Signs Of An Aggressive Puppy: Is My Puppy Normal, Or a True Terror?

Aggression By Kayla Fratt 14 min read May 24, 2021 120 Comments

signs of aggressive puppy

All puppies play bite, but some puppies are more intense than others.

It’s rare, but even at a very young age, some puppies have an “edge” to them. As a dog behavior consultant who’s worked with thousands of dogs, I’ve only seen one or two puppies that I would even consider classifying as truly “aggressive” (we’ll talk about one of these pups later).

Nevertheless, I get several calls or emails per week from owners who worry that their puppy is aggressive.

So, how do you differentiate the signs of an aggressive puppy from puppy rough play that’s within the range of normal? We’ll focus today on answering that question for dogs less than 6 months old. Then, I will give some suggestions as to what you can do if you do have an aggressive pup.

What Exactly Is An “Aggressive” Puppy?

It’s very common to see puppies that have an overly rough play style, low bite inhibition, low frustration tolerance, or even mild resource guarding issues. When I get a call about an “aggressive puppy” from a client, it’s almost always a puppy that fits into one of these categories.

While these puppies might fall under the layman’s umbrella of “aggressive,” I set them apart from puppies that seem to be truly behaviorally “off.” Those puppies still may need help from an experienced trainer to prevent further problems down the line, but they should not be confused with puppies that are behaviorally abnormal.


I often explain aggression in puppies to clients through the lens of children.

It’s not very nice for a six-year-old to push his sibling down or hit a friend – but it’s not a huge cause for alarm, yet. However, if that same six-year-old pushes and hits all the time (frequency), is very forceful with those pushes and hits (intensity), or keeps hitting for a long time (duration), that is a cause for concern. This is especially true if the child is not just rude, but seems to have the intent to harm the other child.

Similarly, if your puppy is unusually intense in her painful or threatening behavior, or displays these behaviors frequently and for a long time, this is a cause for concern.

Normal Vs. Abnormal Puppy Behavior

So, an “aggressive puppy” is a puppy that displays an abnormal intensity, frequency, or duration of behaviors such as lunging, snarling, growling, baring teeth, or biting.

But what’s “abnormal”? As I discussed in my article on puppy play biting, “normal” varies. A lot. Normal play biting for a Belgian Malinois puppy would be quite concerning to see in a Shih Tzu.

While what is classified as “normal” play biting can vary depending on breed, age, and other factors, some behaviors are red flags across the board.

It’s almost always abnormal to see a small puppy growl or bare teeth, lunge at dogs or people, or bite and hold onto littermates while they cry. These puppies should see a behavior consultant sooner rather than later.

If you feel like your puppy is abnormally aggressive, it never hurts to contact a certified dog behavior consultant – not just your local obedience trainer – and ask for their opinion. Dog behavior consultants will have knowledge and skill sets that differ from even the most experienced obedience trainers. Some trainers are also behavior consultants, but don’t assume without asking around.


The Paradox of Puppy Aggression

It’s hard emotionally to look at a small, young dog and consider the fact that this puppy might grow into something dangerous. It’s easy to overlook concerning behavior in something so cute and fluffy!

Yet, paradoxically, most animal behavior consultants will say that the younger a dog is when it displays concerning behaviors, the more alarmed we should be.

Some level of over-arousal while on walks, growliness with other dogs, and even growling over shared resources isn’t at all uncommon for dogs 9-18 months old. They’re terrible teenagers! These dogs require training to help them grow out of these naughty behaviors, but this is actually far less concerning than seeing the same behavior in a ten-week-old puppy.

When I see an eight-week-old puppy growl at its siblings over food, or a four-month-old puppy on a leash lunging at other dogs, alarm bells go off. Pre-adolescent dogs should not, for the most part, be reacting to their environment in a highly negative way.

Warning Signs of an Aggressive Puppy: When to be Concerned

If you’re concerned at all about your puppy, it’s never a bad idea to contact a certified dog behavior consultant. They may ask you to film the behavior and send it along, or they may want to come meet you and your puppy in person.

