The #1 Biggest Mistake I Have Made as a Professional Dog Trainer

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Curious, aren’t you?

Those of you, who are familiar with my articles, know I tell it as it is and I am not afraid for other people to learn from my numerous mistakes.

Just because we are professional dog trainers doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes.  We usually make them with our own dogs!

Ask any mathematician, accountant, doctor, lawyer or any other professional and you will route out mistakes.  Some people readily admit to them and others…well, they don’t.

But, I am no God.  I am not immune from making mistakes every now and again.

And, this time I made a BIG one!  This mistake I even knew better than to make, but decided to do it anyway.

I broke one of my cardinal rules:

puppy aggression

This Face Doesn’t Look Evil!

Never, Ever Take a Puppy Younger than 8 Weeks Old!

No excuses!  Don’t do it!

Not only did I take my latest family member at 6 weeks, I did it because he had already been separated from his mother at 4 weeks.

4 weeks, *gasp…This is WAY too young!

Puppies need their moms for essential learning and especially bite inhibition.

Puppies grow and develop and explore their world with their little mouths and tiny, sharp teeth.  And, when these teeth inevitably find their momma’s leg or paw; she strikes back delivering a punishing blow and an experience they will likely not forget.

Moms don’t usually hurt their puppies; they are simply quick to put an end to hard and inappropriate biting, possessiveness and aggressive behaviors amongst her pups.

This interaction is crucial and often humans are unable to duplicate the strict force needed to teach young puppies not to bite.

And, other dogs can injure puppies with no bite inhibition.

What I Should Have Done….

When I found out the pups had been pulled from their mother and all other adult dogs at 4 weeks, I should have declined taking a pup from this litter and I should have found another litter that had the experience of living with mom.

BUT…  I figured since I was a professional, I could help get this puppy what he needed at a young age.

I assumed that my dogs could teach him how to act.

I Was Wrong….

Now first let me explain myself…

I have had true genetic working dogs for over a decade.  Those that have come from top line competition lines and those from working dog lines (police K9 etc.).  So working dogs and their issues are not new to me.

I have dealt with possessive and aggressive puppies before, but never like this one.

At 6 weeks he bit an adult dog in the leg over a bath mat and was over corrected by the adult dog resulting in a swift bite to the puppy face and the loss of a couple of puppy  teeth.

puppy aggression

Puppy Aggression is Serious

He Has No Bite Inhibition and is EXTREMELY Possessive and has a Terrible Temper!

Now, if you know me, you also know that I too compete in the world of dog bite sports so to some degree this is expected, and wanted but never have I had a puppy that could not integrate with my adult dogs.

Usually they can be possessive with me or other humans but when they are puppies they are accepting of the pecking order of the adult dogs.

Not this puppy, he has no respect and despite his horrible bite to the face, still no fear.

So What Do You Do?

To some degree I have to accept what I have, learn to train and live with him.

I know that you would like me to tell you that there is some miracle cure for this puppy.  But there is not, it just is not that simple.

Instead, he is going to be a lifetime of maintenance.

He will need to be separated for every meal, not only from people he doesn’t know (I am working with his acceptance of me being around his food) but also for my other dogs and other animals.

He has no doggy social skills, and the lack of these skills puts him at risk for an attack.

He has no appeasement skills.  Let me explain.  Most puppies get into the face of an adult dog and eventually that dog may get tired of being poked at and climbed on so the adult dog will snarl or growl and the puppy (having been taught by his mother) immediately rolls onto  his back may put his head down or otherwise show appeasement skills; showing the adult dog he is sorry he made a mistake.

My puppy on the other hand, gets more aggressive when an adult dog gets irritated with his poor behavior and threatens to lash out in heightened aggression and anger.

This means that he will probably never be able to go to dog parks or play with other dogs.

With time and obedience, I should be able to teach him how to act around other dogs and socialize him safely by teaching him to simply ignore other dogs.  But he will probably never be able to be trusted to play with them without the risk of a severe dog fight.

And, make no mistake without obedience and teaching him around other dogs he would probably become severely dog aggressive.  So, I will have to do all that I can to socialize him without allowing a negative experience to happen and I must be in ultimate control at all times.

Right now all of his interactions with my dogs are completely controlled (except for my 12 year old dog that mothers him to the best of his ability; without hurting him).

Obedience will rule his world and already does at 9 weeks!  He has already been taught to tolerate me around his food bowl and my hand in his food bowl and he has learned how to sit, lie down, stand and put his head down on command.

This obedience helps his lack of impulse control, by forcing him to learn impulse control.

He Also Bites ME as HARD as He Can…

He simply doesn’t realize he shouldn’t bite me so hard.

And sometimes he bites me because he is angry that I have taken away an object or blocked his access to something he wants.

I have cuts and puncture wounds all over my arm from him biting too hard because his mother wasn’t there to teach him.

Sometimes he wraps his whole mouth around my arm and bites down over and over again rolling his eyes back into his head as if he was getting some kind of pleasure out of it; almost like he is nursing.

