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It can be pretty easy to get puppy aggression and dominance issues confused, especially if you're not familiar with normal 'baby dog' behavior!
Puppies are very rarely truly aggressive.
But they can have dominant personalities, especially as they go through adolescence. This may show up most strongly around children.
A puppy growling or nipping can be worrying if you're not sure what's normal behavior.
Luckily it's usually pretty straightforward to figure out what's going on and correct the problem.
This page contains a wide selection of real-life questions that I have been asked by puppy owners.
I've included the most common worries and if you have a question about an 'aggressive' or dominant puppy, chances are good that you'll find the answer you need here.
I'd also strongly recommend that you visit my Aggressive Puppy page to learn more about the different types of aggressive behavior in puppies and to find out whether your pup really has a problem or not.
A list of the puppy aggression/dominance Q&A's featured:
I have a 10 week old Wheaten puppy that we just got. I am about 99% happy with the amount he is learning and his progress, however I have two questions.
I have noticed when he is outside playing and having fun he gets to a point that he is just 100% wide open 100 mph. I guess this is the “puppy Crazies” that they all get, but he does two things I’m not sure of.
1) I have a small tree planted in the side of my yard. I keep telling him not to mess with it and for the most part he doesn’t however when he gets in this “crazy” mood swing he looks right at me and takes off for the tree.
I tell him NO and I pick him up and take him to a different spot. He then looks right at me again and goes for the tree again. This happens over and over while he is in this “crazy” mood.
So my question is “is this a dominance issue or just a puppy playing?” Can I correct this or should I just put a small fence around the tree?
2) Also, when he is in his “crazy” mood he plays very hard maybe even a little aggressive with my 100 LBS Labrador retriever. This causes my Lab to put him down to the ground harder than normal.
I don’t think the Lab would bite the puppy but the puppy doesn’t seem to care that the Lab is getting aggravated. When the puppy is in this mood he just keeps on going for the Lab and even us sometimes.
Biting our pants legs and tugging and I guess even growling. I do feel like he knows I’m the leader of the pack along with the lab (not sure about my wife yet).
Once again he only does this once he reaches that point of no return and running around like crazy wild man.
For the most part he never acts this way. What should be done about this or will he just grow out of this?
You've painted a very accurate picture of the 'Puppy Crazies'!
I really don't think there's more to it than that as what you describe is a classic scenario. Quite often these episodes occur in the late afternoon/early evening and really are just a way of letting the puppy burn off excess physical and emotional energy.
Of course, that doesn't mean that it's okay for him to attack your tree, or your other dog, or you! But, given a puppys' state of mind during these little bursts it's difficult to stop him.
As far as possible I would try to eliminate the potential for damage. So go ahead and put a little fence around the tree, and if your Lab isn't able to deter your pup from aggravating the heck out of him, then put him inside or out of the way when this behavior starts.
If your little guy snaps or growls at you or your wife, then you need to get hold of him and tell him "NO" very firmly. But be calm, and keep your voice low, if you raise your voice or your emotional level, it will only 'wind him up' more.
At these times it would be good to keep a favorite chew toy in your pocket and offer him that as he runs past you to distract him from your pant legs.
Sometimes these moments of puppy craziness are worse in pups who are not able to be active during the day, and their energy just builds up.
If your pup is at home all day because you're at work, getting someone to take him out for a walk, or some playtime in the backyard at lunchtime may help. Even if you're at home, perhaps he's not getting enough exercise during the day.
Terriers are little 'action men' and need lots of stimulation and exercise.
Also, if he's being crate trained, make sure he has sturdy chew toys in his crate. Chewing is one of the ways that dogs release stress and it can actually help calm them down!
Once your pup is fully vaccinated I'd also recommend enrolling him at a local Dog Obedience School.
It helps to build and strengthen the relationship between dog and owner, the socialization experience is excellent for the puppy, and the energy expended by him will help to moderate his behavior. It's an all-around win.
I think in everything else you seem to be on the right track and are aware of what you need to be doing and how your pup is progressing.
I wouldn't worry too much about these 'puppy crazies' and don't think you need to be concerned about dominance either at this point.
I wish you the best of luck with this little guy.
My 16 yr old niece has a 5 month old male german shepherd. The puppy is on the timid side, but has grown out of its shell since joining his new family.
My 6 year old son sees the puppy at least a few times during the week, but their meetings are very casual. My son will pet the puppy, talk to him, then it's pretty much over.
The other day my niece was in the backyard with the puppy, while we were out there as well doing some yard work/playing. My son had already greeted the puppy, but when my son went to pet the puppy again the puppy began barking at my son.
It almost looked as if my son was cornered by the puppy and because the puppy has already developed a deep bark my son got scared and began to cry. The puppy was called over, and the barking stopped.
I asked my niece why she didn't correct the puppy from barking (she was cleaning up the puppy's business when this happened). She simply said the puppy was playing.
She's a teenager that knows everything. So, needless to say we comforted our little guy reassuring him the puppy was not going to attack him, etc., but we made the rule the puppy can not be unattended around our son, or vice versa.
The question is, should the puppy have been corrected and how?
At 5 months old this pup is an adolescent, and is testing boundaries and trying to figure out 'his' place in the family.
It's natural at this age for a pup to try to dominate other members of the family, and as a pup tends to think of young children as 'litter mates' they're a common target for attempts at dominance.
It's not aggression as such, but when you have a large breed pup and a young child, you always need to be cautious because the potential is there for someone (most likely the child) to get hurt, even if by accident.
You are right to decide that you son shouldn't be left unattended with this pup during this adolescent stage.
At the time of this incident the pup should have been corrected with a firm "NO bark" and his attention re-directed either to a toy or a game etc.
It's better if the person being barked at can correct the pup, but in this situation that's not practical and your niece should have done it. Failing that, you or another adult.
There's no need to scold the pup harshly or to shout etc. as to an extent he actually is playing. Use a low, firm voice and slow, deliberate actions... getting loud, worried or excited will increase the emotional level of the interaction and is likely to make the barking increase (ditto your sons' crying).
This sort of correction should be used any time the pup misbehaves or tries to act 'too big for his boots'. At this age they need firm guidelines or they'll make up the rules themselves.