If you’re on the fence about whether or not your puppy is “abnormal,” here’s a starting list of “red flag” behaviors that warrant an experienced eye. This list is not exhaustive and is aimed at puppies under the age of six months.

Puppies that growl (or worse) when you or another dog approaches their food or toys. Resource guarding is a common and natural issue – but it’s unusual to see in young puppies. This problem is more common in puppies that were all fed out of a single shared food bowl, so ask your breeder if your pup was fed that way.

Teaching the puppies to “compete” with their siblings at a young age for food isn’t a good way to help them share later!

Puppies that continue to bite or “go after” playmates even when the playmate has its tail tucked and/or is attempting to get away. Not all puppies are awesome at reading social signals from other dogs. However, it’s concerning to see one puppy blatantly ignoring another puppy’s pleas for play to be toned down.

Puppies that lunge at strange people, dogs, or other objects on walks. It’s pretty normal for most puppies to be interested in their environment. They’re generally loose, waggy, and curious. Some puppies are a bit more reserved – that’s also normal.

What isn’t normal is a puppy that is so scared of something that it thrashes on leash or growls, snarls, or snaps at the offending subject. It’s also highly abnormal for puppies to lunge towards things on walks, especially if their body is stiff and they’re growling, snarling, or snapping.

This is a very concerning behavior for a pre-adolescent dog (and should be addressed in dogs of any age).

Puppies that show their teeth, growl, snarl, snap, or bite with a “hard face” and tense body. There’s a difference between a puppy that’s play biting, or even biting because it’s overly excited, and a puppy that is biting out of a strong negative emotion.

It’s hard to see that difference at first, but aggressive behaviors are often described as having a stiffness, stillness, or hardness to them (we also talk about this in our article on how to safely break up a dog fight). If you feel that your puppy’s behaviors have an “edge” to them, it might be time to call in help.

Puppies that bark constantly, bite during play (but are otherwise relaxed), play growl while engaging in a game of tug, nip at hands or clothing playfully, or pull towards others on walks to go say hi are not necessarily aggressive.

These puppies might be rude and may benefit from training (or some puppy teething toys if your pup’s adult teeth are coming in), but these are not big “red flag” behaviors.

A Case Study in Puppy Aggression

Only one puppy in my time as a dog behavior consultant has been truly concerning – even frightening – to me.

I’ve seen many puppies that growled or snapped around their food, puppies that were very fearful of their environment, and puppies that played or bit far too roughly. These puppies almost all had excellent outcomes thanks to some training interventions.

But this puppy – we’ll call her Halley – was different. She came into the shelter I worked for as a transfer, meaning that a shelter in Texas was overflowing. My shelter in Denver brought in a truckload of dogs per week from the Texas shelter to help the Texas shelter reduce euthanasia rates.

The puppies were in the Denver shelter for under a week – just long enough to get spayed and neutered, get medical clearance, and go up for adoption.

Halley had a few siblings with her. They were cute eight- or nine-week-old hound mix puppies – huge ears, big spots of tan and black and white, soft dairy cow eyes. Halley looked just like Copper from Fox and the Hound.

Cue melting heart (img from Character Wikki)

The second day that the puppies were in Denver, the entire behavior staff got an email about Halley.

The email said that, when animal care staff fed the litter of puppies that morning, Halley turned snarling towards her siblings. She pinned one of her siblings to the ground while the other puppy screamed, but Halley didn’t let up. She latched onto the other puppy’s neck – luckily it was the loose skin on the back and not the throat – and shook.

Halley wouldn’t let go, even when staff banged on doors and shouted to try to startle her. The animal care staff had to spray her with a powered hose to get her to let go of the other puppy.

The puppies were separated, and the behavior staff brought Halley down to hang out in our office for a while. We played with her and watched her interact with us and her environment. We didn’t see much of concern, other than knowing that this cute little puppy had nearly given her sibling stitches over a pile of food.

Eventually, we decided that there was nothing that the behavior team could realistically do in the shelter environment to help modify her behavior around food and other dogs. We reached out to a few rescues with more long-term resources but didn’t have much luck.

