Why Is My Puppy So Aggressive? And Is It My Fault?

We tend to blame canine aggression on our dogs.  This bad behavior is their fault and they need to correct it ASAP.

Smart dog owners investigate the problem a little more closely.  They look for common triggers and try to understand the underlying causes behind their puppies’ aggression.  Once they know the root problem, they can address the situation.

The really smart dog owners start by looking at themselves first.  Instead of asking, “why is my puppy so aggressive,” they ask, “am I doing something to create this behavior?”

There’s a good chance that you are.  We all do.  But we can work on fixing some of our own habits to help reduce dog aggression in the future.

Looking Inward to Understand Why Your Puppy Is So Aggressive

Diet and health.  This is the most important starting point.  Are you feeding your puppy the right kinds of food and medicine?  If you’re not sure (or even if you ARE sure), you should schedule a vet checkup to make certain your dog is getting all the nutrients she needs.

Once that’s out of the way, you can begin looking at the following:

1.  Am I Boring My Dog?

Dogs need exercise and plenty of it.  They’re domesticated wolves whose ancestors once roamed the wild.  Despite years of urbanization, this basic tendency still exists.

Give your puppy lots of exercise.  And ideally, you should play to her strengths (based on breed).  Hunting dogs, for example, need to run around, sniff stuff, and explore.  It’s in their DNA, and you’re only creating problems by not offering an outlet for this overwhelming urge.

2.  Am I Causing Social Confusion?

It’s undeniable that dogs are family members.  Once they enter the home, they become permanent fixtures within the pack.  And nothing will make you grieve more than the loss of a close canine friend.

But although dogs are family members, they aren’t equals.  If you treat your puppy as a peer (or worse yet – as a baby that you mollycoddle), you’re setting yourself up from problems.

You’re the alpha.  They’re the beta.  You’re the pack leader.  They’re the pack follower.

To help establish this order and remove any social confusion, it helps to:

  • Focus on exercise first (see above point).  Let your dog satisfy her natural urges to hunt, explore, run, and play.
  • Focus on discipline next.  Regular training sessions and firm boundaries will help to reinforce your respective positions within the pack.  Read this article for more on dominance training.
  • Affection comes last.  When your dog is well behaved and follows the rules you’ve laid out, then (and only then) should you shower her with praise and love.  Exercise and discipline are more important and need to come first.

3.  Do I Treat My Dog Like Shakespeare

Even the smartest dogs in the world can only understand a limited number of commands and words.  99% of their comprehension comes from body language and tone.

This is an important concept.

Many dog owners try to correct bad behavior through language.  They treat their puppies as if they were learned scholars who understand the many subtle nuances of English.

They don’t.

  • At best, your puppy will simply ignore you.  She has absolutely no idea what you’re saying and doesn’t really care.
  • At worst, you’re confusing your dog and creating anxiety.  She wants to understand but can’t (because she doesn’t speak the language).  Unsettled feelings and uncertainty can easily lead to aggressive behavior down the road.

Use body language and tone to communicate your thoughts.  If you speak from the heart, your dog will understand – even if you switch to Spanish or Swahili.

If you speak in normal English with no changes to tone, inflection, or posture, your puppy probably won’t get the message.

We hope these tips help.  If you need additional dog training resources, be sure to check out the expert guides and DVDs listed here.

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