This isn't your family dog so it's a more difficult situation, but if at all possible I would recommend trying to have your son feed the pup sometimes (with supervision of course), and to help 'train' him by asking him to SIT and giving him a treat when he complies etc.
This helps to establish your son as higher in the pecking order than the pup (and the pup will recognize this) which builds respect. A dog won't generally act the way this pup did with someone they respect and see as a superior.
by Aline, (Montreal, QC, Canada)
I brought my Pembroke Welsh Corgi home one week ago and when we first got her she was soooo calm. So calm that the vet suggested blood tests and recommended me changing her diet so she would some more energy.
I didn't do the blood tests but did switch her food from Purina puppy chow to Royal Canin veterinary quality food.
I don't know if it's the food or if she simply feels more at ease with us now but now she goes crazy when we take her out in the yard!
She eats EVERYTHING including rocks and she now knows that I'll try to take it out of her mouth and so she runs away from me and then starts to grunt at me and lunge at me. She also herds me around and nips at my ankles.
I keep saying NO when she tries to nip at me and so she's actually only gotten to my ankles maybe 3 times.
However, it completely freaks me out when she starts running around in circles around me and it's almost like she has me cornered and I'm just screaming NO! NO!
I've tried taking her out to the garden on a leash instead so that she won't run around like crazy but she keeps biting at the leash. I tell her to let go and give her a treat in exchange but soon after she'll be biting it again.
She refuses to move when I pull on the leash and will instead try to start a tugging war. When she does that, I try to bribe her with a treat again.
However, indoors, she's sooo good. She doesn't go crazy indoors and she'll just follow us around and lay down near us or play with her toys.
What do I do?!? Is she just playing around or is this a sign of aggression?
I'm seriously considering puppy classes or a personal trainer before this gets out of hand.
What you are describing is actually pretty normal puppy behavior and I definitely would not term it 'aggression'!
Also, you have a puppy of a herding breed. Pembroke's were originally bred as farm dogs and used to herd cattle and geese, when she runs around you nipping at your ankles she is simply following her inborn breed-characteristics and isn't being 'bad'.
These are very intelligent, loyal and friendly dogs but they can be a bit stubborn or headstrong and need firm, but loving, guidance.
I'd recommend that you start out by trying to remain calm whatever her behavior - don't shout or smack, and don't get frustrated or upset as this will raise the emotional level of the situation and make her more excited which will only lead to more barking and nipping.
For now I would stick to taking her outside in the yard on her leash, it's normal for a puppy to resist the leash at first but if you are persistent and patient she will learn to accept it.
There's an article here on leash training puppies which I think will help you... Leash Training A Puppy.
If she insists on chewing on her leash all the time, try spraying it with bitter apple or smearing it with hot-sauce so that it doesn't taste good to her. Leather or nylon leashes can be soaked in vinegar and let dry as another option.
Once she's had all of her puppy shots I'd strongly recommend getting her enrolled in a puppy obedience class.
ALL puppies regardless of breed should go through at least one course of this type of class (at a very minimum). It will help you to learn how to understand and control your puppy, increase the bond and respect between you, and give her valuable socialization.
Puppies need firm but loving discipline so that they can learn the house rules, they also need a consistent and predictable routine to feel secure.
A headstrong pup may want to be in control of any situation, but won't be happy if you let them because as pack animals dogs NEED to have a pack leader to respect and follow to feel safe. YOU need to be that pack leader.
There are lots of tips and advice on puppy care and training on my website and I'd recommend that you read as much of it as you can so that you are more familiar with the needs of your pup.
Puppies are basically babies and raising a pup is like raising a child - it needs lots of repetition, patience, consistency, discipline and love. She will respond to all of that, she needs you to be her mommy and to help her settle down.
I hope this has helped some and wish you the very best of luck with your little girl.
by Mo, (South Africa)
I have a 9 week old female bulldog puppy,she is getting overly aggressive and stubborn.
She chews and bites anything and everything,that is common behaviour but she seems to be more intent on biting feet and toes as well as hands and fingers.
I tried to use the mother training technique of pining her down each time she bites me or barks at me, but it seems to have only worked the first couple of times, however now she comes after me immediately as she gets back on her feet.
I am very worried about this as she seems uncontrollable and I don't want her to be an aggressive pet even for visitors and when I have children.
How can I stop this behaviour without laying a hand on her because I am fast running out of patience.
What you're describing isn't truly aggressive behavior, it's normal puppy behavior but it does sound as though your pup has a bit of a dominant personality - and bulldogs are known to be stubborn.
Pinning her down or using the 'alpha roll' is likely to be unsuccessful as it simply increases the emotional level of the behavior and encourages her to continue. Shouting or physical corrections have the same effect.
Puppy biting, nipping and mouthing is often an attention-seeking behavior, but it can be an attempt at dominance, and is part of natural play between pups.
Right now your little girl is treating you like a sibling, and you need to help her to learn that you are higher up in the 'pecking order' than she is..... but not by being physical.
Start working on teaching her how the 'pack hierarchy' works in your home. Make sure that she 'earns' everything, from her meals to her treats/walks etc. by having her 'sit' (and make sure she obeys) before putting down her food dishes, clipping on her leash etc.
Also, be sure that you go through doorways first, eat first (don't feed her at the same time that you eat) and so on.
I'd also suggest enrolling her in a basic obedience class at one of the local dog obedience schools. It will help you both learn to communicate better and to understand your relationship.
Also work on basic obedience commands and training at home, you can learn more about this on my How To Train A Puppy page.
Raising a puppy is like raising a child, and it takes lots of time, patience and consistency to teach them the correct behavior and how to fit in with their human pack.
But pups do want to please their owners, and are eager to learn, it's often just that they don't know what is expected of them and are following their canine instincts.
Given time, love and patience your pup will learn the right way to behave and your relationship will blossom.
by Caroline, (Gig Harbor)
We adopted a 9 week old female who is a sweetheart. We've had her two weeks now and she has taken an extreme dislike to her leash.
She also nips and my childrens' heels and grabs their clothes which I'm pretty sure is playing, but when my kids freak out, she escalates her behavior.
Basically, I want to know how to get her to not attack her leash, or the hand that puts it on her and how to stop aggressive behavior with my kids.
She doesn't start obedience training until next month and I can't even take her for a walk with the leash issue. Help!