Halley was adopted to a couple that was given full disclosure on the incident and several good resources for help. Halley never came back to the shelter; hopefully, this means the couple had success in dealing with Halley’s behavioral problem, although I’ll never be totally sure.

On one hand, Halley seemed to be a normal puppy in many ways. She was quite friendly and curious. But the incident with her sibling over food still haunts me.

I don’t know what happened to Halley, but if she had been a private client of mine, I would expect a relatively long road of behavior modification to help keep other dogs safe around her as she reached adulthood.

How Do I Teach My Puppy Not to be Aggressive?

If you’ve adopted or purchased an aggressive puppy like Halley, it’s time to get some help.

Your first step should be to contact a dog behavior consultant through the IAABC. If there’s no one near you, feel free to reach out to me – I take clients via video chat from anywhere in the world, and I can help.

While you wait for the dog behavior consultant to see you, you’ve got some steps you can take on your own:

1. Video the behavior, if possible. Don’t provoke your puppy into displaying her bad behavior. But if you can catch it on camera, that’s very helpful.

2. Document the times your puppy behaves aggressively. This will help your dog behavior consultant find a pattern. Try to note the time, the situation, and her response in as much detail as you can.

Be as descriptive and objective as possible – say “Ruby lifted her lips and stared at my daughter Karen when Karen reached out with her hand to pet Ruby. Ruby was on the couch sleeping at the time and Karen had her side to Ruby. It was 4:30 pm after Karen came home from school.” That’s much more helpful to your dog behavior consultant than something like, “Ruby gets aggressive when my daughter tries to pet her.”

3. Manage the situation. If you can figure out what triggers your puppy’s aggression, that’s great! Your next step is to set up your home in a way that reduces the likelihood of your puppy becoming aggressive.

For example, if your puppy growls when you touch her food, your job is to avoid touching her food bowl. If your puppy keeps practicing these unwanted behaviors, it’s just going to get harder to go in and “fix” them.

4. Start training: counter-conditioning, desensitization, and forming an alternate response. Now that you can control when your puppy is exposed to the situations that cause her unwanted responses, you can start to change her emotional response to those situations.

Counter-conditioning and desensitization can be tricky to do at first, so don’t rush this step and don’t do it alone if you don’t have to!

Here’s an example:

Penny the puppy lunges and snarls at other dogs on walks. We’ll teach Penny to look at her owner for a treat when she sees another dog instead of lunging and snarling. That’s the alternative response. Pairing a formerly stressful item (the other dog) with treats is counter-conditioning. Doing so slowly and systematically is desensitization.

A sample progression would be:

a. Teach Penny to look at you in exchange for a treat when you say her name and practice this hundreds of times.

b. Go outside and set up a friend’s dog a football field’s distance away. The friend’s dog should be lying down with its back to Penny.

c. When Penny notices the other dog and does not react negatively, say her name and then give her a treat. Retreat a bit from the other dog, take a break, then repeat.

d. Repeat until Penny sees the other dog, then automatically looks at you for her treat.

e. Gradually decrease distance and allow the other dog to move a bit. If at any point Penny lunges, snarls, tenses, or stops eating treats around the other dog, you’re too close. Take a break and start again further away from the other dog.

Counter-conditioning and desensitization can only work with proper management in place. Do not skip step three (managing the situation) and just go straight to the juicy training bits. Counter-conditioning and desensitization is a long, slow process. Be patient. It’s going to be much easier to do with the help of a dog behavior consultant.

What If I Can’t Keep My Aggressive Puppy?

Sometimes, a dog simply isn’t a good fit for a home. The puppy might be too unpredictable or severe in its aggression. The owners might not be up for the time, money, and attention needed for training. The home might just be too chaotic for effective management.

If keeping a puppy in your home is dangerous because the puppy is aggressive, it’s ok to admit that.

There are times when seeking a new home for an animal is the best thing for that animal.

“Till death do us part” is not generally part of your adoption contract. Most adoption contracts (or buyer contracts) will say that if the puppy or dog can’t stay in your home, it needs to be returned to the rescue, shelter, or breeder.

