Is it okay to return a puppy to breeder to work on behavioral problems?
Two weeks ago, we brought home our 8 week old Male F1b Goldendoodle. The first few days he was gentle and nipped but only playfully and responded to being told no. About 4 or 5 days later we began to see some signs of aggression, growling and snipping. We have tried to work on it, but it seems to be remaining and even increasing in frequency.
He is bright:potties on command, knows sit, come, paw, and is working on a couple other commands. We just can't seem to make any improvements on his aggressive behavior.
In desperation, I called the breeder who was shocked and said she has never heard of any of her pups acting like this. Golden doodles are known for their gentle nature. She did however, kindly offer to give us a full refund or take home back and work on these issues herself, at which point he would return home to us.
I already know this will be devastating for our 5 children, but I want to do what is in the puppies best interest. Have you ever heard of a puppy returning briefly to his mother and breeder for behavioral problems?
This situation is heartbreaking for us, but right now I need to think of both the pups and my children's future safety. We have loved him since we met him at 8 days old and never imagined being faced with such a difficult decision.
This is very difficult for me to answer as I can't see the behavior in order to evaluate it properly. It's very unusual to see aggression in a puppy of this age, but new puppy owners who aren't familiar with normal puppy behavior sometimes over-react and misinterpret normal canine interaction or behavior. I'm not saying that this is what you are doing, but it's a possibility.
ALL puppies nip and bite to some degree and certain breeds, and even individual puppies within a breed, can be more stubborn about it than others. Dogs whose breed function centers on using their mouths (such as herding dogs and hunting dogs) tend to be more 'mouthy' than others. Goldens are retrievers and naturally use their mouths a lot, so your pup has some of these characteristics.
It sounds as though he's smart and is learning fast, and I suspect he's active and maybe a bit strong-willed. Those are not bad characteristics at all, but he'll need strong leadership that he respects and firm (but loving) guidelines and leadership. Raising puppies is just like raising children and as you have 5 kids you have plenty of experience and should be able to use this to help you deal with this little guy.
I think perhaps you're not correcting him firmly enough, or with enough conviction, or perhaps are being too emotional about this. Also, with 7 different people in a home it's very important for everyone to use the same correction every single time a behavior happens. Any discord, or inconsistency will confuse your pup and make training him much more difficult.
My Puppy Biting page has lots of tips and advice on handling this behavior. If none of the corrections mentioned there work, I'd recommend trying the 'muzzle wrap' technique. Basically this just means that in tandem with the verbal "no bite" correction, you gently wrap your hand around your pup's muzzle and hold his mouth closed for a few seconds. Repeat the "no bite" command twice, in a low, firm voice.
Generally this works very well with puppies. Some may 'fight it' at first, and it's best to keep a gentle but firm grip until that pup stops pulling or wriggling. But obviously you can't do it for too long or you scare the puppy or interfere with his breathing. If he comes back at you biting again once you let go, repeat the correction calmly, patiently and firmly. Most pups start to 'get the picture' within a few days to a week and you see an improvement.
There's nothing inherently wrong with returning a pup to the breeder for her to work on some issues with him if you feel unable to handle it yourself, but a dog will obey someone they respect or who uses training techniques that they understand and there is a visible 'cause-and-effect' that they can relate to. BUT, even if the pup understands the concept or rule, if someone tries to enforce it but goes about it in the wrong way, ineffectually or aggressively, chances are the pup won't obey. So you will need the breeder to explain to you how she has handle the situation and exactly what you need to do to maintain the right habits.
As I said before I can't fully evaluate the situation and it's always possible that you truly have a puppy who is aggressive, but it's so rare that you would be very unlucky to be in that position with a dog of this type of breed. If your pup is simply being a stubborn puppy who is 'acting up' and taking advantage of possibly inexperienced owners or inconsistencies within the family, then I'm personally not sure that returning him to the breeder and getting another puppy will be a good solution for either party.
However, you are the ones 'on the ground' as it were and if you don't feel that you can handle this puppy then it's best to return him to the breeder asap so that he is young enough to still have a good chance of finding his 'forever home'. You obviously chose your breeder well as she is willing to work with you and help resolve the situation, and that is a big plus.
I hope this helps in some way and wish you the best of luck with whatever decision you make.