How to Train an Aggressive Puppy
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How to Train an Aggressive Puppy. Proven Methods for Training an Aggressive Puppy.

If you are a new dog owner, you may be worried about some of your puppy’s behaviors. They may be biting, growling, and playing too roughly. 

Is this normal or should you take action to address your puppy becoming too aggressive?

Some behaviors such as biting and growling with puppies are normal. However, without proper training, any puppy can grow up to be aggressive, no matter the breed. It is important to provide firm and consistent training for young puppies so they grow into well-mannered adult dogs. 

my puppy won't stop biting me i've tried everything

Read on to find out what causes puppy aggression, and how to train them to discourage it. 

How Can You Tell a Puppy is Aggressive? 

Before deciding your puppy is aggressive, it is important for pet owners to understand the difference between normal puppy behavior and signs of unwanted aggression. 

The good news is most puppy behaviors can be corrected with obedience training and there are almost always warning signs to alert you that training is needed.

Is my puppy aggressive quiz

Biting, growling, and rough play are normal puppy behaviors. Many of these will disappear as your puppy grows, and as you teach him how to interact with those around him.

However, many factors can cause your puppy to behave aggressively. Look closely at your puppy’s body language to determine whether or not he’s being aggressive.

If you see your puppy have the following body language, he is showing signs of aggression:

  • Stiff tail
  • Hair standing up
  • Neck lower than the shoulders
  • Upturned nose
  • Bared teeth
  • Ears laid back
  • Intense, quiet stare

If a dog is demonstrating these behaviors, he is a dangerous dog. Remove the involved party from the puppy and let your dog have a chance to cool down. 

Do not hit or confront a dog with aggressive behaviors. This will make it worse.

What Causes a Puppy to Be Aggressive?

Any breed of dog can produce aggressive puppies

Yet, there are certain factors that contribute to these aggressive behaviors in young dogs such as fear, pain, resource guarding, leash aggression, and frustration.

Why is my puppy being aggressive all of a sudden

Fear

When a puppy is afraid, he can react aggressively. Fear is a big motivator for aggressive behaviors. If you adopt a puppy who was mistreated, he may be cautious and still afraid. 

It may take time and care to get him to trust people again. Usually, in this case, you take it slow. Trust takes time.

Other causes of fear-based aggression are being back into a corner, a larger dog intimidating the puppy, or rough behaviors from young children. 

The key to eliminating fear-based aggression is to reduce the cause of the fear. Then, with training and socialization, you can avoid these behaviors. 

Pain

Another cause of aggressive behaviors in puppies is pain. Dogs can’t tell us when they are hurt. 

So, sometimes if we or a loved one touches a puppy where he is injured or plays too rough with him, he will lash out in response.

In this case, it is best to have your puppy looked at by a vet. Your vet can tell you the cause of your pup’s pain and treat it. 

If you have children who play too rough with your pet, encourage them to be gentler. 

Resource Guarding

Some dog breeds are natural guard dogs, such as German Shepherds and Rottweilers. Their instincts drive them to act possessively over you and your belongings. 

This behavior often happens when your puppy and another pet share the same feeding space. If you have a cat or another dog approach your puppy’s bowl, your puppy may bite or snarl. 

He is guarding his resources and doesn’t want anyone to touch them.

This is a natural behavior in dogs. They instinctively want to protect their resources for their own survival. However, if this behavior is not discouraged it can turn into aggression. 

Separate your dog and the other pet and feed them in different locations to help discourage this behavior.

Leash Aggression

Leashes can either have extremely positive or negative associations for puppies. 

The fear of being taken to a vet or to an unknown place can be overwhelming and cause your puppy to act out. 

In contrast, your puppy may get so excited that he cannot control his actions.

This can be very frustrating for owners who face a battle with their dog every time the leash is brought out. 

Training your dog with a leash early on is one of the keys to reducing leash aggression.

However, you can still correct this behavior later with patience and time. You just need to use positive reinforcement every time you use the leash. 

This may take a while before you see results, but it will be worth it. 

Frustration

Puppies can easily become overwhelmed. Too many loud noises or too many people fawning over them may be overstimulating. Puppies can act out when they are frustrated. 

They can also get overtired. Puppies are still babies so being overly tired can cause them to be cranky and reactive.

In these cases, it is important to give your puppy a cool-down period. This will give him a chance to calm down and get away from the source of the frustration. 

Puppies are very cute, and everyone wants to hold and play with a puppy. However, they are still just babies and need rest and time to themselves, as well. 

Are Certain Dog Breeds More Likely to Be Aggressive?

Although an aggressive puppy can be any breed, certain breeds are more prone to aggression than others. 

genetically aggressive dog breeds

Here is a short list of some of the most aggressive dog breeds:

  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Chow Chow
  • German Shepherds
  • Siberian Huskies
  • Dachshunds
  • Chihuahuas
  • Dalmatians
  • Cane Corso
  • Dogo Argentino

Yet, with proper training and socialization at a young age, many of these breeds can be really great family pets.  