Ideally, you should be able to return the dog or puppy to the rescue, shelter, or breeder you first got it from. This should always be your first step if you cannot keep your dog, especially if it’s in your contract. Some rescues, breeders, pet stores, and private sales don’t have this stipulation. What then?

Before passing your puppy to the next home, it’s smart to get a dog behavior consultant involved. They might be able to help you out and fix the problem. They might not. But they also will be able to give you some feedback on what’s most responsible to do next.

In the case of severe aggression, rehoming the dog might not be responsible. That’s not an assessment or decision for anyone to make for you, but this is an important discussion to have.

Many certified dog behavior consultants will help you weigh pros and cons, but ultimately the final decision is yours.

Dogs and puppies that pose a serious threat to other people and dogs shouldn’t just be shuffled from one home to the next or dropped at a no-kill shelter so that they can live out years in a concrete cell waiting for an adopter that might never come.

So how do you make the decision of what to do next with your aggressive puppy? I’m kind of a flowchart person, so here’s one to help.

Remember, though – in the vast, vast majority of cases, your puppy is not aggressive. Your puppy may be rude or easily frustrated, but she’s not aggressive.

Even if your puppy is aggressive, there are steps you can take to help her going forward. If you can’t give your puppy the support she needs, you will probably be able to find her another home that can help her.

Do you have an aggressive puppy? Do you have questions about whether or not your puppy’s behavior is normal? We want to hear about it!

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Written by

Kayla Fratt

Kayla Fratt is a dog behavior consultant and freelance writer. She is an Associate Certified Dog Behavior Consultant with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and is a member of Dog Writer’s Association of America. She travels full time with her border collie Barley and her boyfriend, Andrew. Before coming to K9 of Mine, Kayla worked at Denver Dumb Friends League as a Behavior Technician. She owns her own dog training business, Journey Dog Training and holds a degree in biology from Colorado College. When she’s not writing or training Barley, Kayla enjoys cross-country skiing, eating sushi, drinking cocktails, and going backpacking.


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I have a 12 week old pitbull terrier puppy that I got at 8 weeks. We started her socialization early with twice daily walks (in my arms pending a 4th parvo shot) through our neighborhood and sit on a park bench and watch people, kids, dogs go by/play. She has also been to a handful of puppy socials and is enrolled in a month long puppy school, 3 times a week. She has shown signs of aggression (growling, snarling, body stiffening, hair raising) from the time that I’ve had her. This typically occurs when we are out for walks. In the puppy socials and class, she does growl and snarl but it seems a little different than what is displayed on our walks. Today, as we sat a park bench, a small fluffy not threatening dog was about 3-4 yards away, my puppy stood up on my lap, growled, snarled, bark incessantly, her body went stiff and she was intensely focused. People around were shocked by the behavior and remarked that it seemed unusual for a puppy her age, I tend to agree. I removed her from the situation, got her calm, went back to the bench and when that dog walked by the same reaction. In puppy socials, when other puppies are winding down or being responsive to their person, she will go full throttle the entire time, nipping and barking at the other dogs, and it is very difficult to get her attention. Notes from puppy school state that there isn’t anything that they would label alarming, however, they note that she does not pick-up on social clues and has had time outs because she will continue to go at dogs that have not interest. At one puppy social, a puppy at least twice her size was very fearful of the other puppies, she would not leave that dog alone, even after an initial back-offs, when that puppy let to out a couple clear barks/signals that he was not interested and wanted to her to go away. I wanted a happy go lucky puppy/dog and instead I’m dealing with what appears to be aggression and potentially will be a life-long issue. I’ve sought the help of behaviorist recommended by my vet and they want to charge a lot of money to have a zoom call and their first response was to avoid situations that trigger the behavior? So, keep her away from other dogs? I don’t know what to do, I’ve already invested a lot of time and money into working on the issue. I don’t feel equipped to handle it/know what to do and don’t want to have a dog that I’m going to have to constantly watch for fear of an altercation.

