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Why is my puppy aggressive?

Sadly, puppy aggression can happen.

We like to think that our wee ball of cuteness just can't actually be being aggressive - it's just play, he's only nipping, she'll grow out of it.

Why do puppies bite and nip and mouth?

Well, puppies do examine the world with their mouths, they bite their litter mates and other dogs or puppies in play, and soon realise to inhibit the bite. They may also just be having fun and not realising that bits of people shouldn't be in their mouths. (Read more here on stopping puppies biting.)

However, sometimes it is more than that. Puppies who have had an aggressive parent are probably more likely to be aggressive themselves - so it's important to assure yourself before you get your puppy that the parents have a good manner.

Both nature and nurture can create an aggressive behaviour. Commonly aggressive behaviour can result from fear and from over excitement that creates frustration and follows through to aggression, or they may be pro-actively possessing and protecting an object - it's "mine"!

The thing is, puppy aggression isn't something that they'll just grow out of, and given that you've probably just spend a few hundred pounds on your puppy, really the best advice here has to be to get help from a qualified behaviourist or trainer - one that will help you to understand the root cause of the puppy aggression, and what steps you'll need to go through to resolve the aggression.

Here are some quick hints and tips on puppy aggression, but please do speak to your vet to ask for help.

Puppy possession aggression

  • never dominate your puppy or try to force them to give the item up (unless ofcourse it's actually dangerous)
  • try to swap the item for a tasty treat or fun toy (make the toy fun by waving it about)
  • do work on training your puppy to give, so that when you do get into a situation, then they'll already know that "give" means something good is coming.
  • there are theories that if a very young puppy has possessive aggression, that they'll have this tendency throughout their lives, so, again, please do seek help

Puppy fear aggression

Again, levels of fear and anxiety can be inherited from parents or even built up during their time with the breeder. Puppies need to be carefully and safely exposed to the many things in their lives that they might have to deal with. If not, then they may become scared. Read more on puppy socialisation here.

Frequently, puppies who've spent their early weeks in a byre, or a quiet house and haven't been exposed to lots of noises, sights, sounds and people are more likely to be scared than those that those that spend their early days in a busy house. So, its good to consider this aspect when you go to see your puppy too. Read more here on what to think about when getting a puppy.

Preventing fear can be helped using a desensitisation or socialisation CD can help to safely expose your puppy to noises before they can get out and about. Have a look at the Sounds Sociable download or CD - it's good for dogs or puppies that are already scared, but also will help to prevent the fear arising.

Read more free puppy training notes, hints and tips here