Puppy Attacking Me
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)
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.