Meg Marrs

Hey Eric, that does sound stressful for sure! I’d definitely recommend consulting with a behavior expert who can offer a bit more guidance. I’d suggest reaching out to Kayla Fratt at Journey Dog Training – she is the author of this article and very knowledgeable. I know her online consultation fees are pretty reasonable compared to others, so I think she would be a great place to start. But, from my experience, I think a great starting point would be to reward her for being calm in the presence of other dogs. So, for those times when you are at the park, monitor your pup’s body language and keep her at a distance where she can stay calm. This isn’t in an effort to avoid her triggers, but to simply work with her at a distance she is comfortable with. Encourage her to check in with you and reward her with treats when she looks away from the other dog and looks at you instead, and continue to reward so long as she is not displaying reactive body language.

The folks you’ve spoken with already suggest avoiding triggers mainly because every time your pup has the chance to practice this behavior, it is reinforcing, so you do want to avoid her responding this way whenever possible. But instead of just avoiding other dogs completely, just keep them at enough of a distance for your pup to stay calm and not feel threatened, and offer treats and toy play while she is calm and under threshold.

We have a full guide to dog reactivity here you might want to check out to learn more about this whole process. Dogs usually react this way to other dogs due to fear or over-arousal. An expert can observe and might be able to guess why she is responding this way. Brushing up on dog body language will definitely be helpful too to give you a better idea of when she’s getting near her threshold. It definitely could be that another pup freaked her out a bit and now she’s nervous around other dogs. It could also be that she is going through a fear period right now, making her extra sensitive to scary triggers.

Good luck, I know this can all be stressful. It sounds like you’re taking some solid steps to getting your pup the help she needs, so hang in there!

Hannah Dorian

Hi! I really appreciated this article and it helped a lot. I currently have an 8 week old pit bull puppy who plays very aggressively when she gets really hyper and excited. She is not aggressive when it comes to other people or dogs but when she gets really excited she will start playing very rough. This includes growling, and snapping and biting at your arms and legs too hard. I have tried to act like I’m in pain to get her to stop but that doesn’t stop her from quitting the biting. I have also made the mistake of allowing her to play rough with me and lung at me in a playful way but am not realizing how bad of an idea that is as she gets older. I want to be able to help her get out of this behavior as quickly as possible. Do you have any advice or suggestions?

Ben Team

Hey there, Hannah.
Glad you found the article helpful. We have another one that may help in your situation: How to Stop a Dog from Nipping When Excited.
Go check it out! Best of luck!


We have an 11 week old huntaway puppy. She has been with us for 6 days. She is very sweet and has learnt to sit, fetch in 6 days. However she has started biting our (husband, and kids and my) , feet, ankles, trousers, slippers on feet and grabbing sleeves. She will NOT let go. We all try to distract her with other toys but she is not interested. It’s hard to get her to let go as she keeps pulling and pulling and I have to get my hand next to her mouth to pull the garment out. She sometimes growls when she does this too. I say no and if I manage to get her off I stay still and ignore her. If she keeps repeating I give her a time out in her crate.
I was playing a lot of tug of war with her but stopped as I don’t want to encourage this behaviour.
Is this normal behaviour?

Ben Team

Hey there, Leanne.
It sounds like she’s just playing, but perhaps taking things a bit far.
It would probably be a good idea to have a trainer or behaviorist take a look at the behavior in action.
Best of luck!


Good morning, my name is Jon and i adopted a 4 month old mixbreed puppy a week ago. So far he has been very docile but, he lunged towards one of my family members because she had to remove a clothes pin that he was chewing because he was probably gonna hurt himself with it. He also growled and lunged at another family member because she pushed his face away from a rug that he was chewing. He likes to play rough a lot by biting our ankles, arms, fingers, toes, and other things but I recently learned that he’ll stop chewing on us if I tell him to stop or if I give him a chew toy. I would be very grateful if I can get any help because I’m afraid I wont be able to keep him if he does show more aggressive behavior towards family members.

Ben Team

Hey, Jon.
If you’re concerned about the pup’s behavior, it’d be a good idea to consult with a behaviorist, as Kayla recommends in the article.
But, if you continue to employ the tips shared above, set boundaries for your pup, and re-direct him when he does bite, you may find that he calms down a bit and starts behaving better.
Best of luck!

