A Dog Case Study: Aggressive Puppy

A young puppy growls when his owner handles him. What should she do?

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
6-minute read
Episode #084

On the other hand, a puppy who’s nipping in play is, well, playing! He doesn’t want you to go away; he wants to keep on playing with you. In that context, a brief social freeze-out, just a few seconds long, punishes the nipping. With an especially excitable pup or one who’s already had a lot of practice chewing on people, you may need to do such time-outs over and over. But as long as the nipping and chewing are social behaviors, social punishment eventually works.

Start Reward-Based Training Right Away!

Wilson should begin a basic puppy class as soon as he’s healthy and has had one or at most two rounds of vaccinations. Meanwhile, Elena can certainly begin reward-based training right away, at home. Poodles are super smart, active dogs, and Wilson needs the mental exercise. But, just as important, he and Elena need to rebuild the bond of trust. That’s what makes reward-based training so brilliant – your dog or puppy learns that attending to you and your cues is the route to all good things in life. As for us humans, we learn to draw out our dogs’ best selves.

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Sophia Yin, DVM, “Experts Say Dominance-Based Dog Training Techniques Made Popular by Television Shows Can Contribute to Dog Bites,” Huffington Post, May 18, 2009. Dr. Yin is a board-certified veterinary behaviorist.

In this series of stills, you can see that one wolf defers to the other by lying on the ground and presenting its belly and groin voluntarily. This is the behavior sequence that gave rise to the myth of the alpha roll. As for “alpha wolves,” a free-living wolf pack is generally a family consisting of the parents, their adolescent offspring, and the current crop of pups. To make a long story short, “alpha” = “parent.” Check out this video and this article by the eminent wolf researcher David Mech.  

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).

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