Puppy Attacking Me

by Kirsten

Butter Wouldn't Melt

Butter Wouldn't Melt

We have a 12-week old cocker spaniel puppy who has settled with our family very well. Our only issue is that he loves biting anything, we have a large variety of toys so the majority of the time he is biting his own toys with the odd sock or towel stolen from the radiator.

The big problem we have is that he seems to attack myself and it is starting to get quite nasty.

When we first got him I treated him like a baby and wanted to cuddle but we soon realised this was why he made a beeline to bite me, I have since stopped the baby cuddles and tried to avoid sitting on the floor so I am at a higher level.

But every night he will attack me biting at my legs so it nips the skin, trying to launch himself onto the settee to try to reach me to bite, I say no but will end up having to remove him and put him in the dining room for a "time out" which whilst moving him always results in a couple of bites to my hands/wrists. Once we let him back in, he may have another biting episode which he will then get put back out. When he finally calms he will always be really friendly and lick instead of bite then gets into his bed and goes straight to sleep.

There is definitely a pattern that he always sleeps after these attacks, like an over tired toddler.

Is there anything else that I should be doing as I don't want him to carry on this way and feel if we don't stop it soon it will continue into him being an adult dog.

He never bites my partner and only ever bites my 12 year old daughter in a playful way not the same way he growls and barks at me.

Reply from Pauline (Web Owner)

Hello Kirsten,

Butter really wouldn't melt - what a cutie! It's sad that he's having problems, but don't worry, most puppies bite. You just need to teach him that it's wrong.

First of all, if it's really becoming, as you say 'quite nasty' I'd certainly consider investing in a soft puppy muzzle (for use around children) - it sounds like you might need it, but only use it when it's really necessary as muzzles shouldn't be used on puppies if it can be helped.

It's much better to change their behavior so that you don't need a muzzle.

Your puppy is coming to the end of the socialization window of 12 weeks so I strongly recommend you cram as much socialization and obedience training into the next four or five weeks as you possibly can.

After that you could probably afford to 'slacken off' a little and continue with both training and socializing until he's about 18 months old.

Your puppy sounds like he's fairly dominant and I think you're doing the right thing by actively asserting your position as the pack leader (and all other members of the family) and making sure he understands that his place is at the bottom of your pack.

And you're also right to be worried that if his aggression isn't stopped now it may continue into adulthood, and that doesn't bear thinking about. The 'problem' must be addressed now, before he gets any older.

You were also right to stop 'babying' him by backing off with the 'free' attention.

Now, here's a few other things you might like to try:

  • Because your puppy is directing his aggression towards you, (if you're not already doing so) I recommend you take over most of the day to day care of him, for example, walking, feeding, training, etc. He's less likely to attack his main carer.

  • Don't allow him on the sofa or your bed (or your daughter's bed) - make him sleep in his crate overnight until things settle down.

  • If you have access to a well-behaved, confident dog, I recommend you arrange a couple of meetings (play dates) to see if your puppy can learn some good behaviour - it's surprising how quickly puppies pick up behaviours from other dogs.

  • So that your puppy learns that you set the rules (not him) always get him to sit and give you his paw before you feed him and ask him sit before you put his lead on - in fact make him work for everything.

  • I'm assuming you've read my article on the alpha male but just in case you haven't, here's the link. You'll find lots of advice in there that will help you.

  • You should probably read these two articles too on how to prevent food aggression in dogs and, if your puppy is already showing signs of food aggression, here's how to deal with it.

    Where a puppy is aggressive around food, it's likely that they'll develop some degree of resource guarding.

If you need to, you can follow all the recommendations in the above articles, consistently, but make sure the rest of the family are aware of what you're doing.

Reward your puppy for good behaviour; give him a small treat and lots of praise. When he's misbehaving, give him a short sharp reprimand in the form of a loud 'No' and then completely ignore him (turn your back on him) - not touching, no speaking to him and no eye contact.

(Dogs seem to respond better to the deeper tones of male voices, so when you are being firm with your dog, or trying to reprimand him, try lowering the tone of your voice.)

If he gets really bad, like the sofa episodes, continue to exclude him from the room.

He'll eventually learn which is the desired behaviour (for which he's rewarded) and what type of behaviour gives him the 'cold shoulder'.

If all else fails, (and this really is only in very serious cases) your only option left may be to re-home him. If and when that time comes, please don't heap guilt onto yourself - these things do happen. If you need to make this decision, do it quickly - it will be better all round. Just don't feel you've failed or let him down.

I suspect though, that your puppy is only doing what puppies do, and that's nip, chew and bite and he'll soon grow out of it. They explore their worlds through their mouths and it's up to us to teach them bite inhibition and that human hands and feet are out of bounds.

Just keep on correcting him for biting and reward him when he's good - he'll soon get the message!

I sincerely hope this helps and that you can turn your puppy's behaviour around very quickly.

Good luck, and please, let us know how you get on.

Kind regards,

Comments for Puppy Attacking Me

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by: Anonymous

I got a puppy last year and for the first 6 months, I thought she hated me!

I felt so out of my depth. She would bite me and attack me, and she didn't seem to want to get close to me.

I bought her from a bad breeder, as it turned out, the breeder wasn't giving the mother any resting time between puppies. I didn't see the mother with her puppies either.

If I told her off for biting, she attacks me and becomes even crazier.

After 6 months of this, I snapped one day, and I just screamed. Suddenly, she was quiet!