Meg Marrs

Hey Jon – I completely understand why that behavior is upsetting! However, I’d cut your dog a bit of slack – he’s only been in your home a week, and his entire life has just been turned upside down! Give him some time to decompress a bit – most dogs take anywhere from 3 weeks to 2 months to fully decompress. It’s possible he is showing some resource guarding, although hard to say for sure. It sounds like you are on the right track redirecting to appropriate chews and toys. One thing that worked great when my rescue dog displayed a lot of aggressive play is to put gates up all around the house between rooms. When your dog bites or nips at you, simply stop and leave the room. Don’t yell or say anything, as any attention can be seen as the dog as reinforcing (they want you to play and engage with them). So just leave quietly and return 30 seconds later. Re-engage your dog in appropriate play with a toy. If he bites again, just get up and leave. Eventually, he’ll learn that nipping means you leave, but playing politely means you stay and join in on the fun! Good luck, and absolutely considering reaching out to a force-free trainer if you’re continuing to struggle.

Travis H

I have a German Shepard pit bull husky mix. She is around 5-6 months old. She won’t stop biting hands feet and clothing and lunges towards the face frequently but doesn’t bit. If you take your hand away she will snap her teeth/jaws. She isn’t aggressive to strangers or anything but as soon as she sees hands or feet it’s all over. She will play with other toys but limbs are her thing. She will sometimes growl when I attempt to correct her for biting. Is she aggressive or just a stubborn Puppy?

Meg Marrs

Hey Travis – I’d avoid trying to correct her, as many pups will consider any engagement with them a reinforcing reward (even if it’s a stern “no”). Instead, try giving her other things to bite on, like chews or fun toys. Work on constantly redirecting her to toys and chews. You could put up gates as well and as soon as she nips a limb, just ignore her and leave the room. Now suddenly her play partner is gone – that’s no fun at all! Return to the room and engage her in play with appropriate toys. As long as she plays well, you play with her. But if she nips, leave the room for 30 seconds to a minute before returning. She’ll learn that only polite play gets your company. Puppies can be pretty over-exuberant and will try to engage you in play any way that they can, even if it means sticking her baby shark teeth into you for a reaction!


Hi! Three weeks ago we adopted a rescue puppy, who is now 15-weeks old. We’re not quite sure of his breed, although we were told he’s probably an Australian Shepherd/ Great Pyr/ Lab mix. He’s going to be a large dog as he’s already over 20 pounds. Overall, he is a sweet boy. He loves his big brother dog and plays well with him constantly. He is still warming up to us as his owners and is now displaying concerning behavior. Over the past week, he has growled, barked, snapped, and bit us. He resource guards when it comes to human food. Last night I brought home groceries and put the bags on the kitchen floor as I sorted through them. Jackson (our puppy) jumped on top of the pile of bags, and when we tried to move the bags, he barked so ferociously and bit my fiancé’s leg when he tried to move a bag with potato chips in it. Then, he continued to growl at my fiancé throughout the night. We have not seen this behavior with his food or toys. I have worked with him so that I can easily take toys or bones away from him, and he does not give us an issue when we take his food bowl away. However, another issue is touching him. He lets us pet him and kiss him most of the time, but sometimes it turns for the worse. When he has his mind set on doing something, and we say no, he growls and snaps! For instance, I took him on the leash in the snow. He loved it, but it was time to go inside. I tried to get him in, but he refused. So I went to pick him up and he flipped out! Barked at me, snapped, and nipped my wrist! He was so loud my fiancé heard the whole thing from inside the house with the windows closed. I love this little puppy, but I am so scared that this behavior will continue to worsen. I don’t want to be frightened of my dog, but I am starting to walk on eggshells around him since his behavior is unpredictable. I feel like this is not normal puppy aggression.

Ben Team

Hey, Kayla.
We’d agree that the behaviors you describe don’t sound like normal puppy behaviors.
Check out our article on resource guarding, but it’d probably be wise to start working with a force-free trainer ASAP — especially given the fact that he’s actually biting.
Best of luck!