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How To Stop this Biting

puppy aggression

Right Now I Give Him Something Else to Bite

I have to redirect him when he starts biting, by giving him a toy or something appropriate to chew on.

I have also used bitter apple on my arms, hands, feet, pants to keep him from mouthing me.

When he becomes angry I have to remove myself from the situation.  If I use punishment his aggression is likely to escalate and become much worse.

But ultimately the obedience I have taught him is the key to keeping him from injuring me along with lots and lots of exercise.

When he sleeps, well that is my favorite time of day!  So, I must exercise him and his mind almost constantly to keep from falling prey to those jaws.

  • I run him on my agility equipment
  • I socialize him with other people (he is very social with people, it’s me he likes to bite)
  • I walk him back and forth around my yard
  • I let him chase toys
  • And I teach him obedience skills!  At 9 weeks he probably knows more obedience than some adult dogs and this keeps him preoccupied when his teeth come out I can tell him to do something else for a toy or a treat!

This dog is not going to be easy to own.  He is going to be a lifetime of maintenance, obedience and control and I know that and am willing to put in the time and effort.

But take a lesson from me and don’t do this to yourself!  Not all puppies separated from their mother at a young age will become like this, but you run a much higher risk of these behaviors by taking an uneducated baby!

Make sure that your pup has been with his mom; and don’t take him before 8 weeks of age!  Mom has lots of life lessons to teach him, that we as humans simply can’t…instead we are left to a lifetime of lessons and maintenance.

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There are 64 Comments

  1. Nancy says:

    I got my Aussie at 6 weeks but didn’t know till I picked him up, maybe I just thought he was 9 weeks. He was a bitter at play, but we worked really hard to stop him from bitting at play with the help of your site…thank you! I read your fb and emails and pick up tips here and there. Our Ozzie is 9 mons old now and is a great puppy, never bites at his food dish or at any dogs, he does try to bite, nip, when he ruff plays.
    Thanks!

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  2. marie says:

    i had the same problem. i took a puppy at four weeks of age. it was a nightmare . i got through it and he finally grew into a wonderful dog but, it took alot of extra work and battle wounds.

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    Minette Reply:

    Someday he will be a great dog, but you are right…it is sooo much more work right now!!!

    And, some people just don’t have what it takes the time involved to curb these behaviors!

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  3. Jackson R Chamberlin says:

    I have inherited dogs with various negative backgrounds including one that had a three year history of biting. This was easily overcome with gentle correction.
    The new puppy was adopted very early in life. It and its mother were rescued from a puppy mill. The mother died before the pup was 2wks old. Another older dog helped “raise” the surviving pup, so that helped. The pup had to be taught to be “nice” to our older dog, but with the older dog and human help she is learning. It’s a process. She still bites in play sometimes so we tell her “no” and push her head gently away from what she was biting. Now a “no” is enough to tell her to not bite.
    If possible it is best for pups to be with their moms; but its not always possible.

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  4. Pet Rookie says:

    All my pets have had previous homes and herein lies the problem. Chino my maltese/bichon cross was spoilt and not socialized with people. He was crate trained and he suffered from fear aggression. We did not know this when we picked him up. He barked profusely at us when we went to see him. But without fearing him we knelt down and fed him some treats. He calmed down. (I know thats not good) So we took him home unaware. That same day we let him loose in the garden. It’s not fenced. He immediately ran to the neighbour and bit him. He did this to two more people so we immediately put a muzzle on him in public. He fears people but the odd thing is if that stranger has a dog he is absolutely perfect. He trusts people with dogs. He also loves other dogs and is animal socialized. However a complete stranger was not afraid of Chinos barking or aggression and she told him off. (He had a muzzle on) He immediately shut up and tried to lick her. It appears if you are frightened of Chino he is aggressive but the moment you put him in place he is ok. A friend of mine always used to ignore him. He absolutely adored her. We are training him so he becomes more socialized. We are trying to get him to respect us. It is slowly working. I don’t know whats happened to him but whatever it was he remembers. We keep him and people out of danger and we always muzzle him. That’s the best we can do. Other than that he is an absolute darling with us and he is so gentle. It is such a shame he reacts like this to strangers.

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  5. Heather says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! I’m glad to know that it can happen to even professionals. We adopted our puppy last July from a local animal shelter. When we got him he was 10 weeks old, but we didn’t realize at the time what it could be like for a puppy that didn’t stay with its mother for at least 8 weeks, and he’d been in a shelter since he was only a couple weeks old. Over all he’s a great dog, but when he wants to rough-house he bites, when he hasn’t had enough exercise, he bites. As far as obedience training he’s very treat motivated, and he knows to sit, shake, lay down, stay, and speak when we’re in the house. Outside he’s still very easily distracted. Come still needs lots of reinforcement. We’re going to keep on working with him because he really is a sweetheart, we just don’t want to have to worry about him biting. Any additional tips? =)

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  6. Lisa says:

    Thank you for writing about your experience with a your 4 week old puppy. I unfortunatly have had two litters of puppies surrended to me at four weeks. One group experienced similiar aggression and the other did not.

