Puppy Aggression – Who’s Really the Leader and Why Does That Matter to Your Puppy?
Puppy aggression happens when your puppy is not properly socialized, trained, or sees you as the leader. There are quite a few reasons a puppy can be aggressive. The most common are – A puppy that is taken away from its mother too early; a puppy that has a dominant personality; or a puppy who is acting out of fear.
Puppy aggression generally exhibits itself, first, in what seems like playful nipping and biting and progresses quickly into biting that leaves painful bite marks and penetrates the skin. No matter what age your puppy is, excessive nipping and biting is not normal.
Unfortunately, left unchecked, the biting behavior will develop into a dangerous problem for you, other dogs, and people. And, what most puppy owners may not realize is that this is a behavior that will not go away by itself.
A puppy or dog’s nature is that they are led by an alpha dog or leader. A puppy will follow a leader once they understand that you are that leader. Your puppy will listen to you and your commands once your leadership is established. It’s establishing that leadership role early on in your puppy’s life that is critical to successful training and teaching your puppy not to be aggressive.
How do you establish a leadership role with your puppy and prevent puppy aggression?
- Leash train your puppy and take your puppy for a walk. Your puppy will learn to follow you and will see you as someone they want to follow. If you are having trouble leash training your puppy, then try a harness which in most cases works instantly, so you can start training your puppy to accompany you on walks and outside faster.
- Play with your puppy (get your puppy tired) using chew toys, or toys, or balls, do not allow your puppy to mouth your hands, bit, or nip. (More on that below.)
- Control your puppy’s food intake and feed your puppy twice a day. Leaving a bowl of food out works against both housebreaking and your puppy depending on you for his food. When your puppy sees you as the food provider, he will also see you as his leader.
- As with older dogs, start young and teach your puppy to roll over and present his tummy. A puppy who presents their tummy to you is showing you that they are being submissive. Reinforce that behavior by giving your puppy a good tummy rub.
- Teach your puppy the “down” position. Start slow and work up to 5 minutes a day. This is a submissive posture used in packs and will work well to reinforce you as your puppy’s leader. (Teach your puppy or dog how to sit/stay.)
- Don’t verbally bait your puppy (for instance – “go get the kitty!”). When you teach your puppy these types of cues, your puppy aggression issues will increase as your puppy will become more confused, aggressive, and be demanding.
- Be consistent when you give commands. Don’t give commands that are different every time. Puppies see the world in black and white. They can’t understand variations in commands. Use the same vocabulary and tones when issuing commands.
- Be respectful to your puppy. Don’t use harsh discipline techniques such as spanking or spraying your puppy with water. More here on disciplining your puppy.
- Don’t put your puppy in a crate to punish him. If a puppy is not properly introduced to a crate and comfortable in being one, your puppy may react strongly to being in a crate and urinate, scratch, whine, or cry.
- Don’t put your puppy outside when he does something bad. A puppy can be terrified of new surroundings that are unfamiliar. Not to mention the trouble a puppy can get into while chewing on sticks, leaves, or being exposed to other dogs.
- Try motivating your puppy with treats. A puppy will not recognize someone as a leader that they are scared of. Rewarding in the form of praise and treats will make your puppy more comfortable around you.
Your puppy now sees you as their leader or do they?
Once you start training and have the leadership and respect of your puppy you will have set the groundwork for a puppy that is balanced and calm. Most puppies that are nipping because they are frightened will immediately stop nipping and biting.
Puppies that will continue to nip or bite after they have been trained to see you as their leader, need to understand that nipping or biting or even mouthing your hand is not acceptable.
- When a puppy starts to nip, bite, or mouth, say No! in a loud voice and quickly move away from your puppy.
- As soon as you say No! Place a chew toy (not a treat) in front of your puppy’s nose. Your puppy will nip or bite that and learn that the biting behavior is ok only when it is a chew toy or toy. And this does work, it just takes repetition.
- If your puppy does not respond to the above and is older and leash trained, leave a leash on your puppy. When your puppy tries to nip or bite, tug on the leash (don’t choke) and say No! Then, put a chew toy, or toy in front of your puppy’s nose.
Training your puppy consistently and into an adult dog is an integral part of leadership and a puppy owner needs to do everything possible to make sure their puppy continues to see their owner as a leader and develops into a stable happy dog by applying daily training, walks, and spending time with their puppy.
Puppy aggression doesn’t have to happen. Recognize the warning signs early in your puppy’s life, and follow some simple steps to defeat the behavior before your puppy grows into a dog.