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Puppy Agression??

August 12th, 2004, 10:26 PM
Hi all! Phoebe had her first obedience lesson today. She's a natural! :D We tried "watch me" and "leave it", and she was totally focused on me the whole time - intense stare waiting for the "Good girl!" and treat when she did it right. One of the instructors came to me half way through the class and said, "You're going to put her in agility, right?". I was sooooo proud... :cool:

Except for one thing (there's always one thing, isn't there??). Phoebe has never had a problem with other dogs (they've always been older dogs, tho). BUT, when we first arrived, there were about a dozen puppies all playing out front (on-leash, with their owners), waiting to be let in. When the first puppy approached, Phoebe didn't wag and sniff, the way the other puppies were doing. She growled and backed away. I thought, "Ok, she just doesn't like this particular puppy." So we tried the next one, and the next, and the next... She didn't like ANY of them! :(

The first half of the class was spent talking, with the puppies on a "long down". She lay there (not struggling to get up or anything) and growled at the other puppies next to her (one was a poor terrified little Border Collie who was cowering under his owner's legs! :( )! At the end of class, they had some puppy play time. Phoebe tried to sniff the other puppies' bums, but as soon as they turned around, she'd growl and then go hide under a chair. The instructor said it's because she's used to playing with big dogs and they let her get away with everything because she's a pup. So now she wants to run the play time, and the puppies aren't letting her so she doesn't like it.

I don't think that's it, though. :confused: She wasn't trying to play with or dominate the other pups. She kept hiding under chairs! We were the last ones to leave class. When we were walking out the door, another puppy came in the door for the next class - and she was fine with that one!

One of the reasons I'm taking her to classes is to help her socialize. But, I'd like to figure out the true reason behind her behaviour, and what I can do between classes to help her through it. She was adopted from a rescue in Oshawa. When I went to pick her up, she was in a large pen with about 15 other puppies. Could she have had a bad experience with the puppies, and now has decided that large groups of puppies is not a good thing?? :confused:

Lucky Rescue
August 12th, 2004, 10:35 PM
How old is Phoebe now, and how old when you adopted her?

August 12th, 2004, 10:37 PM
She's 4 mths old now, and was 10 weeks when we adopted her. She's been exposed to many adult dogs of different sizes, but the only true "puppies" she knows are those she was with at the rescue.

August 13th, 2004, 12:36 AM
Maybe when she's been with older dogs, she's been the puppy and the center of attention. Maybe the other puppies were getting their share of the ooh's and aah's this time, instead of all focused on just her, and she was feeling a little jealous and insecure. Maybe the incoming puppy wasn't the recipient of that attention yet, so was ok. :confused:

August 13th, 2004, 06:59 AM
Let her socialize more with other puppies. It just takes time. It would be great if you know someone with a puppy and have them come over to your place or go to theirs so they can get used to each other.

Ariel was terrified of other dogs (we were on a walk when a larger dog started barking at her a block away and she was petrified) even her sisters. However, we visited her sisters at my wife's co-workers place and stayed there for half a day. At first she was quite afraid of them. One was from a previous litter so a few months older and the other was from the same litter and was half her size. By the time we left, she got used to the other dogs and was playing with her little sister quite a bit. Now she plays with the neighbour dogs without hesitation. Actually, every time I take her out she heads for the neighbour's house looking for her friend!

August 13th, 2004, 09:17 AM
Now that she's in puppy classes, she'll get the chance to socialize at least once a week. :D I don't know anyone else with a puppy (they're all adult dogs). Besides, she was ok with the single puppy - it's the group thing she seems to have issues with. :confused:

Judging by her body language (hiding under chairs, stretching out her neck to sniff at the other puppies while they frolicked, etc.) I'm thinking she either a) was having bad puppy memories from the rescue and/or thought I was going to leave her there, or b) just plain ol' isn't used to the "in your face" style of puppy play. Or, perhaps GlassLass is right, and she was just confused and insecure because none of the other grown-ups were telling her how pretty she is (after all, that is what we were put on the planet for ;) ).

Meanwhile, should I be trying to reassure her when she gets like this, or should I treat it like no biggie and ignore her (kinda like with separation anziety).

August 13th, 2004, 09:30 AM
We were told in our class that reassuring and making a fuss over them would reinforce that their behavior is justified, that there is something to fear. You need to act normal and not push them. Let them approach one puppy at a time til they feel comfortable and praise, praise, praise. You do need to supervise so they don't bite or injure another puppy. Talk to the trainer, she's experienced in this and can work with you.

August 13th, 2004, 09:31 AM
She IS beautiful, by the way. Just love how her coloring blends in with the kitchen cabinets! :D

August 13th, 2004, 09:46 AM
She IS beautiful, by the way. Just love how her coloring blends in with the kitchen cabinets! :D

Yes, she also blends well with the brown sofas and the laminate floors! :D

August 13th, 2004, 09:47 AM
You know your puppy better than anyone. What you are feeling is probably right.

It is possible that if your puppy was penned up with several other puppies that there could be some bad memories associated with the experience. Not necessarily that she didn't get along with the other puppies, it could be the loud noises, vaccination needles, exams, hundreds of different smells to process, etc. It's possible when she sees a lot of puppies in one place she panics, thinking that scary time of her life is repeating itself.

After time, a few visits with the class, she will realize that such a thing is not going to happen again, and that those visits are fun visits. Give her some time to adjust, and she'll be socializing with the other pups just as comfortably and confidently as the others.

Lucky Rescue
August 13th, 2004, 10:09 AM
What you are describing is NOT aggression, but fear.