Talk about 'cute puppy dog eyes'! It sounds as though there's the normal puppy 'devilment' behind that adorable face though.
What you describe is absolutely normal. All puppies bite/nip to some degree, and many take an instant dislike to their leash.
I'd recommend that you read my Puppy Biting page, as it has tons of tips and advice on dealing with this behavior. Puppies often tend to nip/chase children, as their high-pitched voices and quick movements trigger both their prey drive, and their play drive!
Puppies play together by biting and chasing, and often see kids as siblings. Getting the kids more involved with training and general care of your puppy will help to show your little girl that they are above her in the 'pecking order'.
The nipping isn't aggressive behavior, it's attention seeking, or simply play. Other puppies understand this, but children don't, and when they run and squeal they are actually encouraging her to continue (at least that's what she thinks!).
The tips on the page mentioned above will help with this.
The leash is a strange thing to most puppies, and some seem to see it as an enemy at first. Let her wear it around the house (without you holding the end) for a few minutes at least three times a day.
Of course, you need to be right beside her so that she doesn't get it caught up on furniture etc., or hurt herself. Once she's familiar with that, try picking up the end and following her around, rather than trying to get her to follow you.
Then you can move on to following her around the yard, and eventually encouraging her to let you be the 'leader'. By that point she will probably be about ready to start her obedience classes.
by Brandi, (Texas)
I have been raising Duke, a very demanding yorkie pup. Though I love him dearly, he does try my patience.
Duke is approx. 5 months old, I got him when he was approx. 3 months old.
My grandparents bought him and decided to give him to me as a gift, unfortunately while he was with them he had the opportunity to pee on the floor.
Even though I have used all sorts of cleaners I think he can still smell his "accidents."
He does wonderful at my house (goes to the door, barks if necessary) but at my mom's house his accident prone side comes out (where he peed on the floor.) Any suggestions for cleanups and how to stop this behavior for good?
He seems to be acting like a teen. He has become disobedient as far as not seeming to listen when I call him, this behavior fluctuates though.
I'm currently working on training him by using "life-rewards" i.e. he gets to go outside to play after he sits, and he receives his bowl of food after he sits at attention, I'm working on rewards based on his favorite ball toy.
Any suggestions for getting him to listen better without constantly giving him treats?
Duke seems to be a very odd/shy puppy. My family often picks at me about his oddities and it makes me worry that I am not socializing him very well.
His behavior has not changed since I got him even though I encourage him to sit in my family members' laps and supervise visits with other dogs.
He must be putting off a submissive attitude because the other dogs tend to want to bully him around. I want to build his confidence, but feel like I'm about as clueless as can be.
Any suggestions on building his confidence and encouraging a healthy relationship with family, friends, and other dogs?
Desperately wanting to help my buddy.
Thanks a bunch!!
Duke is a very lucky boy to have such a loving and supportive momma, and you're lucky to have such a unique and special little boy.
Dogs are just like people, they're all different and it takes all sorts to make a world :)
It sounds as though overall you're doing a great job with him, and this 'defiant' stage is perfectly normal because he actually IS a teenager, just a canine teenager rather than a human one!
Raising puppies is very similar to raising children - they go through the same stages (just faster than kids do) and you can often recognize human traits and phases in puppies.
Continue to be consistent and patient with his puppy training, always make sure that he obeys you before he gets his treat/reward and be firm but loving.
Puppies respond best to reward-based training, but you can begin to make the treat/reward more random by only giving him one every second or third time.
That way he won't know which time will win him his treat and hopefully will continue to obey every time in hopes. Eventually you'll be able to make his treat just once in every half a dozen times and he'll still be obedient.
I'd strongly recommend getting him enrolled in basic puppy obedience class at a dog training school. That will help you both with the training and also give him some very valuable socialization experiences.
You are on the right track with the socialization, but there's a lot of different things you can also do to help him, just take it slowly and don't push him too fast. Check out my Puppy Socialization page for lots of ideas.
As for the housetraining problem in your grandma's house, it's likely a combination of him smelling his own scent from previous accidents and the fact that it's a habit for him to go indoors at that house.
Puppies don't understand housebreaking the way we humans do, and as far as Duke is concerned he knows that he needs to go outdoors at home, but thinks it's okay to go indoors at your grandma's. He doesn't realize the same rules apply in both places because he was allowed to do it before.
I'd recommend using an enzymatic cleaner to really get rid of any lingering odors (see my Dog Urine Cleaning Products page to learn more about the best ones.
Then you may want to use a crate to confine him at least for part of the time you're there, the rest of the time watch him very closely and get him outside at the first hint that he needs to 'go'.
He'll get the message if you are consistent with this.
Little dogs can have big personalities and it seems as though Duke is fitting right in with that mold. Celebrate his special unique qualities and continue to work with him on his social skills and training and he will grow up to be a wonderful dog I'm sure. I wish you lots of luck.
My 15 wk old boxer just started humping legs. Should I get him neutered sooner then 6 months?
It's best to have a pup 'altered' (ie either neutered or spayed) before 6 months of age for health reasons. For large breed dog I personally think this can wait a bit longer, but there are many differing opinions.
However, this sort of 'humping' behavior isn't necessarily sexual in young puppies, and tends to be more of a dominant behavior.
Neutering him early may indeed help curb this behavior.
But, a firm corrections such as a simple 'NO', followed by a redirection of your pups interest to his own toys etc. is also necessary.
If he has a dominant personality be sure to let him know that he doesn't run the house - you do!
Regular obedience training will help with this, as will making sure he doesn't get to sleep on sofas, beds etc., that he tolerates you handling his food (or him) while he's eating, doesn't guard toys etc. is important.
by Taryn Madden, (Carver Ma)
My American Bulldog puppy, 4 months old growls at me and snaps when I go near his food bowl when he is eating.
He does not do it to my husband, only me. I feed him 2 meals a day, my husband feeds him 1 meal a day.
My American Bulldog puppy, 4 months old growls at me and snaps when I go near his food bowl when he is eating.
He does not do it to my husband, only me. I feed him 2 meals a day, my husband feeds him 1 meal a day.
I am home with him most of the day until I leave for work in the afternoon. I walk him and teach him obedience during the day. I have tried putting my hand in his bowl, and taking his food away mid meal.