It is always important for you to thoroughly research a dog breed before adding it to your family. Different breeds have different requirements. 

Some dogs become aggressive if they are left to be bored all day or are confined for too long. These dogs aren’t bad, but they can get out of control if they are not properly trained. 

Common Puppy Behaviors and How to Handle Them

Puppies can be like toddlers. They test the limits, pushing as far as they can until they find the established rules. 

In order to get past this difficult time, you need to step back and remember your puppy is a baby and needs to learn what is acceptable and what is not from you.

Puppy Biting

One of the most common behaviors new puppy owners worry about is biting, yet biting isn’t always a sign of puppy aggression. 

Puppies bite because they use their mouths like human toddlers–to explore, teeth, and play. 

Puppy biting occurs pretty early and continues until they are done teething. Teething can be painful for your pup, so give him plenty of chew toys. 

This is a good way to alleviate much of their biting aimed at you. 

Teething lasts until about 6 months of age for most dog breeds. Still, if biting isn’t discouraged at a young age, your puppy may bite and nip indefinitely.

How to Handle Puppy Biting

Dogs learn bite inhibition, or how to control their bite, from their mothers and littermates. So, if your puppy is biting you hard, he may not have learned how to control his biting. 

You can firmly remove yourself from the bite and tell your puppy “no” each time he bites. Then, physically take yourself away from your puppy. 

How to stop puppy biting fast

This will take attention away from your puppy. Try not to reward your puppy with attention when he is biting. This can make the biting worse and last longer.

Biting in puppies isn’t usually an issue unless the dog is causing injury when he bites. In this case, it’s a good idea to seek out a certified dog trainer. 

You should also avoid letting children near a puppy who is causing injury until you can get him under control.

Growling

If your puppy is growling, you may be worried he is showing signs of aggression. Growling is your pup’s way of telling you he’s upset. 

There are several reasons your puppy may growl. For example, he may growl when another dog or pet comes near his food bowl. He may growl when someone touches his toy or bed. 

This type of behavior is usually about possession. Your puppy does not want someone touching his things. 

This behavior is more common for puppies who came from shelters, had a mother who exhibited this behavior, in response to another pet, or a dog breed known for guarding.

How to Handle Puppy Growling

First, don’t make your dog give up the object he is growling about. This will escalate the situation. Get something your dog would want more than the object he is holding. 

Say “Drop it,” and when he releases his object, give him the reward item. You will have to repeat this often.

Small children who are playing roughly with your puppy may also overstimulate him. This may cause him to growl. 

In this case, it is good to pet the puppy calmly and encourage your child to be gentler. You may even need to remove your puppy from the situation for a few minutes.

Puppies can also growl when they play. It can sound vicious, but it’s usually normal. They may growl when they tug at something or when they play. This is usually not a sign of aggression. 

Rough Play

Puppies play with each other by fighting. They learn how to do this from other dogs. This rough play may seem aggressive. 

You may hear loud growling and see lots of romping and biting, but usually, puppies playing like this is normal and not a cause of concern. 

Sometimes owners can unwittingly encourage rough play with their puppies. 

Using your hands, arms, or legs while playing with your pup can encourage them to seek to bite or nip in order to play. 

How to Handle Puppy Rough Play

To discourage rough play, anyone in your household who is using body parts to play with the dog should switch to using toys. This will show your puppy that they only bite and growl with the toy.

If your puppy has access to too many of his toys at once, he can become possessive. He may begin to hoard and guard them. 

You can manage his toys by keeping only one or two toys out at a time. Then, you can switch them out or take them away as needed. 

This puts you in control of the play and discourages possessiveness.

Types of Puppy Training Methods

Positive Reinforcement

Punishment is not the way to deal with aggressive behaviors in a puppy. If you want to correct your puppy’s behaviors, positive reinforcement works much better.

Punishment is when you either add or take away something to discourage behaviors. Reinforcement is when you either add or take away something to encourage a behavior.

So, instead of adding or taking away something to keep your dog from biting or growling. It is better to add or take away something to encourage good behavior.

Here’s an example. If your dog doesn’t bite you when you put his leash on, you give him a treat and praise the good behavior. Treats, toys, and affection all work well to encourage good behaviors.

Positive reinforcement works best, especially when you are starting out training a young puppy. Yet, reinforcement doesn’t have to be all about adding something. 

Should You Ever Use Negative Reinforcement?

Sometimes, you need to use negative reinforcement to encourage a behavior. 

For example, if your dog is afraid of the lawn mower every time it goes by. You can wait for the lawn mower to go by, and hold your dog in place to show him there’s nothing for him to fear. 

