Nothing is more exciting than bringing a new puppy into your home. Welcoming a furry ball of energy is a great feeling, and you likely can’t wait to play and spend time with your new best friend. With a new puppy, your home is transformed into a playground.
It can become alarming, however, if your puppy starts to show signs of aggression. Puppies like to chew and often bite, but learning how to tell the difference between a natural, playful bite and an aggressive snap is critical.
Teaching your puppy at a young age what is and what is not acceptable is very important for new dog owners. Even more critical is recognizing if your dog is behaving in an aggressive and potentially dangerous way. Aggression can make your dog unfit to live in your home, especially if you have young children.
This guide will teach you everything you need to know about what to do if your puppy is growling and snapping at you. I will show you the warning signs of aggression to be aware of and how to teach your puppy that snapping is not okay.
Why My Puppy Growls And Snaps
There are different kinds of snapping and biting, and the first step in fixing the problem is to determine which kind your puppy is doing.
Mouthing is a natural way that puppies explore their environments and engage with things. Your puppy will likely put your hands and feet and any other objects it can find into its mouth and bite on them. This, however, is usually a very light pressure and will not be a powerful or aggressive bite.
Puppies learn from their mother and their littermates how much biting pressure is acceptable before it begins to hurt. If a puppy was unable to receive these cues from its mother and siblings at a young age, it might bite harder than intended and even pierce the skin. If this is the case, you can correct your puppy’s behavior by teaching them that this is not okay.
If your puppy seems to be biting aggressively, and it is not a playful or curious nibble, then there may be a different underlying cause. If your puppy is growling and nipping, they are likely feeling threatened and in a situation they do not want to be in.
Things That Could Cause Aggression
Here are a few examples of reasons why your dog may feel threatened or aggressive:
- Your dog may feel frustrated, which is causing him to act out. If your puppy doesn’t get what he wants, he may not know how to process these emotions, and he may growl and bite in response.
- Your dog may be in some sort of physical pain. If your puppy is feeling sick or hurt in some way, they may act out to keep you from bothering them.
- If your dog has a toy or treats that he does not want you to take from him, he may growl and snap at you to keep you away. This is a natural territorial instinct. If your puppy is showing aggression around their food and toys, this could be an early indicator of long-term aggressive behaviors.
- If your dog is feeling fearful and threatened, perhaps by another dog or a scary situation, he can communicate this by barking, growling, pouncing, and snapping.
How To Teach My Puppy Not to Bite
If your puppy does not receive the training they need from their mother and siblings in the first few weeks of their life, you will have to teach them that biting is unacceptable. If your dog bites someone, owners are liable in most states.
The first step is to take your dog to a veterinarian to ensure that there are no inherited or neurological problems that are causing your dog to act aggressively. If everything looks normal and healthy, then you can begin to assess the situation and narrow down what is causing your dog’s aggression. You need to locate the root of the problem in order to solve the issue.
If your puppy is teething, this may be causing them to chew and bite aggressively. Ensure you provide your dog with adequate chew toys and teething-specific treats to keep them entertained and show them what is and is not okay to bite. There are a number of different toys created specifically for puppies that are teething. It can be an uncomfortable process for dogs, and they need to bite and chew.
If your puppy is acting out of fear, it is critical to deal with the issue before it escalates. First, you need to identify what is causing your dog to be fearful. Slowly expose your dog to the source of fear. Put him in a comfortable environment and let him get close to the source at his own rate.
Use treats, positive encouragement, and toys to make him relax. Give lots of positive feedback and affection. Don’t rush your dog, they will begin to warm up and realize that whatever is causing him to be aggressive is not a threat.
This takes time and resilience and will not be a fast process. Hang in there and be encouraging along the way. If your dog does not begin to improve, consider speaking with a dog behaviorist to see if anything more serious is going on.
If your puppy seems to show aggressive behavior when he is playing, simply walk away when playtime gets too rough. You need to teach your dog that growling and snapping lead to the end of playtime. Begin playing again when he is calm and happy, and when he growls, get up and leave.
After enough of this, your pup will understand that he cannot get what he wants by growling, and if he wants to continue playing, he will have to stop. If he bites your arm or hand when playing, stop engaging with him and give him a chew toy to bite-redirecting his energy to an item that he is allowed to chew on will teach him what is okay to chew on and what is not.
Providing proper stimulation for your dog is critical. Giving them enough toys and treats to keep them entertained and keep them from chewing on you or other unwanted items will help teach them what is okay to bite and limit their aggression towards you.
When training a dog, it is crucial to reward their positive behaviors rather than punish them for their wrong behaviors. This is because dogs aim to please and understand positive reinforcement as a way of communication.
Punishment can be unclear to dogs and confuse them further. For example, if you punish your dog after peeing on the carpet inside, your dog will begin to believe that it is bad to urinate when you are around, rather than knowing they shouldn’t go on the carpet. Instead, you should reward your dog each time they pee outside so that they know they are doing what is right when they go outside rather than on the rug.
One of the standard recommendations for dogs that are acting this way is crate training. Crate training will lower your dog’s anxiety, teach them to handle uncomfortable situations, and give your dog a space to relax and wind down if they get too riled up after playtime.
Look into professional training if you feel that it is necessary to train your dog how to behave. There are trainers that focus specifically on aggressive dogs, so this could be something worth looking into.
Take them outdoors to exercise regularly. Puppies have a lot of energy and need to relive it regularly. If you do not provide your dog with enough exercise, they can get antsy and release it through aggression. If your dog is pacing and growling, it may need to take a trip to the park and chase the ball.
It is also important to let your dog socialize with other dogs. Socialization will keep your dogs confident and comfortable in all situations and around any type of dog. Unsocialized dogs will get defensive and fearful when approached by other dogs, causing growling and aggression.
If you have noticed your puppy growling or snapping, don’t be discouraged. There are many ways to reverse and correct undesirable behaviors, especially in small puppies. Consult with a veterinarian before jumping to any conclusions to make sure that your dog is healthy and fit for your home.
With time, patience, hard work, and love, you can help heal your dog’s aggressive behaviors. Proper training, helping your dog overcome fears, regular exercise, and proper playtimes will help you heal your dog’s aggression. Locating the issue and fixing the problem will ensure that your puppy grows up to be a loving, trained, and well-behaved dog.
How to deal with puppy aggression – strategies for a common but tricky problem.