Pesky Pups-How to Nip Aggressive Behavior in the Bud!

 * Pesky Pups *

Being at the clinic all day, I see my fair share of puppies.  Some puppies are really fun to play with, but some puppies don't understand how to play without getting too rough.  If this sounds like your puppy, please read on!!!

Normal puppy play behavior includes bowing (lowering the front end while leaving the tail and rear end up in the air), wagging, nipping, barking and even brief growling.  So how do you tell when the play is too rough or is becoming aggressive?  Aggression is indicated by the following: A long, deep growl with no tail wagging, stiff body posture, a fixed glare, and aggressive behavior (biting or snapping) that is dependent on a stimulus such as fear, possessiveness, or pain.

Interventions.   If you think your pup's play is too rough, try the following tactics to break the cycle:

* Distract them with a toy or redirect their rough play toward an energy-expending form of play such as fetch or frisbee.

*  If your pup bites too hard, yelp "OUCH" and stop playing.  Withdraw your hands and walk away.

* Interrupt their unwanted behavior by shaking a can or water bottle with a few coins or small rocks in it or spraying them with a water gun or spray bottle set on 'stream'. (Don't use these methods if your puppy is extremely sensitive or if the techniques make the unwanted behavior worse.)

* When you are home and carefully observing you pup so they don't become tangled, place a drag line on them.  This consists of a 6-10 foot leash attached to their collar or harness.  A drag line helps you quickly reach them to make a correction when needed or redirect their behavior.  Simply say your puppy's name, give a gentle tug on the leash and give an easy command such as 'sit', reward the 'sit' then resume playing.

* Puppy Time Out may be necessary if several of the above mentioned corrections do not curb the aggression.  Place them in a small room or crate with toys until they calm down.

To help prevent aggressive or unwanted behaviors, spend plenty of time playing with your puppy.  Long walks, frisbee and fetch are great for releasing pent up energy.  Puppies are just furry, four-legged balls of energy; help them spend it wisely!  Mental stimulation with toys such as Kong toys or puzzle balls filled with treats or a few morsels of food can help as well.  Teach them basic obedience commands, such as 'sit', 'come', 'down' and 'stay'.  Review them often and continue to add more difficult tricks as your puppy learns.  Socialization with other dogs, cats (if you dare), and all types of people is best done before 4 months of age.  This will give your puppy a good foundation!

Do not use aggressive methods to correct aggressive behavior in your puppy.  This includes hitting or swatting them, scruffing them, holding them down on the floor and alpha rollovers.  These types of "corrections" can give your puppy the idea that it is ok to challenge people to establish dominance.

Following these guidelines can help ensure your puppy's behavior does not become aggressive and will allow you to fully enjoy playing with your newest furry family member.  (Not to mention making it easier for me to welcome them to the clinic!)

Stay Healthy, Stay Happy

Dr. Daisy 


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