Monday, June 23, 2014

Between nine and twelve months may come the first sign of aggression, which develops in stages with puppies. Aggression usually emerges in a puppy after nine months and before a year, which is when sexual maturity begins, along with all the hormones that make it happen.
Then, when the dog hits eighteen months and late adolescence, there’s another round of assertion, independence (which you may view as disobedience) and aggression. By about two years of age, many dogs have reached the full extent of whatever aggression they have in them, and there may be a dogfight or biting incident around this time.
You need to be on alert for the emergence of aggression if your puppy has already shown signs of being aggressive—because it takes very little time for him to go from disobedience, to growling, and then to biting. And unless you pay close attention to the signals that he gives off, you can go from a having a darling little puppy (aggression comes in all breeds and sizes) to having a tragedy on your hands.
Aggression problems do not “just happen”—they usually brew for a while, like a volcano before it erupts—so you have to know what markers to look for and how to deal with them. If you ignore the first growl or any other aggression, you can be certain it will escalate to the next level. A growl is a warning—you have to take it seriously. You can’t make excuses for it or hope it was a one-time thing. A growl is the first symptom of an aggressive pattern that will inevitably escalate and have a terrible outcome if you don’t nip it in the bud. But dogs will sometimes develop aggression in a tidy progression, while at other times they may show only a minor warning sign before erupting into full-blown aggression. So no matter how your dog expresses that aggression,  take it very seriously and deal with it on the spot. The bottom line is that if a puppy is born with aggression, there’s not much you can do about it. Some breeds have an inborn tendency toward aggression. If a puppy six months or younger growls or snaps or bites, then he’s either got a strong genetic tendency or has been badly abused. Whatever the case, puppies like this often have to be euthanized because you can’t safely keep them and it would not be moral to try to give them away.
Showing aggression before six months old means that the puppy has got it “in his blood,” and sadly, these puppies do not have a high probability of becoming safe, reliable pets. If you have a puppy who is leaning in this direction, get a professional trainer right away because training can’t start too young—even at two months of age. You have a dog who may become a dominant, assertive adult who will need obedience training to put him in his place.
Aggressive behavior and attitudes are not things that a puppy outgrows—in fact, if you don’t curtail those instincts, the puppy will grow into a dog who feels free to act on aggressive impulses. A puppy has to learn that you will not tolerate any aggression by him against other dogs or smaller animals. Your puppy must be raised to understand that every human is above him in terms of “the pack.”
  Teen Fears
Don’t be surprised by sudden changes in your dog’s reactions. The “fear of the familiar” is not an uncommon syndrome: suddenly, something the dog has seen many times seems frightening to him. Your dog may suddenly develop “teenage shyness,” or what seems to be a phobia, in which he growls or barks at a new object. This is probably a result of adolescent hormones galloping through his system.
Teenage shyness can lead to fear-driven aggression in some dogs, so you need to continue his socialization education so that he can overcome a cautious, worried attitude toward new experiences.
  Your Reaction Matters.

The way you react to any inexplicable behavior on your dog’s part has a direct effect on his developing personality. You will only serve to reinforce his bizarre fears if you are solicitous and reassuring. When the dog is acting out this new terror, your positive attention for a negative action is a reward for it. Instead, just go about things as normal. Use a pleasant, conversational tone to tell him to knock it off if he barks or whines at some familiar object. Your casual attitude neither punishes his irrational behavior nor rewards it with comfort or praise. Dog owners need to ignore the canine melodrama of puberty and look forward to the return of normalcy.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

1 comment:

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