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Thread: Puppy Aggression?

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  1. #1

    Puppy Aggression?

    How can I tell the difference between a puppy being aggressive and a puppy that's just really annoyed, if that makes senses?

    We adopted Lila from animal control at 6 wks (she's now 8wks), and I knew that the strength of her bite would probably be something fierce since she didn't get a chance to learn all the puppy-know-how she would get from her litter mates. Lila is definitely of unknown origin, they had her listed as a lab/shepard mix, which she is obviously not... but we believe either lab/pit or boxer/pit. But I have discovered that she is very headstrong and stubborn and MOUTHY , but very food motivated...she's already caught on to "sit" and is starting to understand "down".

    Anyway, I picked up a head collar for her because she has been rather stubborn with a regular collar. After all the choking she'd been doing, it was recommended by our vet. She's obviously not happy with it and will rub in the grass, scratch at it, etc. Today, she managed to get the strap that goes over her muzzle off (it obviously wasn't fitted right at the pet store). When I went to put it back on, she went crazy...there was no growling but she was trying to bite the collar, me, etc...and she would not back down. I know she was worked up, but how do you tell the difference when a dog is rebelling compared to a dog being truly aggressive. I am very vested in Lila, I wouldn't have adopted a dog if I weren't...but I do have 2 children (7&1) and can not take the risk of an aggressive dog in the house.

    And how do I control her attitude with out "breaking" her or making our relationship confrontational? I've had dogs before, but none have had the headstrong attitude that she has and I am at a loss.

    Thanks in advance

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2000
    Waltham, MA, USA
    Time and patience, time and patience. She does not sound aggressive at all, just stubborn. What do you mean by a "head collar?" In any case, if she's built like a pittie at all, a harness would likely be better than a collar at this stage anyway. Put it on her and leave it one for a while inside, and get her used to it. Once she has had all her shots that a puppy needs, I'd sign her up for an obedience class - puppy kindergarten. This is for you as much as it is for her! And good luck with your baby, and remember, she's just that - a baby, and she'll be growing and testing boundaries for some time to come. The better the training she gets now, and has reinforced often, the better and happier a dog she will end up being!

    And if the 7-year-old can come with you both to puppy kindergarten, that's good, so everyone in the family can help Lila grow up to be a great dog!
    I've Been Frosted

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Methuen, MA; USA
    I agree with Karen. Start looking around now for where you want to take classes! I am a huge fan of group classes.

    The place that I go to, the folks are APDT certified: American Pet Dog Trainers. There are other groups which certify, as well.

    Learn about the trainer. You want someone who has dogs and works with them - conformation (shows), obedience, rally obedience, Agility, Flyball, something! This way they have learned to read dog body language. An yes, some places, the trainer had never owned a dog, just passed a written test.

    The fee is per dog, so you and the older child can both attend, and should! (I there is another adult in the home, that person should join you as well.) In one hour, a dog won't learn much. What happens is you learn how to train the dog. Then you go home and do the homework: practice, practice, practice. This is a life long session, you keep doing drills and playing the games you learn in class for the life of the dog.

    What the dog DOES learn in class, is socialization with other dogs, and socialization with people. The dog learns to follow your lead, the dog bonds with you and learns that he / she is safe with you. YOU are taking the lead, and the dog can allow you to, trusting that you will keep him / her safe.

    Taking the dog to obedience classes also helps with potty training. I don't know why, and I didn't believe it at first. But I have seen it with my dogs, it DOES help!

    As Karen said, the puppy must have all the puppy shots to attend classes, so you have some time. Do your research now so you know where you want to train.

    The other thing you can do is make friends with some folks with dogs about your dog's size and age. Get together in fenced in areas (back yards) for doggie play dates, for about an hour. This will help your dog catch up with the things you say your dog didn't get from litter mates. This also should wait until all the shots have been given to your dog.

    Having a puppy and working with the dog, seeing him / her learn commands, respect, social sks, this can all be lots of fun. Good luck!

  4. #4
    Thank you both for the responses!

    I am already counting the days until I can take her to the local dog park, so she'll have some real dog interaction. If the only thing she learns from them is the proper strength to bite without HURTING, then I'll be happy! The only dogs she's been with so far are an unstable miniature poodle and my neighbors 100+lb pitt mix (who has no idea what to do with something so little). So her play with them is limited unless I want her to be bitten by the poodle or stepped on by Rocky.

    Karen, a head collar would be a Halti or Gentle Lead. It's similar to a horse's lead, with a strap over the muzzle (she can still open her mouth, pant, bark, eat a treat, the grass, the sticks, the leaves, the rocks...hahaha!) and a strap high on the back of the dog's neck, with the leash connected under the chin. It applies pressure to her muzzle when she pulls and will bring her head down and to the side, without the horrid choking. She's not built like a pitt, but you can see the similarities in the facial structure.

    We have a few local pet shops and I have a friend who is a dog trainer (she's just not quick to respond when I have questions lol). So I'm already researching researching researching!
    I'm also very aware that I'm hyper-sensitive to her reactions, play, annoyance, etc...with a very young one in the house. It has made me exceptionally cautious, which is something I need to put a lid on, at least outwardly because I have no doubt she's picking that up, and so is my son.

    Anyway, thanks again!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2000
    Waltham, MA, USA
    Okay, if you had said either Halti or Gentle Leader, I would have known what you were talking about! The reason I asked about her build was that pitties and some other terriers have larger necks than heads, so collars slip off easily.

    I would not, by the way, mention "pit" in your descriptions of her, I'd just say "Lab/terrier" or "Boxer/terrier" as that way, people won't be unnecessarily spooked by the "pitbull" reputation when you don't know for sure anyway. And a pittie IS a terrier, after all!
    I've Been Frosted

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Brunswick, OH
    Well, being so young, it is probably not aggression. It is a puppy and she is probably frightened!!! At 8 weeks, she barely knows what a collar is, yet alone something you're strapping over her muzzle. I would be frightened too. I would recommend a harness for now, until you can teach her some loose leash walking... or at least wait until she is a couple months older to use a halti.

    You need to immediately begin to work on loose leash walking. Look up youtube videos, anything you can do, this is a very important thing to start young at. I haven't had problems with Delta because I started from Day 1. I would really recommend clicker training as it has done wonders for me and many others out there. It is the best training you can do.

    When she begins to bite, there are a few things to do... immediately stop giving attention, if you are home, put in cage or other room for a few minutes. Or yelp like you've been hurt badly. Since 7-8 weeks are very important to develop bite inhibition (which you seem to know) you have to do it. Repetition will most likely be needed.

    Oh, and I'm sure you know since you're counting down the days, but make sure puppy has 4 month shots before taking her to the dog park. You can get socialization by puppy classes (can start after their eight week shots) or by hanging out with dogs that you know are well taken care of. Dog Parks can be very bad experiences for puppies and it kills me when I see eight week old puppies at the park getting trampled and bullied horrendously.

    Work with the tricks your puppy knows EVERY day... training builds a bond... it really does.
    Monica Callahan KPA-CTP *Woohoo!*

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