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  7. Cris says:

    I also adopted an American Pit Bull at 4 weeks. It was being abused by someone who wanted to make him a fighing dog. My female GSD adopted him, but we still have agression issues. With training, doggy day care, some hard lessons from the GSD, he’s gotten so much better. But, gates up at food time, no off leash, no meeting other dogs on leash, always taking care that Loki is under control. In the pack, he respects the old alpha dog but will go after the younger male lab over food.
    I know it doesn’t matter if he is at fault or not, he is a pitty and will be blamed for any agressive behavior.

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  8. Lynda Secor says:

    We got our puppy at 5. 1/2 weeks. They said they were releasing them early because the mom had not been with them since they were 4 weeks. Max is a golden retriever.. he is our third golden. He has an aggression issue when he has something in his mouth that he doesn’t want to give up. He had a food aggression but we learned how to get that under control. He displayed some aggression when we pick him up also. This behavior never existed in our other golden’s ‘s and I find myself getting very frustrated with him. He is 12 weeks now and we have him enrolled in puppy class. Having him associate with other dogs helps as he is very good with them. We have a new grandchild I will be babysitting for in September and I don’t want to have the worry of him turning on her. Max will never be left alone with the baby but this issue needs to be resolved.
    So if you are thinking about a puppy younger than 8 weeks PLEASE take into conderation the extra work and time and frustration that goes into training when it is so much easier to wait and let the mom do it

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I totally agree with you!!

    I will never do this to myself again!

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  9. angell says:

    Thank you so much for addressing this topic. We recently got a puppy that was taken away from his mom at only 2 days old. She was eating the puppies and thats why he was taken away. He was only allowed around her when it was feeding time. He started eating puppy food and was off of milk at 4 weeks. After getting him home he wanted to play with our Adult female dog and at first she was interested in him until she saw how excited he was to see her. She was terrified of him anytime he would come near she would jump up and run. Then she started correcting him, at the time we didnt know that was what she was doing. We werent letting them near each other for fear that she would hurt him but it was actually him hurting her. He would bite at her and us. We finally got them to where they will actually sleep on the same bed and play without the growling and barking and snapping. He is still a work in progress but he is so much better than when we first got him.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    They are always a work in progress 😉

    Mine is still a bit of a brat 😉 but I can’t help but love him.

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  10. OhioMom says:

    Didn’t realize that you should not get a puppy before 8 weeks of age. The mother stopped breast feeding the litter of 11 at 4 weeks. We took one of the puppies home in hopes that my 6 year old would bond with her. He not really liking her. She nips and jumps on him. We have focused our training on 3 things; Off = no jump, Potty, No bite. We have had the puppy for 3 weeks now with no such luck/improvement. Is this normal? I have tons of questions.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Yes, with a puppy taken so young. Most often people should find a motherly dog that can nurture the litter.

    We as humans have a much harder time teaching young puppies not to use their mouths and be aggressive like another dog can.

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    Omar Reply:

    Hi! I got my dog (old english sheepdog) on friday, exactly 6 weeks old. He has been with me for 3 days and it’s going ok. He whines when he wants to pee or poo outside, and has had just a few accidents (which amazes me at such young age).

    But he is indeed biting too much. I try to redirect him to a chew toy, but it’s very hard to pet him because even if he is calm, he will start trying to bite our hands (the situation is worse with my wife). If I try to correct him (with a NO or pushing him gently away), he gets angry and has even barked at me.

    I think it would be possible to contact the family who sold him to us, and ask them to look after him for another week or 2. Would that be a good idea? or would it be worse to return him.

    I would not want to have an unbalanced dog if it can be prevented by returning him for just 2 weeks.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    As long as he could be with his mom, I would, she won’t put up with that biting mouth!

  11. Omar says:

    Hi, I just got a puppy at 6 weeks old, and I didn’t know it could be that bad. He has been with me for 3 days and it’s not going so bad.

    I can take his food away and he wont growl or anything, but he wants to bite me (not hard) all the time. I can sometimes stop him and make him chew something else… but after reading this I’m worried that I may have a troubled dog when he is older. Any suggestions?

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Start obedience early and make it fun!

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  12. val cooper says:

    I don’t know if you can help me but I to got a cocker spaniel puppy which I thought was 8 weeks old, when I got his pedigree it shown his birth date and he turned out to be 6 weeks old when I got him.
    We have an older cocker who is 13 years since the pup was six months old he has had many aggressive attacks at the old er dog, the older dog doesn’t retaliate he just takes the attack we have to drag the younger dog of and in quite a few cases I have got bitten because my hands have got in the way. now I put my foot in to drag him away.
    We have spend quite a lot of money on a dog behaviourist but he is really well behaved when ever she comes to see him. he has never attacked or done anything wrong in front of her. I am at my wits end I am on edge all the time in case he attacks my older dog. they younger dog has a crate which I feed him in and he sleeps in or goes in if we go out I couldn’t trust him with the older dog alone.
    Have you any advise you could offer me please email me if you can help
    regards Val