Meg Marrs

Hey Kayla – I agree that it might be best to consult a force-free local trainer or veterinary behaviorist on this matter. Some things that come to mind that may help would be to brush up on dog body langage to better read how your pup is feeling. I might suggest letting the pup come to you for affection and let him be if he’s in his bed or crate. Some pups can be quite touch sensitive, and he might simply not enjoy being picked up. One other suggestion would be to be careful about punishing him for growling – you never want to punish a dog for communicating and for letting you know they are uncomfortable with something. If you punish the growl, they might go right to a bite next time they are uncomfortable!

Puppies can be jerks about play sometimes for sure – try practicing toy-based play and leaving the room if your pup plays inappropriatly. Lastly, you could also do a consult with Kayla from Journey Dog Training, who does online consultations. Good luck!


I got a now 11-month-old female American Staffordshire (25%)/Chihuahua (25%)/Labrador (10%)/Great Dane (10%) mix at 5 months of age from a rescue. I also have a 6-year-old female Maltipoo. From day 1, the puppy has tormented the older dog. No matter which toy I gave the puppy, she took the toy the older dog had. Being in the same room, she would snarl, show her teeth, and get on her hind legs to the older dog, who would return in kind, but would then try to retreat. My older dog now avoids her at all costs and I keep them separated with the crate, a gate, or separate rooms. I have gotten them to sleep with me on the bed together without bothering each other and sit quietly at my side if I am giving each a treat, but that’s about it. The puppy also stands over the older dog with her long legs, assuming the dominant position. I tell the puppy “no” (she doesn’t much look like a puppy at this age), take her off the older dog, and the older dogs trots off as quickly as possible to a safe area.
I can deal with the puppy trying to be the dominant dog in the household – I having been looking for an animal behaviorist to work with her. What I’m having a real issue with is that she has started to attack both my grown son, who still lives with me, and me. This started two weeks ago. My son and I both work from home and since I didn’t want the puppy to be confined in her crate, I have been keeping her with us in our home office with the door closed. She has a dog bed, lots of toys, and I occasionally throw a ball around and play with her. The first incident occurred two weeks ago when my son reached into a bag on the floor to pull out some work. She had a treat in her mouth, but he had his back to her and was nowhere near her. She ran up to him, lunging, barking, and showing her teeth. I ran up to her, grabbed her by the collar tightly so she couldn’t twist her head around to bite me, and said “Let’s go for a walk,” which seemed to calm her down. I took her out briefly because she knows the word “walk” and I wanted to follow through. The second incident occurred a couple of days later when I looked down at my feet and saw the remains of a Kong toy in shreds. I started to pick up the pieces and she started to lunge for my hand. I moved my hand back and she continued chewing on the Kong toy. I later saw that it had some treat still stuck inside, but she had never done this to me before. A couple of days later, she jumped up on my son’s legs and barked aggressively, showing her teeth, in his face a couple of days later. I had to pull her off by her collar again. Yesterday, he was lying on the floor next to her and she suddenly starting barking aggressively and showing her teeth. There was no food involved. This scared me because it was totally unprovoked. I don’t know if she was resource guarding her dog bed or what. Finally, this morning, I was working at my computer. I had taken her out from the crate so she could spend some free time out of the crate before I went to work, but instead of lying down, she was just staring at me. The stare is not an adoring stare, but a something is up stare. She has been doing this for the last two weeks, ever since that first incident. I get goose bumps when I see it because it makes me nervous. I decided to pick her up to put her back in her crate and she started snarling, barking, and showing her teeth at me. I again grabbed her tightly by the collar, as she was trying to twist her head to get at me. I put the leash on her and took her outside, which calmed her down, and then put her in her crate.
I love that dog so much, but she now scares me. I spent all day crying about it yesterday. She wags her tail and loves to play outside with my son or me. She loves to go on walks and I cuddle with her on the patio all the time. My son and I walked to the store yesterday, after the incident on the floor, and she whined when she saw him inside paying and jumped all over him when he came out. I don’t know if a behaviorist can help or not. I hope I can get over the fear and that I’m not afraid of her for the rest of her life. I’ve had six dogs in my life and never one like this. I may have to call the rescue and have them take her back. She may need a one-dog home and someone with more experience than me with aggressive dogs.