I have pulled him away from his food, and he is fine as long as the whole time he is eating I never leave his side. If I walk away and then return to move him away from his food he growls and snaps.
I really love the dog and want to find a way to fix this problem.
We have a 1 year old son and I will not be able to keep the dog if there is a chance he will snap at my son!
This is definitely a problem, but isn't unusual. At your pups age he is testing his boundaries, and it seems that he's showing signs of 'guarding'. Does he do this with other things, like his toys and so on?
If you can put your hand in his bowl, and pick it up etc. without him growling or snapping, that's excellent, but it's odd that he objects so vehemently when you leave and then return and try to touch his food.
To learn more about this 'resource guarding' check out my page on puppy behavior. This is one of the problem behavior discussed in more detail there.
Really, the only way to overcome this is by practicing. If he growls or snaps, take him by the scruff of the neck and shake him (not roughly, just enough to get his attention) while telling him "No growl" or something similar.
Make sure that you pick up his bowl or continue with whatever it was you were trying to do, don't let him thing growling lets him get his own way.
It's important when you're doing this to make sure that when he lets you put your hand in his bowl, or pick it up, that he gets a treat or benefit.
I would also recommend practicing the 'leave it' command with his toys etc. He needs to learn to give you anything (ie 'leave it') when you ask for it. He should always get a treat for doing this nicely AND get his toy back :o)
Don't let your son, or anyone else get close to your puppy when he's eating until you get this under control or there is a chance they will get bitten.
If you're loving, patient and consistent with this you should be able to overcome the problem.
by Dave, (Baltimore, MD)
My girlfriend and I moved in together recently, and just a few weeks ago we adopted our second puppy, Molson.
He is a mixed breed whose mom was a Pitty and whose dad was half German Shepherd and part Husky.
My girlfriend adopted Tiffany over two years ago and she is now 3 years old.
She is about 30 lbs and is a mix herself (she may be a lhasa-apso mix, we're not sure) but she is also quite the good girl after getting her over separation anxiety.
Now that we have Molson, Tiff is a bit upset at not being the only pooch in the house, and Molson is happy to jump, nip, and bite Tiff just about all the time while we are in the house.
When we are walking they don't fight. However, what's worse is that Tiff sometimes comes after Molson with a few nips and bites, and the cycle of puppy fights continues!
After a few minutes they start to growl and bark at each other which worries us.
We know that puppies need to sort out which one of them is the boss, but I'm a bit lost as to how to stop the fighting before Molson gets too big and can become dangerous to Tiffany, but even more importantly to other puppies, people, and children.
What's a lost family to do before it's to late?
It sounds as though you have a bit of difficulty on your hands, but really this is pretty normal behavior, so don't panic!
It definitely sounds as though Molson tends towards being dominant, but at least right now he's young.
It's very likely that this issue will have been resolved long before he's big enough to hurt Tiffany. Puppies can be pretty annoying to an older dog, but they do grow out of this eventually.
The biting, nipping and barking that you describe is normal, a little growling is also okay. But if either of them snarl, curl their lip or put back their ears etc., this is a more serious warning than just play growling.
Most puppies are submissive to older dogs, and most older dogs are more gentle with a puppy who's 'taking liberties' than they would be an adult. However, the fact that Tiffany comes back after Molson to reprimand him when he's stepped over the line is a good thing.
If you watch carefully, I think you'll notice that although they nip and bite at each other, they don't actually bite-down, it's more an open-jawed 'mouthing' behavior.
Rarely does this sort of interaction draw blood or cause injury. It will tend to diminish as these two get more familiar with each other. It may also be that Molson left his litter too early (often happens with abandoned or rejected pups) and hasn't really learned the proper canine social behavior.
Tiffany will teach him this.
Although it's best to let them sort it out themselves as far as possible, it's important that they both know who's boss - that's YOU AND YOUR GIRLFRIEND, not either of them.
So, if you find that they're just going at it and it's getting out of hand - step in and separate them.
If Molson gets too rough with Tiffany and you really feel that she's not protecting herself, get a hold of the scruff of his neck and give him a bit of a shake while telling him "NO".
If he goes right back at her when your release him, repeat the same thing. If he still won't listen, separate him from her by taking him to his crate, or another room and give him a chew toy and time to settle down.
Giving both dogs lots of exercise on a daily basis will also help them (particularly Molson) to use up their excess physical and mental energy.
There's a lot of truth in the saying 'a tired puppy is a good puppy'.
Molson's genetic make up probably has something to do with his play style as Pitbulls and most bully breeds tend to 'play rough' even in fun, German Shepherds are very active and can be dominant and Huskies are independent, strong willed dogs.
It's important that you persevere with disciplining him and insisting on appropriate behavior while he's young. But never reprimand him harshly, shout, or use any kind of physical punishments.
The breeds in his ancestry are all highly intelligent yet strong willed, and don't respond well to combative corrections. This style of training will backfire and cause him to challenge you at some point.
So stay calm but be firm, and always loving, he will understand and respect you for it.
I'd recommend that as soon as he's had at least two sets of shots, that you enrol him in a Puppy Obedience Class (see my Dog Obedience Schools page for tips and advice on choosing a good school).
It will help you learn how to communicate better with Molson, and he'll learn to obey commands and listen to you.
He'll also get a chance to interact with other puppies in a supervised environment and the instructor will be able to give you advice on how to handle him and improve his 'social skills' if necessary.
I think, given a bit more time, you'll find that these two will come to accept each other and probably become friends.
You can also discuss their behavior with your veterinarian if you feel it's unmanageable and he/she may be able to recommend someone who could help you out.
Check out my Introducing A New Puppy page for even more help and advice.
My puppy is 4 months old German Shepherd cross Rottweiler and when you stroke him he sometimes growls.
When i tried to pick him up to get him of the sofa he turned round to bite me.
This is definitely not acceptable behavior, and you need to be very firm in correcting your pup. The smaller and younger he is, the easier it will be to correct him, he's already 4 months old so start now!
Whenever he growls at you, tell him very firmly "NO" (but don't ever shout or smack him etc., that will only make him resentful and maybe even scared). Never back off from whatever it was you were doing when he growled at you, because that will encourage him to do it more.
Right now, he's becoming an adolescent and he's trying to exert his own authority and test his boundaries, he wants to know 'who's in charge' - he needs to find out that it's YOU.