    [Reply]

  13. Jacquie says:

    I have a 21/2 year old Golden. She was born with a cleft palate which the breeder failed to notice. She wasn’t growing of course, because she couldn’t nurse. She was rescued from the vet office when the breeder brought her in to be euthanized. I got her at 6 months but she hadn’t been socialized at all. I wanted to be sure she was trained well so read up on positive reinforcement. Good, right? Wrong! Advice in the book was to encourage her to bite and cry out so she would stop. Of course this didn’t work and by this time she had adult teeth and was biting me (only me) every chance she got. I started her in obedience classes and she was a star. Also accessed one of your online classes which was great for all 4 of my other dogs as well. I was very lucky that she has a naturally sweet personality. She is a great girl now but she did drive the other dogs crazy because she would bark incessantly until they would give up a toy to her. She was never aggressive to them nor were they aggressive to her. She did miss all of the mom and littermate training though and still doesn’t have many social skills. Fortunately I have tolerant older dogs but I am always watchful.

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  14. Na says:

    So I brought a 4week old chihuahua from a private owner and they told us that the mom stop feeding the puppies and so on. I brought it to PetSmart and they was surprised it was only four week. They say that once its 7weeks we will have to take it back to get their shots and get some training. After they said that I did some research and try calling the owner back but they didn’t answer no suprised so I don’t know what to do.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I would contact your local shelter and find out if there is a momma dog with similar aged puppies that might be able to help raise the puppy.

    Some shelters have momma dogs on stand by to help raise puppies and teach them manners.

    [Reply]

  15. Lorie says:

    Hi,
    I have a german shepherd and corgie mix. He has taken the shepherd mix more. The only thing I see in him is corgie in the face. My problem is that he likes to fight with my older dog, a poodle mix. The poodle does help in instigating the fighting. This happens only if there is a dog or screaming kids in the neighborhood. I have a fenced yard.
    The shep is about 9 months old. There is a obedience classes offered in several locations. I am just scared that my 9 month old puppy might be to aggressive. I do have a mesh muzzle for him. Please help me. I lost my job and money is tight…
    Thank you.

    [Reply]

  16. Jenny says:

    Hello! Boy, its good to know I’m not alone. We had been searching for a playmate for my 2 1/2 year old Aussie (boxer mix). He is without a doubt the most fantastic dog we’ve ever adopted! My older female was a “great” mama! He is so well balanced, friendly, social with just about any dog, a quick learner…he’s my baby!
    We found a puppy online through our local shelter. She was being fostered. She too was very young, weighed about 6 lbs when rescued from her human parent and we were told she was taken away from her mom at too early an age. Yes, we’re experienced biting, severe aggressive play to escalated to anger, lunging to bite us, once she grabs onto us its very difficult to get her to release, vocal barking towards my Aussie and myself. He knows she’s having problems and will reprimand her pretty quickly. I observe so he doesn’t get out of hand. In the evenings they will lie down together and he cleans her. I too will clean her and she “loves” the touch. There isn’t any food aggression but he is showing her limitation to his dish. This just began in the last 2 days. I’m always present at meal time. When she is over aggressive I give the command “enough” or leave it. If she doesn’t acknowledge us I take her to kennel. When she gets to that level sometimes sleep deprivation is a component. She’s experiencing allergies that I hope she will outgrow similar to the way our Aussie has done. I called the shelter and they hadn’t notice any redness on her body. Thank goodness for my trainer. No, she doesn’t take the place of a licensed Vet but she helped to eliminate items I never considered. This too may be partly from being taken away from mom too early. She is very smart, learns quickly but she’s very independent. Saying that, not really a bad quality, right now I just need to be more important than the item that she is focusing on when I call her. I’m herding her to the door when its time to come in. I believe this lets her know I’m in charge. Yes, I’m herding the Aussie too. Believe me when I say that I “DO” have their full and undivided attention. Yes, on our quite times at home, there’s a lot of love, petting and praise! My payment is tail wagging, licking and exposing their underside. Yes, I do see her as a work in progress and have sent away for a DNA. I hope to give her the best pup to adult years of their life! Once her surgery heals, we’ll be in class to learn with other puppies. Yes, she does know how to sit, stay, come (inside the house only) and I have her focusing on me before she gets her treats. Yes, lots of walks, play and obedience are in the future! Love my little ones!

    [Reply]

  17. Liz says:

    I just got another puppy. He’s about to be 6 weeks old. The peole we got him from actually found the mom on the street and took her in. They didn’t know she was pregnant when thwy found her. But they wanted to get rid of him and his littermates because they didn’t want that many dogs around. So that’s how we came to getting him early. He’s pretty calm right now. He does chew a lot, he does try to chew on my finger or toes and I correct him and he doesn’t get aggressive about it. And I have another dog at him as well a two year okd black lab/dachshund mix. And they are getting a lot very well.

