Alternative Medicine for Pets/Puppy Aggression
Hi. We have a 13 week old female boston terrier puppy. She is very smart, loving, and just absolutely adorable. We love her so much, but she is displaying one particularly worrisome behavior outside. Over the past month she has become increasingly aggressive when in the back yard. Upon first coming home she accepted me as her alpha and was quite content to follow me around the yard as I weeded and amuse herself trying to pull the weeds also or playing with her toys. Over time however, she started nipping at our feet when we were out on the grass with her, to which we were consistently telling her "no". We kept her quite busy with boating, beach time, walks, and trips to the Farmer's Market over her first three weeks with us and until the start of school on September 3rd, my 13 year old daughter was home with her every day. She has since started getting a little snarly and going after our pant legs when we are out in the yard with her. I have tried ignoring her to let her know the behavior is unacceptable and will not gain her attention, but she gets so wound up with snarling and jumping that she has actually drawn blood, leaving the only option to catch her, chastise her, and remove her from the yard. I have recently begun to leash her in the yard so I can quickly control and correct the behavior when it starts to happen, but I would like her to be able to run free in the yard and wanted to seek some advice to ensure we correct the behavior in the right way. Any input you could offer would be very much appreciated as I'm unsure if this is a territorial issue, a dominance issue (she still respects that we are the alphas and waits for us to go ahead of her through doorways, up stairs, etc.) or just an attention or boredom issue.
Sorry to have taken so long to get back to you. The leashing resolution is exactly the right response to your puppy's issue. Don't be in a rush to get her off of it because it could take a while and you don't want to get almost there then have to start over.
The "controlled state" is something I start with puppies in my litters at 3 weeks of age for short periods of time, plus crating, relaxation, and grooming on the table. I do this with all of the pups until they go to their new homes. At that time, I require that my new parents come for 2 hours when they pick up their babies and get a training seminar on how to continue to build the proper relationship with their new family member. My pups are all partially house broken,leash trained, grooming trained and child proofed for nipping fingers, etc. by the time they are 8 weeks old. Unfortunately, all of this early work can be undone in just a few days by a new owner that doesn't "think like a dog" and understand what negative behaviors they are inadvertently training in as a result.
What people, and even most trainers, don't know is that a dog sets up its temperament and relationship with itself and others from 21 days (3 weeks) to 14 weeks of life!! Everything after that is people trying to undo the issues they themselves created when the puppy is in its oh so cute stage.
The Boston is a very active and rough in play by nature. Their most fun things are generally tug of war, and chase games. If you give in to the fun and excitement of playing these games when they first come into your home, you set the precedent that this is proper and expected behavior. Plus, if the puppy is allowed to "win" the game, you have set it as the dominant animal with the right to set the rules and regs. As the pup gets older, it is only natural for it to play more aggressively.
To settle your girl down, bring your entire relationship with her down to a low energy level entirely for a while. Make fun together time be walks and training time, (commands, fetch, shake hands, etc.). Lots of opportunity for praise.
By the way, always avoid talking to her in a high pitch voice. A high pitch to a dog is excitement or anxiety depending on the tenure in the voice. You will either hyperactivate her or make her nervous depending on the circumstance just by the tone of your voice. Speak to her in a normal speaking tone. When calling her to come, adding a smile will lift your voice just enough to have her come running happily, not "hyper-ly".
I hope this helps. Feel free to contact me directly any time.