Biting is a big no-no, if he ever snaps or bites at you, again tell him "NO BITE" firmly, and if necessary reinforce that by wrapping your hand gently around his muzzle for a few seconds.
I'm not sure if this is a new behavior, or if your pup has been 'mouthy' or shown attempts at dominance when younger. He may just be an 'alpha' personality. But it is important to make sure that you discourage this behavior and correct him every single time.
Meanwhile, start making him 'work' for his meals, treats, petting etc. Have him obey your 'sit' command before you put down his food, give him a treat and so on. Dogs respect whoever is in control of the necessities of life - the resources that they need. Your pup needs to know that you are this person.
And begin working on basic obedience, you can find out how to do this on my Puppy Training page.
I'd also recommend enrolling him in a basic obedience class at a local dog obedience school. You'll have the hands-on help of a qualified dog trainer who will be able to help you deal with any behavior issues, and your pup will get some valuable socialization.
Both German Shepherds and Rottweilers are very intelligent dogs, they are usually easy to train and anxious to please. However, they can also be stubborn and self-confident and can challenge an owner they feel to be 'weaker' than them, or not in control.
This is why they're often not recommended as the ideal choice for first time dog owners (among others). A combative, or overbearing approach doesn't work as the dog will often resist, but if you use a loving, calm and firm attitude your puppy will respect you and pay attention.
There's one other point I'd like to mention because your pup is part Rottweiler. Rotties have a habit of making a grunting/groaning/almost-growling sort of noise in their throat when they're happy or content.
Make sure that you don't mistake that for aggressive growling. As your pup has also snapped at you, then chances are he is really growling, but a lot of people aren't aware of this Rottie habit and I wanted to be sure that you were.
by Mary Lisa, (New York)
I have a 8 month old maltipoo spayed female. She growls and snaps at guests, company in and around my home, and if I take her to the vet, groomers, anywhere where people want to touch her.
She will growl harshly and if they try to touch her will snap at them, she hasn't contacted with anyones' flesh yet.
When I had her groomed we had to give her a tranquilizer pill to calm her, didn't work, she hates to have her face touched by groomer.
She is loving with my family and our other two dogs. How can we break this behavior before my grandchild is born??
Hi Mary Lisa
This is definitely a behavior that you want to try to eliminate as it is likely to lead to someone being bitten sooner or later.
Your pup is already 8 months old, so it's going to be more difficult than if you'd been able to tackle it earlier on, but she is young enough that she can change this attitude given time.
The main question I would have is whether she is reacting this way due to a guarding or 'aggressive' reaction, or out of fear. Fear biting is more difficult to manage and can be a hereditary problem, it is also more unpredictable.
Hopefully you already correct her firmly (verbally) whenever she growls or snaps at anyone. She needs to know in no uncertain terms that this is not okay. Don't be harsh with her, but don't be too soothing either, a firm "NO" is necessary each and every time.
Normally I would also suggest that you gently but firmly hold her muzzle closed for a few seconds if she snaps, generally a pup won't snap at their owners, but you mentioned that she hates her face being touched, so you will need to be careful with this.
I'd recommend discussing this with your veterinarian and also talking to some qualified and experienced dog obedience trainers.
I think some hands-on help from a trainer, or even a dog behaviorist, would be invaluable here. Many dog obedience schools offer one-on-one training (sometimes even in your own home) and I think this may be an excellent thing to try.
You may also want to consider a soft muzzle for her if she's going to be in situations where she's likely to snap or bite, until you can get her behavior modified. If she bites someone it could be a difficult situation. I'd definitely recommend this around your soon-to-be grandchild until you are confident that she won't bite.
Your pup looks to you for guidance and you will need to be very consistent, patient and firm (but loving) in your attitude to this behavior.
Don't EVER allow her to get away with it without being corrected, and always praise her for good and positive interactions with other people or dogs.
Once you get this under control somewhat, you need to begin to increase her socialization. Regular socialization helps to prevent this sort of issue and builds confidence in a puppy.
by Robin, Iowa
My bulldog puppy is a total sweetheart but in certain circumstances she is very aggressive and will bite to draw blood.
If she has something in her mouth she shouldn't, like a leaf, rock, sock, etc. and I try to get it out, she will start growling and trying to bite. She's literally like a Tazmanian Devil(the animal, not cartoon) in how she reacts.
If she gets a hold on my hand, she will tear into it with teeth clenched tight and start shaking her head, trying to break skin.
Once she gets a grip, I can't shake her off and have to pry her mouth open to get her off me, usually ending up having her bite me all over again.
We also have 2 Golden Retrievers (4yrs & 3yrs)who she is vicious to during play. It starts out innocent, but if she feels they are "winning" at their game, she attacks them.
She gets a grip on their lip or tail and has them running away, sometimes with her still attached. She isn't afraid of them at all.
I'm really scared what she will be like as an adult if she is this aggressive as a puppy. What can I do to fix this behavior?
She is not food aggressive at all
Was runt of the litter
Tries humping everyone, especially the two older dogs.
Please help! I'm desperate to get her settled down before its too late!
It sounds to me as though you've got a fairly dominant little puppy there, one who is determined to be 'alpha' in all situations.
This isn't something to be panicked about, but you're right in wanting to get control over this now, because it will only get more challenging as she gets older.
Puppies of this age shouldn't growl or bite to draw blood, a bit of nipping and mouthing, and play growling is normal, but it seems that your pups' behavior goes beyond this.
It may be that she never learned bite-inhibition, I'm wondering if she was taken away from her momma before 8 weeks of age? This can lead to overly-zealous nipping!
The humping is her way of showing dominance, and she clearly want to win every 'game'. The fact that she's not food aggressive is a plus though.
Right now, although she can draw blood (and being a bulldog she has the right jaw design to hold on very tightly), she still has baby teeth. Don't allow her to 'get her own way' using this kind of behavior EVER.
If she behaves this way when you try to take something from her, make sure that regardless of how vigorously she defends it, that YOU win (firmly, calmly and gently).
Same for any games, and don't play 'tug of war' or any game that involves rough-housing.
I'd recommend getting a couple of those tiny breath mint sprays and using those as a deterrent when you correct her for biting.