    [Reply]

  18. jackie says:

    Hi Chet, I can so back this up. I got my lab pup while still upset about my previous dog. I think this made me vulnerable to the breeders. The litter was only 5. My girl and all boys. I was due to retire from teaching and wanted to do some dog activities, so I went to a top breeding kennel. These people are international judges, write as columnists for the dog press. they are part of the organisers of the main lab group in the uk. couldn’t be in safer, more knowledgeable hands, right? Very wrong!
    I met the pup, bossy, pushy, licked and nipped all the time. Love at first sight(5 weeks old). I was told if I wanted her I had to take her at six weeks. They said all their dogs went at that age as Guide dogs did the same. Against better judgement I agreed and took the pup (at 6 weeks). I knew I shouldn’t take a pup till 8 weeks but these people knew best didn’t they?
    Have I paid for that mistake. My pup challenged me all the time, was totally hyper, I had to put a muzzle on when I came home as her mouthing and over excitement was so severe. She seemed to get on fine with people and dogs until after her first season, when all dogs became the enemy. from five months I took her to classes, had her trained and walked by guide dog people. No one solved her. I did so much training, helping at clubs, I eventually trained as a trainer, not solving but managing my problem pup. She is now 5, I desensitised her to most other dogs off lead but I have to use a head collar on lead. She has been to vets, behaviourists etc and it always comes back she is hormonal.
    To make matters worse a friend(guide dog senior trainer) had a litter of GSD pups, mum died during a caesarean op. All7 pups needed hand feeding. I helped, but bonded. I brought one home at ( weeks. Followed all integration stuff I had been told. my lab wouldn’t go near, she had the equivalent of a dog nervous breakdown. I am still bringing her round slowly, de stressing all the time. My GSD had the worst role model in the world and learnt all the crap stuff but none of the good. She has taught him to be anxious, not to trust and guard everything (I know typical GSD, but worse). I am still working to solve these furry kids, and I have learnt so much from them. We manage them with gates, crates, head collars, long lines, careful feeding, herbs etc They are a work in progress, but fortunately they are very well obedience trained. My advice to anyone thinking of getting a pup below 8 weeks is don’t and if one dog has serious behaviour problems don’t get another. It will learn off the older dog. i’m still looking for answers, ways of training and probably will be doing all there lives.

    [Reply]

  19. Beatrice says:

    I took my german shepherd puppy when she was 5 weeks old because the owner had 5 kids and didn’t want to keep them longer. She lived to 14 without any agressivity whatsoever. Anybody, babies included could walk into the house and kiss her on the nose and take her toys or food. I knew nothing about training at the time.
    I had heard of issues with puppies taken so young but I was lucky, I guess.

    [Reply]

  20. Monica Wilson says:

    We have had our now 22 week old lab mix since he was supposedly 6 weeks old. Prior to us getting him, I had a chow/retriever mix for 17 1/2 yrs who passed away July 11, 2012. Huge devastation for me. I was reluctant to take on a new dog. Finn is sort of like Cody was at this age, until I took control back. This dog, has been getting more aggressive, and the aggression is towards other dogs and people. The only people who can pet him are those who have been around him since coming into our lives. My sister and her dogs essentially his babysitters from that moment. He can’t go there anymore because he’s aggressive towards her older male dog. I used leash training with my last dog to keep him with me at all times so that I could correct unwanted behavior on the spot.It took almost a year or more to gain the results needed to live in harmony. Finn, unlike Cody, has aggression towards people that are unwarranted. He nips and bites all the time. He chews and rips everything in his reach. He will sit, down, give paw, drop it, amd stay for short periods. He unlike Cody, has been crate trained because of his chewing. He isn’t aggressive with food, but tries to take food from people. We can take tjings from him without aggression from him. He is in puppy training classes and I have noticed that when he’s around people or other dogs while leashed, he shakes. This shaking does not appear to be a fear, but instead adrenaline. This is new to me. Just this morning, he bit my husband when he came into the bedroom to remove Finn from my bed. I was asleep, and Finn had gotten on the bed. He growled, and snapped at him eventually drawing blood. Oddly enough, my husband had been the only one Finn had ever actually submitted too. Now, Cody was the same way, and until I took control from him myself, he wouldn’t stop the attacks. I can’t seem to get Finn to submit to me, or as I call it, “break his wild horse spirit.”
    The dog trainer told us at our last session that if her methods prove futile, we should consider putting him down.
    Listen, I don’t take on a dog just to get rid of them when they become too difficult to manage; however, unlike when cody was a puppy, I have two children. 15 and 8 years old. Cody was almost 4 when I had my oldest daughter. He was the best dog around them. Finn is not permitted to defeat me. I need help with him.We can’t have any company over, we can’t take him anywhere, and he is close to getting a one way trip to the “farm” since my now husband has never dealt with a dog such as Finn.
    If I can’t break him, then I will assume that something in his genetics is causing this behavior because we know he has never been abused.
    Any suggestions?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Because I cannot see the behavior I cannot give much advice on aggression.

