to cuddle and fuss over. Especially for children, it’s as if they’ve got a new playmate.
But from day one, watch for potential warning signs of an aggressive puppy. Rather than filling your family with joy, your new puppy might create worry.
After all, it’s normal to feel concerned about a puppy’s aggressive behavior and whether he will grow out of it. More than just destroying things, there’s also an imminent danger the puppy could cause more harm than good.
You need to recognize whether you can manage your puppy’s aggression or determine whether a puppy lacks the appropriate temperament to be a family pet and could be a dangerous liability. It’s also crucial to decide whether puppy aggression is just playing or something more serious.
Never excuse or ignore undesirable dog behavior. Without help, there is little doubt an aggressive puppy will become a dangerous dog!
When well-informed, however, you can turn a negative disposition into a more positive one. This way, your puppy still has hope before it’s too late.
Any breed can produce an aggressive puppy
Puppy aggression is not breed-specific. As sweet, loving, friendly dogs exist in every breed, so do aggressive dogs. No single breed is an exception.
It is your responsibility to be open-minded when you see a problem. That means taking immediate and appropriate action at any sign of aggression. Wishful thinking that things will change is not the answer. The earlier you act out on it, the higher the chances of resolving your pup’s aggressive behavior by learning how to redirect your puppies to good behavior.
But you may be wondering how to stop puppy aggression.
The first thing you should do is speak to your veterinarian. Have your veterinarian examine your puppy.
There could be medical issues, genetic issues, or other pressing matters that need to be dealt with as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it could be to correct. A vet is an expert who can help you tame any aggressive tendencies you may discover.
Unless there is a severe genetic or neurological problem, the younger a puppy is, the easier it is to modify inappropriate behaviors. Often puppy fear can become aggression. Positive reinforcement and punishment-free obedience training helps create a well-behaved, well-mannered dog and prevent fear aggression in puppies. You also can use it to stop excessive puppy barking.
Understanding how to teach a dog social skills is critical. Think of this as how you’d train and enforce your baby’s positive attitude. Since their minds work like sponges, the earlier you discipline them, the better. It’s easier to get a grip on obedience training.
Common warning signs include snarling, growling, mounting, snapping, nipping, lip curling, lunging, dominance, challenging stance, dead-eye stare, aggressive barking, possessiveness, and biting!
Now, what are the aggressive puppy signs? Here are a few:
- Puppy won’t stop biting
- Non-stop barking
- Possessive of toys or food
- High prey drive
- Dominant behavior
Watch your puppy’s behavior around areas where there is food. Early signs of aggression in puppies include being possessive over toys and food.
Is your puppy protective of his food bowl? How do they growl or snarl as you walk by their food bowl while eating? Do they growl or snap when you reach for their food bowl, even if it’s empty?
Do they snatch treats or food out of your hand? Does your puppy lunge, growl, or snap as you attempt to retrieve a dropped piece of food? Are they protective of the trash container?
Does your puppy claim furniture like a chair, couch, or bed? Is your puppy possessive of toys or other items, especially items that might belong to your children?
How does the puppy act when someone, especially someone they don’t know, walks into the house or enters a room? Does the puppy react differently when an unfamiliar child comes to the house? Or does your puppy bark excessively? Are you struggling with a puppy that won’t stop biting?
Does the puppy exhibit an unusually high prey drive by chasing and nipping at anything moving? Do they overreact aggressively to playful teasing, sudden movements, awakening from a deep sleep, or being corrected? Or are they unwilling to be touched?
Watch for warning signs when you pick up the dog, especially puppy nipping, which can quickly turn into a puppy biting your hands. Although you don’t need to pick up your dog often or carry it, there are times when you will need to do so without fear that your puppy will behave aggressively and bite you.
Also, watch how your puppy reacts to other dogs and puppies. Be sure to watch for signs of a dominant puppy. Does your puppy try to dominate other puppies or adult dogs? That type of early aggression needs to be curbed immediately with training.
Teething, nipping, and biting
Know the difference between puppy teething, puppy nipping, and puppy biting. Start early on training a puppy not to bite. Biting training is essential to having a well-behaved dog.
Most puppies learn bite inhibition from their parents or littermates. But if they haven’t, you will need to teach them how to control their bites. Puppy teeth can be needle-sharp compared to adult teeth.
If your puppy does not receive proper training to refrain from biting from an early stage of development, you may get into trouble. According to dog bite laws, the owners are liable for any dog bites in some states, regardless of the owner’s previous knowledge of the dog’s tendency to bite. Even if your puppy does not know better yet, you do not want to learn the average payout for a dog bite from personal experience in a courtroom or an attorney’s office.
Indeed, any dog’s intentional provocation will most likely excuse a dog owner’s liability, even in those states with strict liability laws. However, it would be best if you assumed your dog’s responsibility, not biting anyone in any circumstance.
The situation becomes more complicated if your dog bites a child or if the bite leads to cuts, lacerations, ligament and tendon damage, and so on.
In other words, teaching your puppy to stop biting is a crucial responsibility for the greater good of others and your (legal) peace of mind.