If she clamps down on your hand, tell her "NO BITE" very firmly, and at the same time 'encourage' her to let go by giving her a shot of the breath mint spray right inside her mouth. Most dogs hate this.
Correct her every single time that she bites you, or growls, and make sure everyone in the family does the same thing. When she's 'bullying' the older dogs, also tell her "NO" and distract her with something else such as a favorite toy.
If she just keeps going after them and won't listen, then it's okay to remove her from the room/situation. Either put her in the kitchen/laundry room or whatever with a baby gate to keep her there, or in her crate for 10 mins, while she calms down. This won't upset her crate training.
I'd recommend teaching her the 'sit' command, and make this puppy 'earn' everything, from meals to walks, to treats and toys. Ask her to 'sit' (and make sure she obeys) before you feed her, play with her, pet her and so on. She needs to know that you are in charge.
She is simply following her personality and instincts and doesn't really know that this behavior is 'bad', she's a baby and is just making her feelings known. However, it's up to you to make sure that she learns what is acceptable behavior.
As soon as she's had all her puppy vaccinations, get her enrolled in a Puppy Obedience Class it will help you both.
If she doesn't respond to the measure I've given above, you may want to have a professional trainer come to your home to evaluate her. They would be able to tailor the training and corrections to her personality after interacting with her and observing how she behaves.
May 10, 2009
Thank you so much for taking the time to give me your input.
I've been applying some of those things to her plus making her sit for her food every time and her little "Tazz" fits are becoming fewer and less dramatic.
I swear, raising a pup is like raising a child...just when you think you know enough you could almost right a book, you have a wild child come along who shows you otherwise. :)
Thanks again and great website!!
by Susan, (Plano, TX USA)
Bella is a 6 mo Maltese and she gives a low growl with a wagging tail when she wants my attention, which is 100% of the day.
I make light of it because I don't want to give growling any energy, but it concerns me.
My former Maltese was a rescue and was a biter. I don't see her as aggressive as guarding, but she has a lot of energy and wants to play all day.
If I don't return the ball, she growls. She scolds me.
It sounds as though Bella is a little dominant and she's at the age where she's trying to exert her authority and find out exactly how far she can go!
Personally I would agree with you that she's not being aggressive, simply 'assertive' and bossy and a bit of an attention-hog.
Most puppies want attention a lot of the time, and would prefer to be playing or interacting with their owners than just about anything else. Of course, that's simply not possible.
You're right to ignore her growling and I think you should just continue with that approach. Don't talk to her (even negative attention is attention in her eyes) and don't make eye-contact, simply walk away or ignore her.
If she escalates from growling, to nipping or being physical in her attempts to get your attention correct her with a firm "NO" and then go about your business. If she absolutely won't quit, put her in her crate for a short while.
If you're consistent and patient with these corrections she will eventually learn that growling doesn't get her what she wants.
She's an adolescent and it's natural for her to be testing boundaries etc., she simply needs to know exactly what she can get away with and what she can't.
Make sure that she gets periods of one-on-one time with you, and play sessions etc., but only on YOUR terms. You choose when they start, and when they end, because YOU are in charge.
by Linda, (Houston, Texas)
I adopted a terrier puppy at 6-7 weeks of age from a shelter - she was a stray.
She has learned very quickly to sit, shake a paw, fetch and is mostly pretty sweet. I think she gets plenty of exercise (playing fetch, walking).
Now, at night she gets mean, won't listen, bites and gets angry when I try to discipline her. My significant other thinks she is a vampire!!
She is kennel trained but now it seems to be a time out or bad girl place more than anything - especially in the evening.
Sometimes I give her camomile tea mixed in with her water - sometimes it calms her down. Now she is 8-9 weeks old. She is not expected to get more than 20 pounds and looks like a border terrier mix.
She loves kids and other people - always wants to greet and play with them. We don't look forward to evenings anymore.
So far I have tried holding her mouth shut, slapping my hand to startle her, or yelling "ouch" very loudly, time outs, replacing my body parts or clothes she bites with toys - she just gets mad and does it worse.
If her behavior was like this all day I'd suggest perhaps a dog food allergy, or an over-anxious personality.
But as it's just happening in the evenings I think she just has a bad case of the 'puppy crazies'!
This is a very common problem and many, many puppies have a 'crazy hour' or so in the evening when they run around in circles, snap, bite, bark and generally act like nutcases.
It seems to be a developmental thing and is their way of 'letting off steam' and reducing the level of excess energy they contain.
Although you think she gets enough exercise, her behavior is indicating that she doesn't.
Terriers are extremely active dogs both physically and mentally and she may need more exercise than you expect.
This can take the place of long walks, playing games and also training as the mental energy a puppy needs to expend to concentrate on training commands is huge.
Don't play exciting games late in the afternoon though as this may just start to wind her up. Instead take a long, walk and finish up with 5 minutes of training.
These breeds often excel at learning tricks and love to perform, this would be another way to help her use up her energy and talent.
Make sure she has plenty of sturdy chew toys as chewing is another way that dogs use up their excess energy. Some interactive toys would also be a good idea.
Don't yell, or smack at her when she starts acting up as this only increases the emotional level of the situation and will ramp up her tension and excitability.
Use a low, firm but calm voice and slow, deliberate movements. Generally I allow running around for a while, but the nipping and biting is a no-no.
If you can't stop her with verbal commands or a gentle muzzle-wrap (holding her mouth closed for a few seconds while telling her 'no bite') then it's okay to put her in her crate for a time out. Just make sure she has some safe, sturdy toys to play with.
Try to make sure that there isn't anything that you're doing to make things worse too...
For example, if you get tense or anxious as evening approaches because you are expecting her to act up, then she will feel that (dogs are very in tune with their people's emotions) but she won't know why you're anxious. This will make her more unsettled
Also, evening can often be a tense, hectic time in many busy households. Kids and dads coming home, dinner preparation, homework, TV, Laptops, noise etc. etc.
Some dogs get over-stimulated by all this and that triggers the 'crazies'. If you think this could be happening here, try putting your pup in her crate in another room for an hour during the worst of the 'rush hour' and bring her back out when all is more calm.
A lot of it is trial and error and just trying to figure out what makes things worse, and what makes them better.