    I suggest a veterinary behaviorist as they can see the behavior and prescribe meds as well as put you on a behavior modification program.

    You need to get him off of your bed!!!! and into a crate when you sleep!

    [Reply]

    Monica Wilson Reply:

    Thank you, and I appreciate your response. We took him to our vet for his shots, and they said that he needs to be socialized more. The fact that he has been socialized and has lets say “acquired” this behavior has me stumped. He challenged two very large older labs across the street,and even after they took him down 2 weeks ago, he got back up and resumed his position. His shaking from what I had once assumed was fear, turned out to be adrenalin, has me concerned. I grew up with Rotties, and never saw this type of behavior. As for him jumping on my bed, I honestly don’t allow him on my bed, but when I woke up after he jumped on it, and he was told to get down, that is when he went after my husband.
    I clearly have my work cut out for me with this dog, and will continue to read your blogs, since you can clearly identify with my plight.

    [Reply]

  21. Michael says:

    Great article you put into this blog. I love to check different sources for info and for most of us who love our girls as pets and not think of them as just animals, we want to take extra care and maybe even spoil them a little! Thanks!

    [Reply]

  22. Shelisa Turner says:

    I got a puppy early I thought it was 8 week but I was wrong when we went to get our other puppy the next day who was supposed to be the same aage was so much bigger and health good vision. Would the older puppy teach the younger one? Theyneatnout the same bowl and use the same water bowl sleep together and everything.

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  23. Alesia says:

    My mom just sent me this article. O M G!!! This is my Piper to the T!!!!! She is gsd mix little over a year now. I got her from rescue group that said she was 3 months old vet said no way maybe 2 months. There was no mother just siblings, and she was spayed before I took her home. I’m going through same issues. I’ve searched and searched for help but people think I’m crazy! Loves people fears other dogs and lunges out.
    I’m no dog trainer…..I knew a rescue dog would be tough never thought I would be spending this much!!! Thanks for sharing I’m glad I’m not alone!!!!

    [Reply]

  24. Dae'Nika Lowery says:

    I just got a chipin (Chihuahua, Mini Pin mix) he’s 6 weeks old but he’s completely weaned and the mother was starting to bite the puppies because she was tired of them. He’s very little and doesn’t bite. He does try to chew on fabrics. He has low sugar and starts shaking from lack of it so we give him a little bit of syrup. He’s actually a very good puppy so far. He gets cold very easily though. I’m worried about outside bathroom training, he poops and pees on fabrics alot. He does go outside for it but he tries to poop near or on rugs. We are first time dog owners and there is a nine year old boy and an eight year old boy in the house. I just need some advice. We didn’t buy him, he was given to us.

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  25. Kate says:

    We got our pup through a reputable breeder at 8 weeks.Same breed as my recently deceased dog, a breed known for family dog, etc., same training, but he is the handful. When he was at the breeder’s, at about ~ the pups & momma got a nasty case of Giardia when the pups were almost 6 weeks old and one puppy died.
    We picked him up at 8 weeks. So is it possible, he never really imprinted with his mom?
    We’ve done some work with professional trainers and that has been quite helpful, he is on prozac which has also helped. The biggest challenge is he is most reactive if strangers come near me. He is a large dog and love him to bits, however would love insights into how I can give him possible life.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I would contact customer service about our upcoming companion dog program starting soon, I think it would give you important tools… info@thedogtrainingsecret.com and they can send you information

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  26. Reva says:

    Thank you for writing this. I just returned a 6 month old pup back to the rescue after battling weeks on end of escalating biting and aggression. I’ve had only ever had rescue dogs, four from pup age, all my life and never taken one back ever. I’ve been beating myself inside up about getting “old” and being unable to handle even a pup (I’m 51 which I didn’t think was ancient until this puppy). Your article has enabled me to acknowledge that likely I didn’t ruin this pup and that doing what was right (and safe) for me and my other dog, as well as the pup, was a valid choice.

    It may really have been the pup’s prior life that was the problem. The pup had been turned in by a homeless man who couldn’t care for it. It had a bad case of mange (almost entirely bald), and two ear infections. Your article describes the pup’s behavior to the letter.

    I am not a professional trainer by any means, but like your dog, the pup I returned now knows more commands and tricks than any other dog I have ever known. The only respite from being bitten was engaging his mind with learning and exercising him constantly. Bitter apple was the only way to get him to de-latch from my arm or leg. I hired a professional trainer, I took him to puppy classes, I worked and worked with him. It was the all out biting and chomping that did me in.

    Thank you for the article.

    [Reply]

  27. sophie says:

    I have just brought home a Retreiver pup who is 6 weeks old, separated from his mum at 4 weeks because she was having trouble feeding.
    Now I discover that I have a puppy that will have issues.
    Should I take it back to the breeder?
    Where it will be able to socialize with its siblings?
    HELP ?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I would talk to your vet about finding and older social dog that it can learn some dog social skills from. Or I would consider taking it to the breeder for a while so it can learn some appropriate skills that you simply can’t teach it.

