5 Signs of An Aggressive Puppy And What You Can Do About It

Having a puppy will be an exciting period for most people since they bring a lot of fun and play into the home. One thing nobody wants though is an aggressive puppy. Take steps early on to make sure your little pup grows up well behaved and secure in it’s place.

Keep in mind that some traits are just part of a growing pup’s metamorphosis and need not cause alarm. To ensure you groom the right kind of pet for your home, know what aggressive behavior is and what isn’t. 

Creating that differentiation will set you firmly on course to nip the problem in the bud. It also helps to know that some breeds are more prone to aggression than others, especially at the pup stage. 

what can lead to an aggressive puppy

Your pup has fixed running mechanisms in Instinctive and Adaptive Intelligence while also firmly relying on Obedience Intelligence. Obedience Intelligence is your primary area of concern. It correlates to puppies’ relationship with humans, how they behave and learn from their human counterparts.

Two aggressive dogs fighting with each other

Most puppies will misbehave at some point, no matter their breed. It includes the most intelligent dog breeds that obey the first commands 95% of the time (Border Collies, Poodles, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds).

Other breeds will often refuse to display obedience, and refusal may manifest in the form of undue aggression. A significant reason why puppies display aggression is that they are still young. They are still learning about the world around them and may respond aggressively to stressful situations. 

The importance of distinguishing between aggressive behavior and playfulness

During their early development stages, puppies can seem quite erratic even though it may be normal behavior. Some pup owners fear that their puppy’s urge to jump or bite at their arm is a display of aggressive behavior. 

Most of this behavior does not translate into nor develop into aggressive behavior and need not raise fire alarms to pet parents. Most puppies bite hard because they have not yet discovered how strong their jaw is and how much damage it could cause. 

The biting can also be attributed to the general playful nature of the puppies, with their intentions being non-malicious. Think rough play and play fighting. The latter is fine and should not be paid much attention as it will help solve actual aggression if it surfaces. 

How to identify an aggressive puppy?

To help differentiate between playfulness and aggression, ask yourself these five questions. They will point out the five signs that will help you identify an aggressive puppy. 

Is your puppy growling at you?

An aggressive dog standing behind the chain link wall

One of the sure signs of puppy aggression is snarling and growling even when you mean no harm.  Many puppy owners report that they notice quite an excessive bout of snarling or growling during playtime.

These displays happen most when they try to take their pup’s toy away or when they approach the food bowl at mealtimes. It can also occur when they expose their puppy to other pups during playtime.

It is aggressive behavior if your pup continues to snarl and growl at you despite your attempts to stop them. Watch out for the same when they interact with other puppies so that you check the behavior.

Is your puppy showing defensive behavior?

Keep an eye out for excessive snapping or displays of defensive behavior even when it is not warranted or expected from your dog. Defensive behavior comes in different forms. 

Sometimes it depends on the dog’s breed, size, or general personality. There is quite a confirmed list of behavioral patterns that you can take note of. Look out for your pup’s body language.  

Is your puppy showing teeth or lunging towards you without any reason? Do you see displays of completely still behavior alongside visible aggression? If you answer yes to one or both of these questions, your pup displays signs of excessive puppy aggression.

Is your puppy displaying unexpected predatory behavior?

Your pup may attempt to bark at or chase after cats and squirrels out of curiosity when they move suddenly. This curiosity can sometimes turn into highly predatory behavior as your puppy starts behaving similarly in unnecessary situations. 

Any predatory instinct towards you or overreaction when you make a sudden move is an early sign of your puppy’s aggression. It’s especially noteworthy if it becomes a habit. Note that such behavior also includes your pup attempting to stalk you and jump on you from behind, suddenly. 

Is your puppy reacting negatively to touch?

There are many moments when all we want to do is pet and cuddle our dog. Sometimes, we have to pick them up to help them cross a boundary or prevent confrontation with another dog.

Some dog owners witness severe aggressive behavior when touching their puppy. The pup may snap back, show teeth, or growl at its owners. In the worst-case scenario, the owner may even be bitten.

This behavior should not be taken lightly since it could indicate ill health and underlying medical issues. In a healthy puppy, it could be an early sign of aggression or a dominant puppy that does not respect boundaries.

Is your puppy adopting aggressive stances?

A Mann trying to control an aggressive dog

An aggressive pup will adopt a hostile stance that manifests through prolonged problem behavior. Deep tone growling, stiff posture with ears pinned back, a fixed staring gaze, and lip curling are typical problems. 

These contrast deeply with a playful stance even when a pup displays similar behavior. A puppy will usually lower its head and raise its hind in a bow. It will also bark playfully and jump towards or away from an intended target.

Other times, your pup will also present its side and front, dart back and forth, bark, and growl in a high-pitched sound while also wagging its tail. Spontaneous jumping on people and objects in a mock attack fashion also counts as play. 

The importance of inhibition

Sometimes, puppies stop behaving in a certain way. In contrast, others may seem to be very obedient and never display any signs of aggression. One of the main reasons is that puppies can inhibit their behavior.

Pups usually learn inhibition from their parents. Inhibiting behavior is also effortlessly understood when other puppies surround them in their litter box. Over time, they know how to control their bites and other negative traits.

Puppies need to know how to inhibit behavior like excessive biting, especially in a home setting. Many puppies don’t learn good traits from their parents or other puppies because they are separated prematurely. 

Any pup owner should ensure they take up the proper training. In many states, you will be held responsible for your puppy’s behavior so take training seriously. In some states, you are still liable even if you were not aware of existing aggression. 

The result may be unwanted lawsuits, financial losses, and even the loss of your beloved puppy in the most extreme cases. 

What to do about puppy aggression?

Start with dog toys

A pup playing with toys

Early signs of aggressive behavior can be efficiently dealt with by giving your puppy something to bite into. A chewing toy will help your pup learn how to inhibit its biting urges and adequately learn how to control its jaw and biting reflexes.

In some cases, chewing toys led to less frequent pup owner biting, and any residual biting occurred with less force. Your pup will also mainly be preoccupied with their toys which will expend energy and cut down displays of aggression.

Show an aggressive puppy the effect biting has on you

Another way to inhibit biting is to flinch and audibly cry out in pain while turning away from your pup. Even if it doesn’t hurt, this will send a strong signal to your dog that they are hurting you and that their behavior is not playful. 

A bit of acting can be an elegant trick that works with many dog breeds. Puppies are highly sensitive to the pain and suffering of others and will mostly stop contributing to it. In a litter setting, a pup will get this reaction from other puppies and will stop instantly. 

Realize that you have control over playing time

Puppies will realize their behavior is unacceptable when you show them that it is not. If you allow your puppy to be aggressive, you send them a signal that it is acceptable. Since your pup is your responsibility, you have the power to inhibit their aggressive behavior.

Show them that you are in control of their playtime. A good rule of thumb is to walk away or stop paying attention when the puppy behaves aggressively. Your pup will soon figure that you don’t participate in aggressive play. You can later use this strategy outside of playtime as well.

Do not hesitate to have your puppy examined

Many homeowners start blaming themselves for their puppy’s behavior, thinking that they influenced these aggressive traits. Many see it as a failure on their part somewhere along the road while raising the pup.

It might be the case sometimes, but it could be very far from the truth as well. You might subconsciously legitimize aggressive behavior, yet sometimes; it comes from the earliest memories and failure to learn about inhibition.

If you are unsure of what is causing your puppy’s aggressive behavior, contact your vet to examine your pup. It is best, especially if you’ve tried your best to try to prevent it. Vets are not only trained to cure our dogs of different illnesses but they understand aspects of the pup’s temperament.

Vets can determine whether your puppy is genetically predisposed to developing neurological issues like Canine Autism or Canine ADHD. Ruling out any of these neurological factors is an essential first step.

Enlist a more experienced dog trainer

A dog jumping through a circular barrier

If your pup is neurologically stable, it will benefit from a couple of sessions with a more experienced dog trainer.

Dog trainers specialize in correcting inappropriate puppy behavior, and they have likely dealt with many similar cases. They will help you counter aggression and train your puppy without punishing aggressive behavior.

Punishing your pup for bad behavior usually backfires, yet the alternative, that is, reinforcing good behavior, is more effective. You will see massive improvement as your puppy begins to enjoy training sessions at the hands of more experienced trainers. 

Be patient and keep an open mind 

It can be annoying to have to deal with your puppy’s aggression. Many pup owners feel inadequate and decide to give away their puppy, which may come with guilt. Millions of dog owners around the world share these feelings.

A great rule of thumb is to be patient and to keep an open mind. Giving your beloved puppy a chance to fail and learn from its mistakes is the noblest thing you could do. With time, it is possible to understand appropriate behavior.

You will undoubtedly feel an even stronger bond with your puppy after you tackle and address your pup’s aggression. The bond will even grow more potent once you see the continuing positive behavioral development results.

FAQs about aggressive puppy behavior

What qualifies as abnormal puppy behavior?

After spending time with your puppy, you will notice patterns and take mental notes of normal behavior. So the answer varies from pup to pup since each breed has behavior and personality traits that are typical of it. 

Any previously unseen behavior that’s especially harmful or destructive shouldn’t be ignored. That said, extreme vocalization, aggression, and compulsive behavior are abnormal and point to phobia, anxiety, and stress. 

In other cases, your pup may be trying to report discomfort, disease, and illness. If you notice that your puppy is suddenly barking, biting & chewing objects, digging, and potty soiling uncontrollably, it isn’t normal. 

Add to this to eating inedible items, begging outside of mealtimes, and stealing. Anything else that falls outside of what is typical of your pup becomes abnormal behavior that should be investigated. Consult your vet for professional help. 

How can I handle and raise a dominant puppy?

Raising a dominant puppy is mainly similar to raising any other pup. The only difference is that you must be a bit more strict and restrictive of behavior and freedom. 

What you do will determine whether your pup grows up to become aggressive or confident. You’re in luck since your puppy’s aggressive, dominant, and bad habits have not yet taken root.

  • Crate your pup and limit playtime to establish and enforce boundaries, while also reducing possessiveness
  • Employ a no furniture policy such that your pup doesn’t become territorial of human items. It also creates a rank structure, with you as the leader, which dogs have in their traditional packs
  • Keep your pup on a leash, under supervision, so your puppy learns there is restriction and acts within them
  • Adopt a ‘nothing is free’ approach. Give treats only for good behavior and discipline while eating. Your puppy will realize that they have to listen to you before getting treats
  • Let your dog sleep in a separate location from you and not in the same bed. 
  • Be sure to crate your pup before they are asleep and not after the fact. Your puppy will learn that the crate is the appropriate sleeping place, which prevents them from making their own rules.

My puppy bit me. What should I do?

Puppies play and explore using their mouth and teeth as an essential part of their socialization. By biting, your pup learns bite inhibition and how much pressure they should apply per bite. 

Yet even if biting is part of their makeup, you need to manage puppy bites with patience, consistency, and persistence. Desist from physical and harsh verbal corrections as they’ll only facilitate fear and anxiety without correcting but suppressing the behavior. 

Redirect your pup’s attention with training cues such as noise at every bite and nonbiting commands such as ‘Sit.’ Then reinforce the positive and good behavior with a treat when they obey.

As a last resort, take your puppy to socialization classes, where your pup will interact with different puppies in a controlled environment. Learning bite inhibition will be faster in this environment, and you will soon have a family member that doesn’t bite.

Key Takehomes

  • Do not blame yourself for your dogs’ behavior. Remember that there is always something that you can do to improve your puppy’s behavior. 
  • Realize that you have significant influence over your puppy’s general emotional and physical wellbeing. It is a necessary first step towards ensuring the behavioral recovery of your dog.
  • Aggression is a trait common in many breeds of dogs around the world, despite their size or origin. Do not be discouraged as there are many practical tools to tackle aggression, as long as you show an open mind and willingness to help your pup.