Luckily this is a stage that puppies seem to grow out of eventually anyway, and although it's definitely challenging right now it will pass.
by Dawn, (Indiana)
We got our puppy when he was 6 weeks old and from day 1 he has acted like he was starving.
We feed him small meals 3 times a day and he has now started inhaling it if you touch him while he's eating.
If you touch the bowl he would rather tear your hand off for lack of better term.
How do we stop this behavior?
The first question I would have is whether or not you've had Zeus dewormed several times by your veterinarian (not with over-the-counter products).
Just about all canine worms to begin with, and an untreated worm problem can lead to a pup who seems ravenously hungry all the time.
Actually, in that situation he IS hungry because the worms are taking all the nutrition from his food, so no matter how much he eats, he's always hungry.
If you have had Zeus properly dewormed, and you know that's not the problem, then it may be that he wasn't properly taken care of before you got him. If he had to fight his siblings over an inadequate supply of food, he would already have developed a very food-possessive attitude.
I'd also recommend feeding him a bit more than you are at present. If he doesn't have worms and always seems hungry, he probably is!
Puppies are all different and while some don't seem interested in food most of the time, others are chow hounds. The guidelines on the food bag are just that - guidelines. I'd aim to be giving him as much as he wants to eat at each meal for now.
He may gorge himself the first time or two, but once he realizes that there's always going to be enough food he'll start to slow down. Also be sure to feed a premium food as it has more nutrition per cup.
Check out my Puppy Kibble page for more information and links to the other dog food pages on my site.
Regardless of the cause of his behavior though, it's vital that you stop it now, as it could lead to someone getting bitten in the future. If he's possessive in this way about his toys/bones etc. you're going to need to work on that too.
Here's what I'd recommend...
Begin by hand feeding Zeus his meals - one piece of kibble at a time. Don't let him snatch or grab it.
It may make mealtimes a bit tedious, but it will help him learn that you are the source of his food, and that he can trust your hands to be in the same place as his kibble!
Once he's got used to taking a piece of kibble at a time, you can fill your hand and hold it out (palm upward) so that he can use it as a 'bowl'.
When he's okay with all of that, go back to using the bowl at mealtimes, but sit beside him so that he is comfortable with you near the food bowl. After a couple of days begin to drop some very tasty treats into his bowl one at a time while he's eating.
Let him see and enjoy the treats so that he realizes that your hand in his bowl means some sort of tasty morsel... not that you're going to take away his food!
Next step is to get him to allow you to pick up his bowl, let him see you add the treats to his food, and then put the bowl back down in front of him right away.
If you do this at every mealtime for a week, then cut back to doing it at one mealtime a day, then every other day.. you should eventually just need to do this on a random basis to keep his trust.
This may sound like a lot of work but it is definitely worth the effort and isn't nearly as time consuming as it sounds.
If Zeus protects his toys aggressively, you'll need to work on getting him to 'exchange' a toy for a treat, and then you give him the toy right back.
He'll soon learn that if you take something from him, he'll get a treat AND get the 'something' back. It's a win-win for him :o)
Just be firm, loving and patient with this little guy and he'll do just fine.
by Christine, (IL)
We have a 7 month old Brussel Griffin/ Shitzu puppy. Last Friday night he was nipping at my toes, so I took him outside, that is usually his way of letting us know he has to go.
But that was not the case this time. Once outside he kept at it my toes, knees, back of knees. I tried distracting him with toys, nothing seemed to work.
Then again this friday night about the same time - same scenario.
I tried lots of things but it is not until my son picks him and removes his from the room does he stops.
He does not try this new behavior with anyone else just me. HELP!!
This is most likely about dominant behavior as much as sexual behavior. The nipping, biting, and 'humping' are all part of the natural way in which dogs interact amongst themselves and exert their dominance.
If your pup hasn't already been neutered then I would recommend getting that taken care of asap.
Neutering not only prevents unwanted litters, it helps to stop your dog from starting up bad habits such as 'spraying' or 'marking' his territory, wandering off in pursuit of female dogs who are in season, and excessive 'humping' or other dominant behaviors.
You will need to be firm with your dog and correct him consistently, although this isn't just about biting, if you follow the guidelines on my Puppy Biting page they should help dissuade him from this.
Also, he is not respecting you as his 'senior' or as the pack alpha, so you need to work on making sure he knows that you are above him in terms of seniority.
You need to feed him and train him yourself, and I'd also recommend enrolling him in a basic obedience class to help with bonding and control.
To help your pup understand his place in your family don't allow him to climb up on beds, sofas or chairs; don't let him control your behavior with his (ie not allowing you to take toys etc. away from him, or not walking properly on the leash); don't let him to block doorways or passageways or to go through a door before you do.
All these things will help him to learn that he's not 'in charge'.
by bill, (pa.)
When telling my american bulldog puppy 'no', she often barks back and grunts back at me .
How do i stop this?
This is a sign of a dominant personality, and isn't terribly unusual.
Be sure that you aren't being overly 'dominant' yourself when interacting with her.
Large or guardian breeds do NOT need a more authoritarian style of training than any other breed.
In fact, if you use a loud, stern or harsh voice with her, or act in that way, she may misinterpret it as an aggressive behavior. This can cause her to 'push back' as it were.
Always use a calm, but firm voice and keep it low. Keep your body language confident but not threatening for best results.
Never let her get away with not obeying you, even if she fusses at you. Make sure she does whatever it is you have asked of her, or she will think that this is the way to control you.
I would also recommend enrolling her in a basic obedience class. It will help you both learn to communicate with each other and is a great socialization experience for her.
by Ruth, (Las Vegas, Nv)
WE Have a 7 month old Male Yorkie who was fixed 7 days ago. Got him at 4 months old.
My husband's idea. He's wanted one for quite a while now. We are both retired so we're home with the pup a lot. He's approx 7-8 lbs.
Paper trained him, but at 6 months put a doggie door in, which he goes out & in of, sometimes does his business in the designated area we made for him, but for the most part goes on the paper.
If I'm busy or my husband is not paying attention to him, he moves his bowels where ever he feels like it.(my husband insists on spite) When people come in the house, he jumps on them like he's a madman.
I've taught him to sit, come and stay (w/ treats) but when I don't use the treats he rarely listens to me.
