Do You Have an Aggressive Puppy? Here are the Signs
Your puppy is adorable, cuddly, and a joy to behold. He also incessantly growls at anyone that comes near him, and he's not afraid to nip or even bite your fingers. Is he a playful pup, or is he showing signs of aggression?
The Behavior Behind the Bite
All puppies will growl, nip, and bite. These signs are typically not signs of aggression per se; rather, they are ways that your little buddy communicates with other dogs of all shapes and sizes. It’s an essential part of their social development as a whole.
More often than not, the nipping and growling come from an ancestral place within the canine. Pack animals like dogs would use these behaviors as a means to “talk” to other dogs about vital elements of day-to-day living, from settling arguments over food to claiming various resting places. In other words, if a pup is growling or biting at you, he’s more or less talking to you in “dog” language.
In a sense, it's important that dogs "play bite" during the puppy stage. Learning to do so will allow them to test out and eventually calibrate their jaw pressure. Without doing so, they could potentially grow up not knowing just how strong their bite is, which could have dire consequences in certain situations.
How do I Draw the Line Between Play Biting and Aggressive Behavior?
One of the key ways you can determine whether or not your pup is play biting or leaning towards aggression is to look for other signs that are usually associated with aggressive behavior. Body posturing, showing teeth, and distinctively guttural barking are all signs that your pup has crossed the threshold. It should be noted that these types of behaviors are rare in puppies, and what may be construed as aggressive behavior is just plain ol’ play biting.
With that being said, that doesn’t necessarily let your little buddy off the hook for overtly indulging in this type of “friendly” behavior. It’s important that you mitigate his behavior in a way that allows him to learn about his bite in a manner that would be normal if he was a wild animal and not a pet. This is why the sense of “control’ here is important: it doesn’t try to eliminate behaviors that tend to be more instinctual than learned.
How To Control Your Pup’s Bite
As with pretty much anything that comes with controlling a dog’s behavior, training your dog is essential to keeping your buddy’s bite from evolving into something that leans toward the aggressive side. Like most training aspects, this is not something that can be picked up by your dog overnight. However, if you stay consistent in your training tactics, you will be able to help your dog pick up on the same kind of biting lessons that he would pick up if he were in the wild.
What Should I Do if My Puppy Really is Aggressive?
Even though it is rare for a puppy to be a straight-up aggressive dog, it can still occur. If this is the case, it’s wise to pay a visit your veterinarian and rule out any physical ailment. Your puppy’s aggression could be symptomatic of a bigger issue, and his biting and growling could be an indicator of him merely wanting to be left alone to deal with his pain.
Another important option that you may want to consider is talking to a professional behavioral expert. A highly trained pro could help draw out a proper treatment plan built around your pup's aggressive tendencies and temperament. A pro can also closely monitor your dog's progress and make on-the-fly changes to the plan if things aren't quite going as smoothly as hoped.
Remember - You Love Your Dog No Matter What!
It can be frustrating to deal with a puppy if he is showing signs of aggression, even if those signs are mere indicators of learned social behavior. As you try to mitigate this habit, be sure to do so with a kind and loving heart; one that is slow to anger and quick to patience. After all, he is your little buddy - isn’t that the least you can do for him?