puppy aggression
June 23, 2010 5:47 PM   Subscribe

Is my puppy showing worrisome signs of aggression? How can I stop it before it gets out of control?

I'm a little worried about the behaviour that my five month old boxer/golden retriever mix has been displaying over the past couple of days.
He has always been a very happy go lucky puppy...not too dominant and not too submissive...great at the dog park and excited to play with any dog. He has responded well to dogs who tell him off by just backing off and stopping trying to play with them.

The pup and I recently moved in with my dad, who has a three year old pug. The pug is allowed on the couch and my dog has not been..but I was worried this would lead to problems...so I started letting my dog up sometimes. My dog repeatedly mounts the little pug, and I haven't been quite sure how to deal with this, so I've just been saying 'off' (and then taking him off) and then 'sit'.

We recently went to visit a friend's house who has a territorial german sheperd (sp?). They were okay at first, but then the german sheperd rushed my dog. He reacted in a very frightened way, and I haven't seen him be so scared before, and would not come out of the car after running back into it.

Today i brought him to the dog park (a new dog park) and for the first time he acted fearful and shy. He wouldn't come in and play. He finally warmed up...but seemed more aggressive than usual.

Tonight the two dogs, the pug and my dog, were chewing on their own respective pig ears which my stepmother had bought them (I usually don't allow chews like that, but thought 'just this once'). After my dog's pig-ear was done, he came over near the pug, and there was a growling, barking match, that was over quickly, but was like nothing i have seen from him. After making him sit I sent him to his crate (not in a punish-y sort of way), and the pug walked by his crate. He went nuts barking and growling at the pug...which is so uncharacteristic. I've only heard him bark when playing before now...and every growl has been a play growl. It really worried me...as he's always been so loving and easygoing.

I may also mention that my pup has a bad habit of running from me when he finds treasured and forbidden treats...bones, etc. Today I had a terrible time taking the pig ear from him (earlier, before this skirmish).So maybe I'm losing control of him a little? He's always been very obedient, coming when called, but lately seems to have been rebelling a little. I kind of expected this as I read about teenage years, but I just want to make sure i'm reacting properly to his worrisome behaviours.

The moving around has probably been stressful for him, as has living in a two dog household all of a sudden. We are moving out of here tomorrow to go live with a friend for the summer.

So is my dog turning into a jerk? And how can I stop it?
posted by whalebreath to Pets & Animals (10 answers total)
No. He got scared and he is still reacting to that. Work with him, using positive reinforcement. I can't recommend Karen Pryor's books (Don't Shoot the Dog, Reaching the Animal Mind) and web site enough.
posted by bearwife at 5:49 PM on June 23, 2010

Is he neutered? If not, you should probably have that done. Dogs want to ascent the pack pecking order as they get older. Neutering males can help arrest that.

Deviating from the rules can be very confusing to a puppy, too. The not on the coch, now on the couch thing has got to be causing confusion. I've found that with my dog, calm and steady has been the key. My reactions have never varied, so he knows what to expect from me 100%. Rules is rules. It sounds like you living situation could complicate this, though. He's probably insecure with all the change, especially being moved into other dog's homes, where the pecking order gets complicated.

My dog's a chickenshit, so I don't force him into situation with other dogs if he seems nervous. Maybe lay off the dog park for a while.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:19 PM on June 23, 2010

Response by poster: He's not neutered, as you have to wait until 6 months to have that done. So he has another month to go.
posted by whalebreath at 6:22 PM on June 23, 2010

He's not neutered, as you have to wait until 6 months to have that done. So he has another month to go.

Our male dog was neutered at 3 months. Our vet said as soon as he was heavy enough for the anesthesia.
posted by Netzapper at 6:26 PM on June 23, 2010

Agree with Netzapper. The 6 month rule is a myth, and actually, if you wait until 6 months, his hormones could kick in and he may start marking. A lot of vets use the 2 lb. rule. Get him neutered ASAP.
posted by bolognius maximus at 6:50 PM on June 23, 2010

He's just getting older and not being treated as a puppy anymore by other dogs. So he's trying to assert himself and probably doing it wrong. Most dogs go through this, my very timid and sweet puppy was a holy terror between 8-12 months as she would run up to every dog and pounce on them- Play With Me!!! Yeah, a lot of dogs' don't like that. Then they'd snap at her, she'd be scared and hide-y for a minute or a day and then she'd regain hr confidence and start all over again. She's normal now, at 18 months. Same with disobeying you, just keep being consistent and don't overreact to him. Use lots of positive reinforcement- it's tempting to only "train" your dog when they do something wrong. Schedule training time into your week so that it's a positive thing, not just a punishment.

The best thing socially is to let him spend time around one or two dogs his own age outdoors on a regular basis, they'll wrestle and play too rough and hurt each other and get offended and maybe even get in a few scuffles but they'll all learn how to interact. My general rule of thumb is that as long as they're not doing anything totally forbidden (like mounting a smaller dog) are voluntarily going back for more playing and are making a lot of noise they're fine, leave them alone. Noise means they're communicating, dogs that don't communicate well get into fights.

In the house there are different rules, my dog knows them and is very mellow there.

As far as neutering, it should have nothing to do with your training. You train an intact dog the exact same way as a neutered one. I personally prefer to wait until at least 6 months.
posted by fshgrl at 8:43 PM on June 23, 2010

Not the main issue but, pig ears make any dog insane. At one point I had three very mellow dogs who all got along, if someone gave them pig ears there would be a scary growl fest. It was the only time I ever heard any of them growl except for the little growl when they heard something and were about to bark. I think pig ears should have a warning on them, especially if little kids are about.
posted by InkaLomax at 3:47 AM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, don't mean to derail from your question, but I'm with InkaLomax on avoiding pig ears, for another reason. Pigs are dog-like in their affection and smarts. Even if they do taste good.
posted by bearwife at 11:52 AM on June 24, 2010

What other people said about your dog figuring out where he is in the pecking order and reacting to fear. The more your dog is around other dogs the more likely he will be to figure it out. A lot of behavior issues we had with our dog (biting, jumping, etc.) went away when he went to daycare on a regular basis and learned how to relate to other dogs. Dog parks work great for that as well.

Dogs also go through adolescent phases where they are testing boundaries so now is a good time to do some reinforcement training for the come command and also drop and/or give.

Data point: my lab was neutered at five months at vet's recommendation with no problems or complications. As others have said, neutering will probably help with any aggression issues as well.
posted by Kimberly at 11:54 AM on June 24, 2010

None of this sounds worrisome to me. I think fshgrl is right, and your dog is figuring out some social skills.

Some concern about early neutering is orthopedic, as I mentioned once before.
posted by tangerine at 2:37 PM on June 24, 2010

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