I know this isn’t a conventional method but something clicked with her. She started behaving and stopped the aggression.

Since then, we’ve bonded really well. I think I was being too soft on her for way too long. When I snapped, it asserted my dominance, and she saw me as the alpha female, maybe she even felt more confident in me as her mama?

Food guarding
by: Anonymous

Hi, our issue is food guarding, we have tried hand feeding, putting food in bowl with a spoon gradually adding more. Eating out bowel while we're holding it. He sits and waits for food until we give it to him. Offering treats to take attention away from food, bit still when you try an attempt to put your hands any where near his bowel he will growl and bite. He has bit my dad and brother, not just a nip drawing blood and really biting hard. He is 16 week old cocker Spaniel. We have a five year old child and are really concerned for his safety.

Hi, sorry to hear you're having problems with your puppy. Here is an article which explains more about food guarding which should help you resolve your problems.


Kind regards,

by: Anonymous

For the people saying let him be a puppy...I have the same issue. It's not just nips or bites due to his teething, it's a vicious attack which draws blood with my 12 week springer pup.

At the moment he is a danger to my children. I really hope he grows out of this as we don't want to get rid of him.

Puppy Attacks!
by: Pauline

Hello Jane,

You're very welcome for the info. Good luck to you both!

by: Jane Singlehurt

We were thinking of renaming our pup to Jaws!

We never had a problem with our springer but we did get him at 8 weeks old, the correct age.

Our new pup came to us at just over 5 weeks, yes, yes, yes, we know it's wrong, BUT for one reason and another she came early and to be honest he has learnt more from us and experienced the garden and eating out of her OWN bowl, not sharing, which is a no-no apparently.

She is now 7 weeks and asks to go outside to pee and poo, whines in our room but after ignoring her settles again. She is lovely, BUT the biting has been a nightmare. Something she should have learnt with her mum and siblings. She tends to go into full on attack mode when very tired or when needing a poo, just like a toddler.

Thank you for the information Pauline, we will try them out, it appears to be mainly me (mum) I will speak in a lower voice and give her time out in her pen. I hope she grows out of it, I am sure she will. You don't bite the hand that feeds you!

Puppy Nipping
by: Pauline (Website Owner)

Hi Pam, Thanks for your kind comments about my website. I'm sure you'll have everything under control in no time at all and be able to really enjoy your new Cocker Spaniel.

Good luck!

Puppy Attacking Me
by: Pam

So glad I found this page. We just got a 5 month old female puppy (this weekend) and she keeps giving me nasty nips with her front teeth. She's not doing it to anyone else, so am going to start the routine you suggest because it makes sense and is a sensible way to deal with this issue.
Thank you very much.

I have signed up to your newsletter and look forward to receiving more tips and information!

Puppy Attacking Me!
by: Pauline (Web Owner)

Hi Kirsten,

Thanks for the update to let us know that one year on, your puppy has grown out of his biting phase and is a very loving and affectionate Cocker Spaniel!

Great news, and thanks for posting.

1 Year Later
by: Kirsten

Just to give you an update, I did not need to muzzle him, and he eventually just grew out of the biting and attacking me. For the people who said I shouldn't treat him like a baby as he is a dog, I don't treat him like a baby no longer just more like a toddler(-;

The biting and aggression has stopped and is a very loving dog and definitely a big part of our family.

Aggressive Puppy
by: Jack

I don't normally write posts but felt compelled to do so when I read some of these comments, especially the one entitled, 'Very Misguided Advice'.

Puppies do indeed bite, chew and nip and in the animal world their mother would teach them to inhibit and control their bite.

In our domestic world, we take them away from their mothers before they've had the opportunity to teach their puppies not to bite too hard.

This is then down to the new owner. That is what the advice is based on. Puppies do explore their world with their mouths so it's only natural that they chew, bite and nip BUT they must be taught that human flesh (or clothing) is not on the menu!

It is really important to teach puppies not to bite. If you don't, you're setting yourself up for trouble later on down the road.

Just saying! :-)

Very Misguided Advice!
by: Anonymous

A puppy muzzle is really a most strange suggestion! As the other comment said HE IS A PUPPY. Puppies do nip, it can be hard to deal with but they do grow out of it very quickly.

More sleep and a calm environment and time out is the best way to deal with it. He certainly isn't demonstrating assertive behaviour at this age and you could cause more problems than you solve by treating this behaviour as such.

by: Susanne

Looking at the picture above makes me think you might have a Springer Spaniel. The behavior also sounds like that of a Springer. If so you might want to read up on their character traits. I own one and she is a handful. Some also can have a tendency to have bursts of extremely aggressive behavior that could be dangerous to children.

Attacking Puppy
by: Anonymous

For heaven's sake let the puppy be a puppy. All puppy's will bite, nip, bark and chew.

If you want a dog to be a child then have a child NOT a dog. A dog will hate you then love you just like a child. Just remember it is a dog and you the owner should be in control not the dog.

If the dog starts to bite then a tap on the nose is a good thing. It will look at you as if you are bad, however let the dog know you are the boss. If you don't then get rid of the dog.

Puppy Attacking Me
by: Greg

Next time he goes to bite you give him a tap on the nose and say no, then give him a chew toy to chew on instead of your hand or ankle.

Every time he bites something he shouldn't, give him an alternative and he'll soon learn what he can and can't bite on.

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