11 month old Puppy Becoming Aggressive Towards Me

by Edith
(Germany)

Dog Behavior Question

We have a puppy whom we are working very hard to train. Just recently, he has been jumping and nipping at me, I am a woman and not my husband. Clearly, he doesn’t think I am the pack leader! I try to turn away and then he nips at the back of my legs. This is beginning to scare me a bit and I don’t want to lose my cool. He is learning to heel and will sit on command. He eats after we do and sleeps very well in his crate. He gets 2 x 30 minute walks a day and that seems sufficient. Some times he will obey my ‘sit’ command and sometimes he won’t and the excitement just escalates.

Our Response

Puppy Aggressive Behavior – Thanks for your question – yes I understand why you are having a problem and it must be very upsetting for you and your family – but also for your 11 month old puppy. I will go through a series of questions and techniques that you can use to cure the nipping and biting and also how to prevent it happening in the first place.

1. Firstly is you puppy neutered – this technique has it’s fans and also detractors. Neutering is the process of removing the organs that are needed to reproduce – in males this will be the surgical removal of the Testicles and in female the Ovaries and Uterus. Experts feel that the removal of a dogs testicles helps to decrease male dominance and aggression problems. It is also thought by some people that it can decrease the likelihood of serious health conditions in later life including malignant tumours. This maybe something to consider.

2. From the age of six months a puppy is more likely to become territorial, aggressive and protective.

What Causes the Problem…

1. A puppy may start biting and showing aggression as they think it’s all part of the play process.
2. A puppy may start nipping and biting out of fear especially with strangers. Once a puppy starts to bite he or she can see how effective it is to solve common problems this will help to perpetuate the problem.
3. Another reason is due to a puppy wanting to vie for position as the pack leader. A puppy will start to nip and bite the owner in an effort to gain control of the situation.
4. Another reason is due to the owner not understanding the body language a puppy is exhibiting. For example if your puppy is in a fearful position it will not want to bite or nip – his ears will be pinned back, the teeth might be on show and the fur might be standing on end. If you don’t understand this body language and you approach the puppy then you have already been warned – so do not approach.
5. Puppies often become aggressive around food – known as dog food aggression. This goes back to when dogs were in the wild i.e. they would need to protect their food from other pack members – it might also be that they were badly treated and were not supplied with enough food in the past.

How to Solve the Problem

1. Never use force – this will simply tell your puppy that it’s ok to display aggressive behavior. If you use verbal punishment it needs t be loud enough to let your puppy know that he has misbehaved but not too loud that it scares him.
2. Continue training your puppy – using the Sit Command is a great way to increase his confidence and build your relationship. Continue using the Heel command as this will do the same.
3. Socialization is a great way to get your puppy used to new experiences, increase his confidence and decrease fear based behavior. Puppy training classes are a great way to achieve this – not only can you ask other owners questions but you will have a dog trainer there to provide advice and support.
4. Use Toys as a substitute for your arm this will tell your puppy what is acceptable to bite and hat is not. You will need to initiate the play especially with an older puppy. Do this by shaking a toy – if your puppy starts to nip or bite your arm – redirect his attention to the toy. This will need to be practiced over time as biting behavior needs to be unlearned.
5. Pretend that the biting really hurts you – say ‘Ouch’ really loud – stop the play and put the toys away – this will tell your puppy that bad behavior has a negative response. If he bites you say no – when he stops reward him with a treat.