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Aggressive Dominance in puppies

By: wetnosesfb | June 29th, 2009 3:11 pm

Hi puppy admirers,

Can a 9 weeks old puppy be “aggressively dominant”? Is there such a thing or is it owner’s ignorance and lack of socialization issue?

A recent incident has made me bring this issue up to current and future puppy owners’ attention.

I have been called for behavior evaluation of a 9 weeks old gorgeous little pup. The owner claimed that the puppy was growling and snapping at kids and mainly when presented to a large group of them.

I went to see this little guy and was greeted by an intensive bark while at the door which was not a usual thing for such a young pup.

Ignoring him, I have stepped into the house as he suspiciously opened a 4-5 feet distance away from me. I have sensed the tension this little pup was under so I have avoided any eye contact with him. Then, I tossed a yummy treat (I always have them handy) towards him and he grabbed it. Then, another one a little closer. It took 4 treats and he was sniffing me to explore all the interesting scents I have brought with me. Well, you know that as a dog trainer I carry tons of other dogs’ scents on me so I guess I made an interesting object for him.

In just a few minutes we became good friends and I could not avoid
falling in love with him. He was playful and lively and really a gorgeous dog. I was there for an hour playing with the dog, introducing him to my senior dachshund and watched his play. All I have observed was a typical play behavior of a normal pup.

The family with their two kids really loved him. Yet, while there, I have witnessed one incident when the small child was hitting the dog on his had with one of her plastic toys. Nothing “big”, in our terms, but still, pretty annoying for this pup. Have you ever seen a dog bend down with his ears stretched backward with quick lips licking? That was a stress signal. This pup did not like it and definitely wasn’t comfortable in this situation but haven’t snapped at the kid this time, he was tolerant.

I made a note to the parents about this but wondered how many times this happened before and revoked growling and snapping.

From the investigation of the parents I have learned that the puppy has been separated from his mother at 6-7 weeks of age (way too early), has been in process of crate training and has been presented to a large group of kids without prior preparation.

I have left the house with the recommendations for immediate socialization and puppy class for basic obedience training.

On a follow up call a week after I was told the puppy has been surrendered to a local shelter as he snapped on an elderly family member.

I was really saddened and felt so sorry for this pup. I really hope he will find an understanding family that will give him a daily warm hug and put him on the right track otherwise he will grow to be a bitter unsocial and possibly dangerous dog ending up euthanized.

So to all of you who own or intend to get a puppy please remember:

1. Puppies ARE NOT TOYS. Kids and elderly in particular must be educated how to properly approach and handle them
2. You must closely observe the puppy and kids play at all times. If you can’t have an eye on them you rather put the pup in a pen with his own toys.
3. Puppies must be very gradually exposed to the world without scaring them. DO NOT let the crowd or a bunch of kids jump all over them, this can be very stressful and the only way they can defend themselves is with the bedding of sharp knives in their lovely mouth.
4. Learn their body language, it is vital!!! They are talking to you and giving you signals. If they growl they do it for a reason, they are not comfortable with what is being done with them. A growl means leave me alone and get me some space. Ignoring that signal may result a snap and then a bite. DO NOT ignore signals.
5. DO NOT let people pet them on their had, many of them don’t like that. Watch for a slight head down and front body bending and ears pulled back. Watch for short quick lip licking (not a wide yummy lick) telling you “I am not comfortable, I am stressed”. Watch for yawning and/or panting telling you “I am scared, leave me alone”.
6. Puppies need to be socialized with other puppies, adult dogs, people, places and noises etc. (the world) – get advice from dog trainers.
7. Puppies need to be trained. At the minimum they should be obedience and good manners trained.
8. Early puppy separation (before 9-10 weeks of age) from the mother needs extra attention.
9. Proper Diet and wellness have a bearing on the puppy’s behavior. Get advice from the professionals.

Care, love and respect your pup, you will be well paid back by him when he grows.
Do not be ashamed of asking. Be ashamed of neglect.

“Good manners and soft words have brought many a difficult thing to pass” (Sir John Vanbrugh).

Your trainer, Gil.

Posted In Dogs Behavior