Cope with puppy teething
When puppies are teething, their mouths hurt, and they will bite or chew to alleviate that pain. Give your dog appropriate chew toys or teething toys. Most dogs will be distracted and begin chewing the toy.
But if you are coping with an aggressive puppy, you’ll likely wonder how to stop a dog from chewing everything he sees and how to stop puppy-mouthing.
If your teething puppy tries to bite on you, teach your puppy that it’s inappropriate puppy behavior.
Turn your back and walk away, or say “ow” in a loud, high-pitched voice. Doing so will help teach your puppy not to bite you.
How to stop a puppy from nipping
If your dog playfully nips at you but doesn’t break the skin, you must be cautious to keep playtime from getting too rough.
A nipping puppy can be playful, but after 15 weeks, puppies should not try to touch human skin with their teeth. Compared to adult teeth, your puppy teeth are razor sharp.
If the dog continues to nip or bite you after that time, you need to use training to stop that behavior. Never hit a puppy that bites. And don’t bite back.
Instead, when you want your puppy to stop nipping, stop playtime and walk away. Your puppy should quickly learn that you will ignore him if he misbehaves or plays too roughly.
If you’re struggling with this issue, avoid rough play. It would be best if you also skipped play biting.
How to stop a puppy from biting
People coping with aggressive puppies become frustrated and may wonder:
- What can I do? My puppy won’t stop biting me I’ve tried everything
- Why do puppies bite so much, and
- How to stop my puppy from biting
If your puppy aggressively or viciously tries to bite, or if a snarl accompanies the attempt to bite, you must take action.
It’s also dangerous if your puppy tries to bite your face or if your puppy tries to bite other dogs or other people, especially children.
If your puppy becomes aggressive about biting or if the bite breaks the skin or causes bleeding, it’s a sign the dog is trying to be dominant.
You must immediately take action when a puppy won’t stop biting and can’t be distracted by treats or commands.
Now you also may ask, how to deal with aggressive behavior? Thankfully, there are things you can do if you’re concerned about your puppy’s temperament. Always start by having your puppy examined by your veterinarian. Your options will be limited if your dog has inherited or neurological problems.
Here are some ways for you to take action regarding your pup’s aggressive tendencies:
It is possible to modify or change your puppy’s inappropriate behavior. If you want your puppy to stop unacceptable behavior, consult a responsible dog trainer who applies positive reinforcement and punishment-free training methods. The trainer must have experience working with aggressive dogs. Other standard recommendations like crate training, exercise, and sufficient stimulation can also help.
Consider using dog training books to boost your skills. Use training treats to reward good behavior.
Alternatively, you can begin puppy obedience training at home. Reward-based training helps to strengthen the relationship between you and your puppy and helps to make your dog feel more comfortable at home. Teaching your simple dog commands such as sit, stay, come, and leave it, are all excellent, helpful training commands that will help to stimulate your dog’s mind.
A second option is to consult with a dog behaviorist. Temperament tests are available to evaluate if there is a problem or how serious it may be.
Behavior modification is not fast or straightforward. It often takes time to undo bad behavior before you can create new ones. It requires a significant commitment of your time, energy, and patience, not to mention it can be expensive.
Nonetheless, it could make the difference between keeping your puppy and the alternative.
Aggression caused by illness
Be sure to consult with your vet if your puppy or older dog starts showing unexplained aggressive tendencies. Your dog may suffer from rage syndrome.
Although some presume that rage syndrome or idiopathic rage is a rare form of dominance aggression, research shows seizures may cause aggression. Partial complex seizures occur when abnormal electrical activity occurs in the brain’s temporal lobe, where memory, emotions, and sensory perception reside. This can cause defensive or predatory behavior resulting in aggressive outbursts.
Rage syndrome is an extreme type of aggression in dogs not caused by a trigger, such as defending its territory or fear and anxiety.
While the condition can affect any dog breed, English Springer Spaniels often display similar symptoms, causing the condition also to be called “Springer Rage.”
Although no treatments cure rage syndrome, anticonvulsant medications like phenobarbital can help manage it.
The medication may work with a single dose, while some dogs require lifelong treatment and regular blood tests to monitor the effects.
Your family must learn to recognize any changes in behavior that may suggest an aggressive episode is coming on and for you to alter how you interact with your dog during these times if needed.
You may have to consider euthanasia if the aggression becomes unmanageable.
Help aggressive puppies
These are just a few of the most common warning signs and suggestions for handling potential problems. Know the difference between normal puppy behavior and aggression.
If you spot aggressive puppy signs, don’t wait. Act on it right away by bringing the pup to the vet. Take immediate action. Keep an open mind.
You will have a difficult choice if you can’t fix the problem medically or by modifying your puppy’s behavior. Do not pass the problem on to someone else by surrendering the animal to a shelter or rescue. Do the responsible thing!
When you act on your puppy’s aggressive tendencies, who knows, you may be able to correct it early so your puppy grows into a loving family pet that your family will truly love.
Karen A. Soukiasian is the owner of Good Dog! — Dog Training in St. Augustine, Florida. You can follow Karen on Facebook.