At the puppy classes, let her stay at a comfortable distance from the other puppies and do not force her to interact with them, as this will make her fear worse. Let her set the pace as to when and how she wants to socialize with them.

As has been said, do not soothe her for acting afraid. Just carry on with what you are doing and praise her for NOT showing fear.

She must be confident that you will protect her and keep her safe. She's at an age when some puppies go through a fear period, but with proper handling, she'll get over it. :)

August 13th, 2004, 10:21 AM
What you are describing is NOT aggression, but fear. Sorry, poor choice of words! :o

At the puppy classes, let her stay at a comfortable distance from the other puppies and do not force her to interact with them, as this will make her fear worse. Let her set the pace as to when and how she wants to socialize with them.
OK, I'll try to get there early enough to grab a seat on the end of the row (yesterday, the only seats left were right in the middle of the pack! :eek: ).

She must be confident that you will protect her and keep her safe. She's at an age when some puppies go through a fear period, but with proper handling, she'll get over it. :)
OK, but what do I do if she's growling at the other puppies? Do I let them "work it out", as the instructor said, or do I let her know it's not acceptable behaviour and then reward her for stopping?

Thanks for all the input, folks! :D

Lucky Rescue
August 13th, 2004, 11:20 AM
Do not correct her for growling at the other puppies. Fear should not be handled with corrections, or it may get worse. It can also stop the growling, but not the fear and there is the danger that a dog may go directly to biting if not allowed to growl.

Distract her with something. You say she is great with "look at me"? Use that, then treat and praise her for obeying THAT command. This way, even though you are stopping the growling, you are also ignoring it.

Hopefully she will learn that having the other puppies around means fun and treats and praise and realize they aren't so bad after all.;)

She is VERY pretty, by the way!!

August 13th, 2004, 07:48 PM
Were the other dogs nosey and lungeing at her? That would make some dogs nervous.

August 13th, 2004, 08:10 PM
Were the other dogs nosey and lungeing at her? That would make some dogs nervous.

They were behaving like normal puppies - all bouncing around and playing. :) There wasn't a lot of barking going on, and none of them were being really agressive. One pup was exceptionally playful, and she let him know that she was not amused and hid under a chair. :o

We'll see how next week's class unfolds. We were asked to bring their food dishes with some food, and try not to feed them prior to class. Apparently, we're doing some food agression testing. I do a lot of this at home, to ensure that she doesn't develop any problems and try to rip my kids' hands off one day. So far she doesn't seem to have any food or toy agression issues at all. Don't know how it will pan out in a class full of puppies that make her nervous. Should be interesting... :rolleyes:

August 13th, 2004, 08:39 PM
I would speak with the trainer before class and explain your issues. You are paying them for their advice and guidance. I would follow whatever they say to you (as long as you trust their judgement) as they know your puppy and have seen it interact.

Good luck on your next class and please let us know how it goes.

Heather and her 3 Golden Girls

August 19th, 2004, 07:43 PM
Well, I'm having a bit of a frustrating day (kids, hubby, puppy - all acting like lunatics), so forgive me if I sound a little "cross".

This class has an instructor and at least one "assistant" per class. The assistant is someone who aspires to be a trainer and is there to gain experience. I'm a ashamed to say that I have a bit of a problem taking instructions from someone who is little more than half my age. :o But that's my problem, not Phoebe's or yours!

So, I get to class today and talk to the trainer about Phoebe's "fear" issues. She didn't notice Phoebe hiding under the chairs during the last class, was surprised to hear that she did, and said we'd change groups for today's puppy play session (put Phoebe in with some less exuberant pups).

Of course, no sooner do I mention this, then Phoebe decides she's feeling a little more confident and now wants to play. "Great!", I think. Of course, Phoebe is used to playing with Mojo, who is more than twice her size and quite rough with his play (he likes to drag her around by her collar or lie on top of her and chew on her head :eek: ). So now she's barking and growling and trying to paw at these puppies, of whom only 2 are the same size as her, the rest are all way smaller.

This means a change of tactics. Yes, we still praise her for behaving nicely towards the other pups. But, now we're correcting her for growling and snapping. Grab the cheeks or scruff, get right in her face with a "Don't do that!", and then get her to sit for a treat. Does that sound about right to you?

Other than this rough play issue, she's doing really well! I'm really looking forward to trying her out with agility!! :cool:

August 20th, 2004, 10:19 AM
To me, it sounds like it went well. One of the purposes of the socialization process is to learn how to interact with the other puppies, which she is doing. This time, she was probably less fearful because the scenario was familiar and she knew more what to expect. I am surprised that the trainer didn't notice her behavior the first class. She should be watching all the puppies to observe their behavior and reactions. How many puppies are in the class? Did she have several groups going at one time?

August 20th, 2004, 11:16 AM
Thanks glasslass. Like I said, I was in a lousy mood last night. :o

There are about 10 puppies in the class (A LOT more people than dogs!). They divide the puppies into 2 or 3 playgroups, depending on how many "assistants" are there to help. During the first play session, the trainer was talking to some of the other parents. She only really "looked" at the puppies when there was unusual activity or noise (puppies snarling, yelping, etc...). Since Phoebe was quielty hiding under the chairs, she had no cause to seek her out. During last night's play session, she came into Phoebe's play area (with fewer, more timid pups) to keep a better eye on her.

Guess I'm just nervous. Things have changed so much since I last trained a puppy. I'd hate to do things wrong and end up with an agressive, 60lb dog on my hands!! :eek: