How to Stop Puppy Aggression

Puppies are usually cute and cuddly. We don’t often associate these baby dogs with aggressive behavior. However, aggression in puppies can happen.

Puppy aggression can come in quite a few different forms, but regardless of the type of aggression your pup displays, this guide will help you get started on understanding and dealing with your pup’s behavior.

how to stop puppy aggression
How to stop puppy aggression – strategies

It’s common for dogs to display some level of aggressive behavior when they’re young—it’s just part of their nature as canines. Generally speaking, this aggression is short-lived and should go away within a couple of months.

Some breeds are more prone to developing aggressive behavior than others. If your pup displays aggression toward you or other animals frequently, it’s best to get the problem solved as soon as possible.

Normal Puppy Behavior

Your cute fur baby is still simply a canine. So some behavior that may initially cause alarm is typical puppy behavior. Normal behavior includes growling, gnawing, and barking. Pups also love to chew on things they shouldn’t.

It’s okay for your pup to display these behaviors—as long as they are not directed toward you or other animals in the home. Puppies often feel the urge to explore their environment through chewing and will try to appease those desires by chewing on whatever they can find.

shih tzu puppy licks tonuge out
A Shih Tzu puppy with its tongue out. Expect a Shih Tzu puppy to lick EVERYTHING!

Growing Up with Your Puppy

Puppies are very impressionable in the first few months of their lives, so you must provide them with proper guidance during this time. The more positive experience your pup has in his early life, the less likely he’ll be to develop aggressive behavior as he gets older.

A healthy balance of discipline and affection will help your pup learn to behave appropriately. For example, if you catch him chewing on something that is not his toy, gently replace it with one of his toys and tell him “no.” Then give him positive reinforcement like a treat or cuddle time for obeying you instead of taking the toy himself. 

Causes of Aggression in a Puppy

Puppies are very social animals, impressionable ones at that. What they learn when they’re young sets the foundation for what they will expect from others later in life. A lack of proper socialization or conditioning with positive responses to new things or situations can cause aggressive behavior.

There are many ways this can happen, but it typically boils down to not exposing your pup to different environments enough times before it’s capable of doing whatever you don’t want it doing. They haven’t learned proper “bite inhibition” yet because they haven’t been taught.

If your pup is not well-socialized to begin with, they may be more likely to take out their aggressive desires on the people and dogs close to them. 

Malnourishment or poor health can also contribute to a puppy’s aggression. If you notice that your pup frequently growls at you when you’re playing together, take it to the veterinarian. There may be something physically wrong with your dog that is causing discomfort.

doberman guard dog
A Doberman looking perky

Warning Signs of an Aggressive Puppy

The first step towards stopping puppy aggression is recognizing what form your pup’s aggression takes. Different forms of aggression require different reactions.

Puppy Growling

If your pup is beginning to play with you and suddenly starts growling at you, it could be a sign that he’s still learning how to play with humans. Give the dog a toy and let it chew on it to keep its teeth off of your limbs while learning how to interact healthily.

Puppy Nipping

Nipping is one of the most common signs of aggression in puppies because it’s easy for them to get carried away playing with their owners. As soon as your pup starts nipping at you, say no and stop playing with him for a moment. If he keeps trying to bite you, push him away gently and turn around so he can’t reach you.

When the nipping stops, go back to playing with your pup but direct his attention toward one of his toys instead of your arms or other body parts. If he does try to bite you again, give him a time-out by putting him in his crate for two minutes.

malese and yorkie puppy
A beautiful duo of Maltese dogs and a similarly tiny and cute Yorkie pup (see more in our Maltese vs Yorkie article)

Puppy Biting

This usually comes along with nipping but is much more dangerous because it can break the skin. If your pup starts biting instead of just nipping at you, say “no” firmly and turn away. Then ignore it for a few minutes to let its attention shift onto something else.

Afterward, go back to playing with your pup and give him positive reinforcement when he bites his toys instead of you.

Puppy Lunging and Barking

This type of puppy aggression is most often seen in dogs with dominant personalities because they’re the ones who come up with new ways to assert themselves over their owners.

If your dog suddenly starts charging at people or other animals, get in between him and the other animal. Place something like a pillow or a bag between you and your dog so that they’re not directly in his line of sight.

While this is going on, do not look your pup in the eyes or talk to him until he’s calm. It may see eye contact and words as a challenge.

Puppy growling, barking, and lunging at the same time is the most dangerous type of aggression because it’s hard to stop your dog from performing any of these actions. You may need to consult a professional who can handle aggressive dogs to help change your pup’s behavior.

how to draw a labradoodle
Our step-by-step guide on how to draw a Labradoodle!

Ways to Stop Puppy Aggression

Now that you’re familiar with the different forms of aggression your pup displays, it’s time to look at the most effective ways to change his behavior.

Give Your Dog Clear Rules

Teaching your pup who’s in charge is one of the essential parts of stopping puppy aggression. When your dog starts growling at you, it’s time to establish yourself as the pack leader.

Be sure that everyone in your household follows this same rule so that your dog doesn’t learn it can get away with things when certain people are around.

Give Him Specific Praise

Instead of praising your pup for being a good dog in general, give him specific praise when he’s doing something you like.

For example, say “yes” in a firm tone of voice and give him a treat when he stops biting your shoelaces to look at you instead. Then tell him what a good dog he is for looking away from the shoelaces.

Time-Outs for Bad Behavior

Puppies are just like human babies in the way that they need time-outs when they’re being naughty. If your pup tries to bite you, put him in his crate for five minutes without any attention from you or anyone else.

cavapoo puppy
A cute Cavapoo dog looks back at the camera. Choosing an appropriate dog name is an important part of training. Our top choices are dog names ending in y or ie (though here are our 153+ favorite Cavapoo names too)

Get a Trainer

If you find that your pup’s behavior isn’t changing even after trying these methods, it might be time to get a professional trainer involved. A good dog trainer will be able to recognize the cause of your pup’s behavior and give you detailed instructions on how to fix it.

In conclusion, puppy aggression is a normal part of your pup growing into a healthy dog. However, it’s up to you to teach it that certain behaviors are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. When you stop puppy aggression in its tracks, both you and your pup can lovingly interact with each other.