Meg Marrs

Hi Chantal – I completely understand how stressful this must be! It sounds like you are feeling very overwhelmed and frightened of your pup’s behavior, which is totally normal considering the situation. It sounds like she is having some resource guarding issues which you can practice working on via some training games. What does she do throughout the day? It sounds like with the recent incident she reacted badly when she realized she was going to be put in the crate. I’d suggest going back to the basics with crate training and ensure you are making the crate a really fun and exciting place to be. Try incorporating LickiMats and stuffed Kongs into her crate time, and make sure she has some fun toys and puppy-safe chews in there too. Additionally, you’ll probably want to seek out a local force-free trainer in your area who may be able to witness the behavior and provide some additional guidance.

Lastly, I’d just say I find that it’s more helpful to consider that while your dog is indeed displaying some aggressive behaviors, she is not inherently an “aggressive dog”. Dogs don’t act out for no reason – they often display aggressive behavior due to fear or pain (which is why I’d also suggest taking your pup for a vet check to ensure she’s feeling OK). So while your dog may be displaying some upsetting behaviors, she’s not trying to be difficult, she’s going through something herself that can sometimes be difficult for us humans to figure out! I don’t say this to be critical of you, but simply because this tends to be a much more constructive and appropriate way to think about dog behavior, especially where aggression is involved (which can really generate a lot of emotions in us humans)!


Hi, we got a 10 week old puppy mix breed female Heeler/Catahoula leopard. We currently have a 2 yr old pitbull male. She does the normal puppy biting but is very tenacious and Alpha personality. She has started aggressively snarling and snapping and actually bitting. when you pick her up and no matter how you pick her up. What do we do?

Ben Team

Hey, Angel.
It’d probably be a good idea to go ahead and work with a trainer at this point, just to be on the safe side.
If you don’t already have a trainer you can work with, consider reaching out to Journey Dog Training.
Best of luck!


Hi there,
I recently bought a 9.5 week goldendoodle who, in his abundance of cuteness, is having a hard time controlling his mouth. I know that puppy mouthing is a normal part of raising a puppy, but I am concerned with his “temper tantrums” that occur when he is picked up or put on leash. I have not been able to capture it on film yet, but found a different Youtube video that is pretty close to what he does (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-JJd32AMKE). He makes the same noises and behaves in the same way to being restrained as the puppy in the video and while he has not yet broken skin, he bites incredibly hard and much harder than his normal mouthing. This is happening multiple times a day, though not every time we have to pick him up, mostly when he seems over aroused or after play. We have been handling it so far by just holding onto him and not letting go until he is calm while trying to protect our hands, which is most of what I have seen to do online. We have also been trying to work on handling exercises, pairing human touch with treats and kibble. I am nervous that this behavior will continue to escalate as he continues to grow. Please let me know if we are on the right track and if this is “normal” behavior for a puppy this age!


I have a 6 month old lhasa. He is the sweetest dog most of the time. Never had one that wanted to give and everybody else so many kisses. This is exactly the reason it surprised me when he growled at me. It’s happened 3 or 4 times. I know the difference in play growling and mean growling. This is mean growling. He even shows his teeth. Of course he doesnt scare me, but I’m afraid he will bite someone. He seems to do it when hes super tired. When he’s about to go to sleep or if you wake him up. He does sleep very hard. The first time I woke him up, when i first got him, I thought something was wrong with him. He was so groggy. Do dogs growl when they are tired? If so how do i fix it? He really is the sweetest thing any other time. I just don’t get it.

Ben Team

Hey, Lindy.
Just a quick note first: We’d call it “defensive” growling rather than “mean” growling, but we certainly understand what you mean.

Many dogs are grumpy when sleeping and more apt to act defensively, growl, or snap if bothered. My own dog (who’s normally a bundle of love and slobber) does NOT appreciate being bothered when she’s sleeping.
It’d probably be a good idea to have a trainer evaluate your pooch, just to be sure that it’s just sleepy grumpiness, rather than a more fundamental issue.

Best of luck!


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