This should be used very sparingly, though, as it is not always the best approach to training your puppy. Also, certain fears like thunder and fireworks cannot be trained out of a dog.

Positive reinforcement is the method recommended by scientists. 

…a focus on rewards not only influences dog behavior but teaches dogs to love training. Positive reinforcement is all about earning the good stuff. Without fear of doing the wrong thing, your dog can become an active participant in the training process.

American Kennel Club (AKC)


This is the type of training you want to seek out if you go for a professional trainer. 

Dominance training

Another way to train a puppy is by establishing dominance. Dogs are pack animals, and within packs, there is a leader. 

This lead dog is a trusted alpha who keeps the pack safe. You want to establish this relationship with your puppy.

However, it is important to note that showing dominance doesn’t mean striking or treating your puppy cruelly. Showing dominance is about being a leader. 

The puppy needs to trust you. Otherwise, you could further encourage aggressive behaviors.

There are a few easy things you can do to establish dominance. 

Here is a list of simple actions you can do to make sure your pup knows who is boss!

  • Walk through the door first before your puppy
  • Ask your puppy to do something before allowing him to eat (e.g. sit, stay, etc.)
  • Stop your puppy from eating for a few seconds by placing your hand over his dish
  • Have your dog walk beside you while on the leash, not ahead
  • Stand up straight and always talk to him from above
  • Be consistent with rules (e.g. sleeping in his bed, not yours)
  • Make eye contact

These strategies are easy ways to establish your role as the alpha. It will encourage better behaviors and more obedience. 

This form of training has fallen out of favor in recent years. Many trainers who use this method use shock collars and swat the dog to promote behaviors. 

This form of training involves the use of positive punishment (adding something unpleasant to discourage a behavior).

Many people also argue this method of training encourages some of the behaviors the dog owners wish to discourage. 

For example, if you tell your dog to stop barking every time he barks, this gives him attention. This may inadvertently reinforce the behavior.

Most experts believe the use of positive reinforcement is the best method for training a puppy. 

Contact a Certified Trainer

In some cases, you need to get a professional to help you. If your puppy is constantly causing injury and you’ve tried to train him at home with no success, it is time to get help. 

Certified trainers know how to work with difficult cases of aggression. They have many different strategies they can try to get your puppy to act gentler. 

However, it is important to make sure you select a qualified trainer. Ask about the method your trainer uses to train your puppy. Also, check to see what kind of reviews he or she has. 

Getting a dog trainer you trust and have confidence in is an important first step in puppy training.

Related Aggressive Puppy Questions

How do you find a certified dog trainer?

There are many online resources for finding local trainers. You can also check out local pet shops and vet offices for advice on local trainers. 

They usually have a list of names they can give you. Finally, you can also go to social media sites such as Facebook to find local dog trainers. 

Make sure that your trainer is certified and reputable. 

Should aggressive puppies be rehomed? 

In most instances, aggressive behaviors can be corrected with extensive time and training, especially with a young puppy. However, if you do not have the time to work with your pet. 

If you don’t have the money to hire a trainer, you may need to rehome your puppy if he is causing injury to you or family members. 

Can aggressive puppies live in the same home as babies and children?

If you have a puppy exhibiting aggressive behaviors, you should never leave them alone with your baby or children. All of their interactions should be supervised. 

You should contact a certified trainer or work on training your puppy to stop the aggression as soon as possible. 

It is also important to teach your baby as he grows into a toddler to interact cautiously and gently with your puppy.

It is also a good idea to speak to your veterinarian if you have children and an aggressive puppy in the same home. 

Your vet can give you good professional help about how to deal with the situation.

Do all puppies go through an aggressive behavior phase?

At about 6 through 18 months, your puppy may go through a rebellious phase. This often is related to hormonal changes in your puppy. 

This can be a frustrating time because it will seem like all of your hard work training your puppy is completely lost. 

However, most of the difficulties you see during this time will go away as your puppy matures. 

What is a scruff shake?

The puppy’s scruff is the fold of skin directly behind its ears. You have probably seen a mother dog pick up their puppy by the ‘scruff’ of their neck and carry them somewhere.

Scruff shakes are also a sign of dominance. A dog owner may pick up their dog by the scruff to signal that they are in control.

You Can Train an Aggressive Puppy 

Although any puppy can become aggressive, there is a difference between aggressive play (which is normal) and true aggression.

Also, don’t get discouraged if your puppy shows signs of unwanted behavior because there are many ways you can discourage these aggressive behaviors. 

Remember to find out the source of your puppy’s aggression, and then, work on training your puppy.  It is good to know that small puppy bites are usually not a serious problem.

Now that you have a few tools under your belt, you can begin training your puppy and build a loving relationship that will last for the rest of your pup’s life.

how to train an aggressive puppy not to bite

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