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Canine Behavior/Puppy behavior


QUESTION: I have a almost 2 month old puppy. I am pretty sure Marley is lab/bulldog mix. I got him when he was around 7 weeks old. He is a rescue. It took me around two weeks to have him house broken and crate trained. He will also sit However the past few days it seems as if he hates me. Now when I try to correct him he will snap and bark at me. I tried turning my back to him and that worked for the first few times. Also when I try to walk him on the leash to try and get some of his energy out no matter what action I take he still pulls, and chews the leash. Again I simply turn my back. I don't want to just give up. It seems I spend hours on end reading all these different things to do. I am just so confused.

ANSWER: STOP all "correction", STOP all "training"; purchase a no-pull harness (take the puppy to Petsmart to have him properly fitted).  Some puppies house train faster than others.  In reality, for a puppy that is not even eight weeks of age to be housetrained is physiologically IMPOSSIBLE.  A puppy does not have full bladder control until at least ten weeks (males, females take longer) and poop usually catches up if YOU time your outings correctly.

At eight weeks, this puppy is entering a fear phase.  He is exhibiting abnormal defense reaction, this is FEAR.  You are doing something very wrong.

STOP everything.  Take him out on frequent basis and observe the times of day he is mostly needing to produce stool.  DO NOT over crate him.  The crate is a temporary "playpen" only when the puppy is not in your presence and NOT over night, NOT when you are at work.

Tell me exactly what training you have done.  Tell me what you are doing when he is demonstrating fear aggression and or learned helplessness (snapping and barking can be both).  Walking him for extended periods of time is not advisable at his age due to orthopedic development.  Don't READ another thing until you've further informed me.  When did he begin exhibiting these problems (exactly), what prompted them (negative reinforcement, punishment)?

Turning your back on a dog only works if the dog is learning to "work" off leash, hands free, using classical conditioning.  This puppy is too young to give more attention than a few moments at a time to training.  It sounds to me as if he is frightened, frustrated and confused.

PS: turning your back may be actually rewarding this neonate (eliminating a dominant position, eye contact, or something he anticipates will happen next that is unpleasant).  Do not turn your back.  Look up at the ceiling; sing a little song; yawn (calming signal); when he calms, scoot to his level and talk slowly and calmly without touching him, then walk away.  Use this technique until we can get to the bottom of this.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: To be honest my Labrador Annabella trained him more than I did as far as house breaking him. Marley took to her just like she was his mother. One week ago my Annabella had to be put to sleep. Since then he has changed. I understand why completely. The only way I punish him is just by telling him no. Also he weighs around 25 pounds. When we got him he only weighed 5. When inside I can tell him no about something and he once he stops I reward. Its when I take him outside. I have a small fenced area I put him in. When he starts digging, eating sticks, and I say no he backs up puts his head and chest area down lower than his back end then growls showing his teeth and will snap.

This puppy is demonstrating extremely abnormal aggression for his age, whether fear related, situationally (because he was allowed to bond to the older dog rather than to you) or simply bad training.  I can't see anything from here.  This neonate's behavior is highly aberrant and the prospect of your ending up with a dangerously aggressive dog in one to two years is great.

You need to find a certified applied animal behaviorist (CAAB) - NOT A DOG TRAINER (who does not have the credentials, either educational or experiential, to assess the situation.)

The puppy is confused and completely fearful.  He has lost his primary caregiver: your other dog (big mistake allowing a puppy to bond to another dog in this way).  When you reward as he "stops" to "no", you do not know what you are actually rewarding (you do not know his state of being: fight/flight/fear, or if there is cognition involved).  Digging, eating sticks, these are all symptomatic of high anxiety.  No 8 week old puppy should be growling and showing his teeth, let alone "snapping".  You've got a potentially quite serious problem that CAN be solved but you must ACT NOW.

Find a CAAB from the following sites or by calling the Veterinary college in your geographical area.  This will not be cheap.  This is a lifetime commitment and this neonate is highly stressed and resorting to aggression, which will substantially worsen as he ages.

Until you are able to obtain an appointment:
DO NOT put this puppy in any situation where he has demonstrated aggression, for any reason
DO NOT allow him free range off leash where he can get into a situation where he is resource guarding
DO NOT say "NO" ever again.  Do not give any "commands" to this puppy right now.
Put a house tab on him (lightweight leash with handle cut off) when you are at home; if he is "into" something you do not want, pick up the tab very casually, use baby talk, lead him away, watch his body language: tail body height (not tucked under hind legs, not over back), ears normal (not extremely perked forward and not laid back flat).  When he is clearly relaxed, "congratulate" him with a calm and soft "yay" and a scratch on the chest: walk away.

Stop rewarding him when he "stops" doing what you don't like: you are most likely rewarding the reason he's doing it to begin with.  We IGNORE the behaviors we do not want and we REWARD the beahviors we do want, all the while observing body language to see that the dog is paying real attention and not locked into some fight/flight response.

You've got a potentially serious problem which can cost this baby his life.  Find an expert.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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