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  28. JOYLIN says:

    I have my puppy since she was 2 weeks for her mom got sick and his father died. I had to give milk every 1.5 – 2 hours per day and buy formulas. It was not easy but it was possible. Currently I have the problem that bites hard and growling all the time. It is well social, loving and very intelligent but is difficult to control when she gets angry. Already have 7 weeks

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  29. Louise says:

    I have a 8 weeks and a few days old puppy called Ella and my mothers friend is picking her up a lot and I am just worried this can affect her she needs to playing on the floor not picked up as a baby should p? Am I right in saying this?

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  30. Joshua says:

    I got an Australian Shepherd /Cattle Dog mix at 5 weeks old. She was the runt and got kicked out of the litter and was being bottle fed. I’ll have to say that you guys are making you too big of a deal about this. Corrina is 13 weeks old and she no longer bites, loyal as hell, doesn’t bark, not scared of anyone, and just an all around great dog. In my experience dogs just take on the characteristics of the person they get attached to so if you’re kind and patient they end up being calm, kind, and patient.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    You were lucky… not everyone is!

    Read this from world renown trainer Patricia McConnell and you will see she says many of the same things http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/sites/default/files/Bark%202003%20Spring%20Solo-What%20every%20puppy%20needs%20from%20the%20start.pdf

    It is a well known phenomenon in the dog world

    [Reply]

  31. kate says:

    Im going through the same thing, I recently bought a puppy from craigs list, when I went to pick her up, I could tell she must not be any older then about 4 weeks.I would have refused her but they said they were going to have to take her to the pound because they could not afford all the pups.she is 6 weeks now and her temper is outrageous.she literally attacks me. yes runs and jumps on my legs and bites me,if I touch her toys or do anything she does not like.Im really worried about this situation, as her mother is about 60 pounds and her father is a great pyrenees, which are mild tempered but she isnt.if one of my other dogs come close to her run, that she plays outside in, she immeditately starts growing, no doubnt they would probably kill her if she was lose with them. Im so worried, I have to find some way to fix this.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Find a veterinary behaviorist in your area or at the nearest vet school for help

    [Reply]

  32. Michelle says:

    I recently got a puppy 3 weeks ago. She was 4 wks at the time and I did not know dogs had to be at least 8 weeks of age before being separated from the litter. After doing research, my puppies behavior makes more sense. She does not know how to play bite and is not very obedient. Her mother is very good at taking care of her puppies. I recently went back home and saw her siblings and they are all very well behaved and do not bite. Would it be a good idea to take her back to her mother for another month even though she’s been separated for 3 weeks?

    [Reply]

  33. sam says:

    I have a 6week old husky pit mix and I got him at 5weeks they said the.mother wasn’t being nice to her pups and was biting them and stoped feeding them the mother was a husky pit mix and the dad is all pit she said he was fine when we first brought him home but now he growls and nips at everything and he is really bad when eating and my 5year old went to pick him up and he growled and bit her in the face im not sure what to do and im scared that when he get bigger it will be worse and a he will be to big to get under control

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    You need the help of a veterinary behaviorist as soon as possible

    [Reply]

  34. Takia Kile says:

    I took on a one week old puppy for some reason her mom stopped feeding all of her pups so I bottle feed her she is now 3 weeks old how can i stop her from being agressive she is the only dog we have and we got her for our 8 month old son and I don’t want her to harm him do you have any advise to stop the bitting and agressiveness before it happens or gets out of control and also can i start feeding her puppy food from a can instead of the milk replacement or should I keep her on the formula for two more weeks?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Ask your vet, I would also try and find a surrogate litter for her

    [Reply]

  35. HoneyHawk says:

    Just came across this as I was researching puppy aggression. It never occurred to me that being left at a shelter at 6 weeks could be my puppy’s problem. She’s 17 weeks now and has been nipping us for a while now, which I just chalked up to teething and typical puppy stuff, but now she’s growling at us, too. When she’s in her bed and someone comes up to her, she growls. She even lunged toward my daughter today as if she was going to bite her! She’s allowed to lay on one of our couches with me at night when I watch a little TV, but if she falls asleep and I move, the growling starts. This is really starting to concern me, so a trainer is in order. She’s not food aggressive at all, and while she doesn’t always listen to “drop it” when she has something in her mouth we want her to relinquish, there’s no growling when it comes to that. Usually just her running away, not wanting to give up whatever it is she has. So, it’s really just with her “beds”, or her perceived territories, that she’s gotten aggressive or territorial of whatever you want to call it, and she’s growling. She sleeps in a crate with no problem at night and is crated if no one is home (which isn’t often), so it’s not like she has the run of the house and is confused about “rank” or “pack order” (at least I don’t think she is), as she knows where she can and cannot go in the house (she’s usually gated off in the kitchen/family room area, as that’s usually where we are). I think we have a pretty good handle on her in terms of schedule and structure when it comes to feedings, potty times/walks, bed time, etc. And I always have her on a leash in the house because we have a cat and 2 small children, and there’s just so much she can get into if left to her own devices. But I got her from a rescue group who rescued her from a shelter where, so the story goes, she and 2 other litter mates were dropped off at 6 weeks old. Now, I understand maybe she didn’t have enough time with her mother, but wouldn’t being fostered with her litter mates (and other adult dogs) until 11 weeks old (when I adopted her) be enough time for her to have learned a lot from them? In addition to the mom, don’t litter mates also teach each other what’s appropriate in terms of biting, growling, etc?

