By Karen A. Soukiasian
Everyone is all excited; there’s a new puppy in the house! But from day one, watch for potential warning signs of an aggressive puppy.
The odds are your puppy’s disposition is perfectly normal, but there are exceptions. As a rule, there are warning signs you may have an aggressive puppy. You need to recognize if puppy aggression is something that can be managed or if a puppy lacks the appropriate temperament to be a family pet, and could be a dangerous liability.
Never excuse or ignore the behavior of an aggressive puppy! Without help, there is little doubt an aggressive puppy will become a dangerous dog!
Any breed can produce an aggressive puppy
Aggression is not breed-specific. Just 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 first thing you should do is speak to your veterinarian. Have your veterinarian examine your puppy. There could be medical issues, there could be genetic issues, or there may be other pressing matters that need to be dealt with as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it could be to correct.
Unless there is a severe genetic or neurological problem, the younger a puppy is, the easier it is to modify their inappropriate behaviors. Positive reinforcement, punishment-free obedience training is one way to create a well-behaved, well-mannered dog.
The most common aggressive puppy warning signs include snarling, growling, mounting, snapping, nipping, lip curling, lunging, dominance, challenging stance, dead-eye stare, aggressive barking, possessiveness, and of course, biting!
Watch your puppy’s behavior around areas where there is food. Are they protective of their food bowl? How does he or she behave as you walk by their food bowl while they are eating? Do they growl or snap when you reach for their food bowl? Do they snatch treats or food out of your hand? Do they lunge, growl, or snap, as you attempt to retrieve a dropped piece of food? Are they protective of the trash container?
In other rooms of the house, does your puppy assert a claim to any specific piece of furniture, such as a chair, couch, or bed?
How do they act, when someone, especially someone they don’t know, walks into the house or enters a room? How do they react, especially when an unfamiliar child comes to the house?
Are they possessive about toys? Either their own or your children’s toys.
Do they show an unusually high prey drive, by chasing and nipping at anything that is moving?
Do they back away from being touched?
Do they over-react aggressively to playful teasing, sudden movements, being awakened from a deep sleep, or when being corrected?
There are things you can do. Always start by having your puppy examined by your veterinarian. If there are inherited or neurological problems, your options will be limited.
However, if it’s a matter of changing your puppy’s inappropriate behaviors by modifying them, consult with a responsible dog trainer who applies positive reinforcement, punishment-free methods of training. They must be experienced working with aggressive dogs. Often, something as simple as strong human leadership and basic obedience training can turn things around.
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 simple or fast. It often takes time to undo bad behaviors, 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.
These are just a few of the most common aggressive puppy warning signs, and suggestions to handle potential problems. The only one who should be aggressive right now is you! Take immediate action. Keep an open mind. If the problem cannot be medically corrected or behaviorally modified, you will have a difficult choice to make. Do not pass the problem on to someone else, by surrendering the animal to a shelter or rescue. Do the responsible thing!
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