I've tried to walk him but he just sits down and won't move and I don't want to pull him. When he isn't getting attention, he barks for it and I don't know how to stop him.
My husband wishes Riley would let him pet him, but Riley only let's you pet him when he wants you to. He also chews on everyone's shoes.
I've tried to show him his basket with all HIS things in it and tell him, that this is MINE and his toys are HIS, but to no avail! At my wits end!
My husband got him so he could have a friend and love, feed and pet and take care of him, but the dog is making his blood pressure rise and he is ready to give him away.. I've bonded with Riley (feed, bathe, groom, try to walk him, play with him, etc) although clearly he loves my husband and my hubby is his favorite).
Any help/suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I think my husband is really serious about getting rid of him. He says he made a mistake. I keep telling him Riley is still a puppy and it's our fault that he does the things he does..
That we allow him and enable him to be a bad pup, but for the life of me, I don't know how to correct all this bad behavior
Any help/suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
I'm sorry you're having so many problems with this little guy, and I can imagine how frustrating and disappointing this must be.
However, you're right when you say that it's more the fault of you and your husband, than it is the puppys'!
I don't mean this nastily at all, the situation you're in is actually very common and although it may seem impossible right now, with discipline and perseverance (and a bit of time) YOU can turn this pups behavior around.
Raising puppies is very similar to raising children, and if you don't set the proper firm rules and guidelines early on, life can be very challenging - for everyone.
Yorkies are adorable, but they can be very stubborn and willful, and the fact that their cute little faces can melt your heart in a second (photo above is proof of that!) doesn't help.
To begin with I would suggest getting a crate for your little guy and begin to use it regularly. Your pup should have pretty good bladder/bowel control, so messing in his crate shouldn't be a problem.
He will likely make a huge fuss at first though, but you will have to harden your hearts and ignore it. He will eventually settle down, but with all of these things I'm going to tell you about it could be a battle of wills for a few weeks - and it's important that YOU and YOUR HUSBAND win these battles.
You are going to be 'cruel to be kind' because otherwise this little boy risks losing the only home and family he knows and loves, and that would be terrible for him (and unnecessary).
One point I'd like to make is that dogs don't do things out of 'spite', they simply don't have the capacity to think in that way.
It's more likely that although your pup uses his doggie door and the paper often, he thinks that this is 'optional', and if no-one is reminding him, or supervising him, then he'll just be lazy and go wherever he wants. The crate will help with this.
Get his chewing under control by reading my Puppy Chewing page and following the tips there. For really stubborn chewers, or for the times when your pup is hanging on your shoe laces, a small water spray bottle can be very effective. A quick shot of water on the nose, accompanied by a firm verbal 'no' can be very effective.
I think both you and your husband and your puppy would benefit from enrolling in a formal basic obedience class at a local dog obedience school. The socialization experience is an added plus for your pup, and you will learn how to overcome any problems with one-on-one instruction from a qualified dog trainer.
The jumping on people is a problem that needs to be addressed to - but at least this is a 8lb pup and not a 80lb pup you're having to deal with! This will take a bit of effort on your part, and you'll need your visitors to 'help' you too, but it can be done. Here's how......
You will need to attach a long training leash (See this website page for some samples of long training leashes. It also has tips that should help you with that leash-walking problem), or even a strong piece of rope to your pups collar right before your visitor comes to your door.
Either you or your husband holds the leash and the other person opens the door, when the visitor steps in and your pup rushes forward to jump on them, give the leash a short/sharp tug so that he isn't able to jump and is put off-balance.
Repeat this every time he tries to jump. It works best when the leash is fairly long, and the pup is barely aware of the person holding it. That way the correction, seems in his mind, to be directly related to his jumping, and not to someone pulling him.
After he's stopped jumping, or at least has slowed down his efforts, the person at the door should ask him to 'sit' and once his little butt is on the floor, he gets a treat and the visitor can greet him while he's sitting. If he starts jumping again, repeat the process.
If he KEEPS jumping, over and over again, just get him to sit once and get his treat and then pick him up and put him in his crate. He'll soon decide sitting and getting petted and treats is preferable.
If you can get some friends to 'visit' you so that you can practice this more often, so much the better. If your pup does the same thing when you and your husband come home, have one person be the 'returning person' and the other can do the correcting, if you see what I mean.
Now, none of this is going to result in a well-behaved pup overnight, but if you are consistent, loving and patient - but firm, your little guy WILL get the message.
He's had 7 months to learn how to misbehave, and although it shouldn't take more than a couple of months for him to re-learn the correct behavior, it will take time.
In general, dogs WANT to behave the right way, they just need to be shown clearly what that is.
Your little guy loves you both, and he will be happier and more secure once you establish rules and cause-and-effect for him. Puppies really are just like children in that way. It would be such a tragedy for him to lose his home over something like this, so I beg you both to be strong for his sake and help him learn what's right.
It may be hard for a few weeks, but the result will be a much stronger, happier relationship between you two and your dog, and that is worth whatever effort it takes to achieve it.
I wish you both the best of luck, and hope your story has a happy ending.
My jack russell pup is 9 weeks old when he is playing with my little girls he get bouncy and starts barking and growling at her and does sort of pounces!!
Some one told me i need to nip this in the bud because he is playing but he is telling her he is in charge how do i stop this???
Your puppy is behaving in a very normal way because he sees your daughter as a sibling, another puppy really, and this is his way of interacting with other puppies.
However, although it's normal and understandable it IS important for him to learn that your daughter isn't a pup and that she is higher up in the pecking order than he is.
At 2 years old she's just a baby herself, so you will need to correct your puppy if he steps over the line.
If he barks, nips or jumps on her you'll need to tell him "no" firmly (but don't shout or smack) and redirect his attention to something that he is allowed to play with.
It's important to be very consistent when training puppies and not to expect overnight results. It takes a lot of repetition for them to learn what is expected.
Jack Russells are very typical terriers and have a LOT of energy and personality and can be stubborn, they make wonderful family pets but need consistent firm discipline and lots of exercise.
If at all possible have your daughter 'help' to take care of your pup. Let her fill his food dish, give him a treat for learning to 'sit', brush him etc.
Obviously you'll need to help her a lot with this, but if your pup sees that she is also in control of the resources of life (especially food and treats!) he will respect her more and naturally begin to understand that he's not her equal.