    [Reply]

  36. Dan says:

    What do u think about biting the pup on lip as soon as it bites u, the puppy is 5 weeks old. It’s something I’ve done for 40 years training my own puppies or other people’s adult dogs, I’ve had good success with all the dogs, i learned this at a young age biting horses back as soon as it would bite, and them back or shoulder bites really suck that always got biters to quit. Just wondering what people think about this unorthodox way? ?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I think that is insane and I also think you would have needed stitches or reconstructive surgery with this dog.

    [Reply]

  37. Susan says:

    I am needin some help here. I have a pit bull mom, and one pup that’s 7 weeks old. The other 7 pups just left, not knowing I was suppose to keep them longer. (Never done this before so I didn’t know). The pup is pitbull and beagle mix.my one pup is biting on mom all the time. I mean biting , tugging and pulling. Which he also think he can do to us. Mom just lays there and letd him do it. Now if he gets in her food she will get him but not when it comes to the biting issue. I have been getting on to him, tell him no and swatting his butt, then giving him a toy to play with but he just drops the toy and comes right back to bite you or goes to mom and bits her. I dont know what to do. Any advise would be great. Thank you

    [Reply]

  38. Marta says:

    I adopted a stray dog at 4 weeks after her mom was poisoned. Ever since she got home you can tell she has a temper. We try to do the “whole” positive re-enforcement but it doesn’t seem to work. Know she id 13 weeks old and her behaviour is getting worst. For example, if you crawls under a bed and I try to get her out she growls at me and tries to bite. I do not know what to do. I want to keep keep her for the sake of my kids but I am afraid something bad might happen when she gets older. Help please.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Aggression incites aggression so if you are aggressive with the dog she learns to be more aggressive and is more likely to bite children; who are not intimidating.

    I’d put her on a leash, teach her obedience and if she crawls under the bed (not sure why you are crawling under to get her) you can pull her out.

    [Reply]

  39. Robert waichunas says:

    We have a 7month large puppy that when you take him for a walk he pulls and barks at every dog and person he see. We do not know people in the neighborhood so we can’t get people to come to the house to teach him that people are a good thing. Cany ou help? Thank you

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    It is about teaching him to be quiet and control himself.

    I often don’t require a dog that is barking, growling or lunging at a person or a dog to socialize in the way you are thinking. It can be dangerous for everyone involved.

    Instead I teach my dog to be quiet and show me obedience and learn to control himself and his impulses.

    [Reply]

  40. Bryce says:

    I have a 3 yr old Chihuahua that loves every type of animal or human. I wanted to get a playmate for him, so my son brought over a 6 week Chi pup. As it was sitting on my lap screaming. Cheech my older dog tried to viciously attack the puppy 3 times! so I told my son I couldn’t keep it. WHY did hee do that? My neighbor said it was because there was probably something wrong with the pup, can this be true?

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Many dogs have a high prey drive so screaming dogs or puppies engage their prey drive and can cause an older dog to want to attack it.

    [Reply]

  41. wow i never even considered that. thank you so much, it explains alot. I guess ill have to pick a pup thats past the ‘crying for mommie ‘ stage lol. again thank you

    [Reply]

  42. ginger says:

    i got my aussie at six weeks
    overall whelming for sure
    he is two and a half and no issues
    he is so easy to teach , very soicialize
    loves people
    out of all the dogs i have owned or been around i have never had one that is so kind and polite
    he has no issues with a dog (that he knows) in taking a toy or even a bone from him he just gets a little irritating ‘ not cool man ‘ look.
    one thing i noticed he loves guys (humans) he kind of turns his nose up to the girls even me if a guy is in the room.
    i may have just been lucky but the kid is 21/2 and a superstar

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    excellent, not every dog follows every rule

    [Reply]

  43. Titan says:

    This all sounds like my pup. I have three kids and they can’t be near him because he’s very mouthy to the point of making you bleed. Correcting him makes it worse he will bite harder growl snap his teeth. His mother rejected him and I got him at 5weeks I’ve kennel trained him (bladder of a champ) I’ve worked with him on his food aggression he tolerates me being near, he’s very food motivated and yes my favourite part is when he’s sleeping.. sadly. But with all the bites I get I hope y’all understand why it’s my favourite part. This may sound stupid but is it possible for someone with three kids (7, 2 and 5month) who’s not expected in training to succeed in training a pup out of this ?! I’ll be honest I’m sick of being bitten and it’s not far to him to be separated from the family (I am the only one to deal with him/be near him) because I know he will hurt the kids at this point.

    [Reply]

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