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Canine Behavior/Pitbull puppy aggression


I have a seven week old female Pitbull puppy who was the only one in her litter. Overall she is a healthy puppy, eating, drinking, very playful and curious. The problem I am having is she sometimes gets too aggressive when I play with her or pick her up if she is too aggressive with my other dogs. She will growl and snarl. I understand that puppies tend to play rough and she is a Pitbull so I also know they like to shake and chew more than other breeds. My other dogs are putbulls as well but I don't remember them being so intense. Is this something I should be worried about, or should I just go on with her normal training?

Thank you so much!

Thank you for your question. Most puppies will explore their world and will explore how they engage with the world with varying amounts of growling or barking during play. Without observing what your puppy is actually doing, it's impossible to determine if it's just intense play that will be an easy education for the puppy about how much is too much, or if there is a more serious aggression issue at play. I strongly encourage you to seek out a consultation in person with a veterinary behaviorist if one is near you. You can ask your primary vet if they have a working relationship with any vet behaviorists or know of any in your region. If not, you can do set up a remote consultation with the animal behavior clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts university (links below).

A vet behaviorist has earned their veterinary degree and then gone on to complete a masters in behavior. They are the psychiatrists of the animal world. They work with your primary vet to rule out any medical conditions that may be contributing to the behavior and they will design a behavior modification protocol to help you deal with the behavior issue. They'll continue to work with you throughout the behavior modification process and they will oversee any medication if any is deemed necessary as part of the modification protocol.

If you cannot find a vet behaviorist to work with, and prefer an in-person rather than a remote session (which would include video for them to observe), you can look for a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist. If this person has a PhD in an animal behavior related field, they are simply referred to as a CAAB. If they hold a Masters, then they are referred to as an Associate CAAB or ACAAB.  A CAAB/ACAAB has the graduate school education in an animal related field and at least 5 years of experience dealing with behavior issues. They will work with you and your vet closely. They cannot diagnose medical conditions nor can they prescribe medication. But they often are familiar with various medical conditions and medications and can consult with your vet about the best approach for your dog.

If you cannot find a vet behaviorist or a CAAB/ACAAB in your area, then you can search for a trainer who has experience with aggression as well as experience with puppies. You can search for trainers through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainer website or the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. The CCPDT is an independent testing organization. Members have demonstrated an expertise in training skills, behavior, husbandry and a few other related areas. The APDT is an association open to any professional trainers who are committed to continuing education and staying current on the science of behavior and force free training methods - whether they've sat for a certifying test or not.

The key to deciding who to work with is this: make sure that whoever you decide to enlist for help, that they are committed to using force free, non-aversive, non-coercive methods and that they focus on positive reinforcement which is the process of setting the dog up for success so that they can say, "Yes! Do that some more!" Avoid working with anyone who is going to set the dog up to fail so that they can "correct" them and say, "No! Don't do that again."

Avoid training tools such as choke chains (aka infinite slip collars), pinch/prong collars, electronic collars, citronella collars. Avoid training techniques that utilize pokes, kicks, punches, yanks, jerks, yelling, staring contests or other confrontational/aggressive techniques. Such techniques are likely to backfire and increase this puppy's behavior rather than improve it.

Now, what I can tell you without any observation is this: it is extremely rare for a puppy as young as 7 weeks to show real aggression. Being a singleton means there was no learning curve for the puppy before leaving her mama and so there may be a certain amount of "entitlement" that the older dogs need to educate her out of - so long as they are gentle and patient with her in their teaching. But, if this is a real aggression and not just an exaggeration of play behavior, then it's a very big deal and doesn't bode well. Aggression in such a young dog would likely be deemed quite serious by those at the top of the field. So, please try to get a consult with a professional as quickly as possible. And in this case, I'd be looking most for a veterinary behaviorist as they are the most highly qualified to help you with this.

My hope for you is that it's just exuberant play. But without observing, it's impossible to say.

Vet Behaviorists:

Tufts Animal Clinic:




I'm sorry I can't really be of direct help to you in this circumstance. I wish you the best of luck. Please feel free to followup if I can be of any further assistance.

Los Angeles Behavior Specialist

Canine Behavior

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Jody Epstein, MS, CPDT-KA


IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 8 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members and many other issues. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.


I have been a professional obedience trainer for 9 years, and specializing in behavior modification for 8 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I own my own dog training and behavior modification business called Nutz About Mutz.

I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications ; ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

I have a masters degree (MS) in Animals and Public Policy, with a minor in Animal Behavior, from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. I also have 3 years of graduate education in Animal Behavior and Learning from UM-Missoula and UL-Lafayette. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences, workshops and seminars. Beginning in March, 2017, I will be the Behavior & Training Manager at Second Chance Center for Animals in Flagstaff, AZ.

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