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5 Types of Puppy Aggression and What to Do About It

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It is hard to imagine that cute and tiny puppies can show signs of aggressive behavior.

While it is not very common in dogs at such a young age, paired with being falsely diagnosed quite often, puppy aggression can definitely occur.

There are many different kinds of puppy aggression and signs emerge early on.

With quick and focused training, these behavior issues can be easily eliminated before turning into a habit.

How Do I Know If My Puppy Is Aggressive?

Dog owners are very uncertain whether their puppy shows aggression signs or if he is just a normal rough playing puppy. Here are some signs that you should look out for:

  • growling or snarling
  • snapping and lunging at you
  • biting on your hands and feet
  • chasing you around
  • jumping and barking at you

But aren’t these all typical canine behaviors? They are, so we have to look a bit closer to determine if we can see them as aggressive puppy signs.

Puppy teething – If your puppy bites on your hands, he is probably teething and tries to soothe his pain by chewing.

Pay attention if your puppy is biting on chew toys as often as he bites on your hands. Provide him with a variety of textured chew toys and this issue will eventually go away.

Tail wagging – Watch your puppy while playing or interacting with you. If his body is relaxed and his tail is wagging softly, then he is just glad to see you.

Even jumping is completely normal for overexcited puppies and dogs.

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Health issues – A puppy that is in pain will probably growl at you when you touch him. It can also be misinterpreted as food aggression or resource guarding.

Puppy play – Puppies usually switch roles when playing with one another. One gets chased and then the tables turn.

If one puppy yelps, the others will stop the play. If your puppy is interacting that way with you then he is not showing any signs of aggression.

Fear and stress – An anxious puppy has his tail tugged between his legs and his back crouched and will try to defend himself because he is afraid.

Consult a behaviorist to find the cause of his distress if the trigger is not known.

Now, if you are still certain whether your puppy is acting aggressive or not, here are the 5 most common types of aggression in puppies:

1. Aggression & “Dominance”

Dominance in puppies is probably the most misunderstood topic when it comes to behavior problems.

Dogs at such a young age cannot develop dominance in a way that an adult dog can.

They just haven’t learned it yet and the correct term to use here instead would be conflict aggression.

This type of aggression usually occurs out of fear and the puppy will quickly learn which methods will get him to not be confronted with his fear again.

For example, if he starts barking at tall men because he is afraid of them and you quickly walk around and try to avoid them, he will learn that barking means the fear trigger will be removed.

You can learn more about puppy howling and barking here and how to stop it.

2. Leash Aggression

Leash aggression in puppies is usually directed towards other dogs. The leash gives a dog confidence and the urge to protect you and his territory against other dogs.

If you have a small dog, he will probably be most afraid of large breeds. This is fairly easy to train as puppies quickly adapt to what gives them rewards and what doesn’t.

Remember that you do not give in to your puppy lunging and let him bark or even come close to his opponent.

You will want to repeatedly train your puppy how to walk past other dogs.

Show him that there is no reason for him to bark and only reward when you have passed the other dog and your puppy has behaved well.

He will quickly learn that leash aggression gets him nowhere.

Also, distract and redirect while you are in the process of walking by and consistency will eventually lead to your goal.

You will definitely want to look into puppy socialization to make sure this issue won’t occur.

3. Predatory Aggression

While a puppy develops into an adult dog, he learns everything that will be mandatory for his future, including how to play.

A young puppy often doesn’t know how to behave and acts all over the place while mixing up body language.

You should not encourage the predatory instinct of a puppy which usually occurs while playing.

Quick movements with your hands trigger that instinct and play biting will become an issue.

Bite inhibition training should be one of the most important steps that you will be teaching your puppy. You can learn everything about that in my article on puppy biting.

4. Rivalry

Especially if you have children or other dogs in your home that are competing for your attention, sibling rivalry can become an issue.

As we all know, puppies need so much attention physically and emotionally. Rivalry can be about attention, territory, and resources.

If you recognize that your puppy is starting to guard his food or toys, you should definitely look into this post on how to stop food aggression.

And also check out this information with some tips on how to avoid this rivalry.

5. Reactivity

Reactivity in dogs often results in behavior problems like leash aggression.

Puppies will start lunging or barking at people or other animals and will be very reactive towards their environment.

Reactiveness is often not a form of aggression but I wanted to add it in this post as it is a common issue.

Dogs will get overstimulated and react poorly and not thoughtfully in certain situations. Here you can learn how to train a reactive dog.

How to Interact with an Aggressive Puppy

Avoid your puppy’s triggers as much as possible to prevent conflict.

Maybe he gets startled by someone suddenly touching him or picking him up. Do not force your puppy into situations and do not push him into a corner.

If he has an issue with resource guarding, avoid leaning over his possessions or getting to close to him while eating.

Sharing the sofa or the bed is usually fine with most dogs but dominance driven dogs will try to frighten you off the furniture by growling at you.

Set some boundaries and train some discipline if your puppy is always used to getting what he wants. Confine him to certain rooms if needed.

Provide him with enough physical and mental exercise, many of the aggression signs emerge from frustration and boredom.

Use positive reinforcement and always reward positive behavior. Create a strong bond with your dog off mutual respect and trust.

Engage in playtime with him and find out what he likes the most instead of focusing on the negative.

Desensitize him to his environment. If he is afraid of men, try to slowly build up trust by asking a friend over and hand feeding him with treats.

Consult a professional dog trainer if the behavior gets worse or doesn’t get resolved. Call a behaviorist immediately if someone gets injured.

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About Danielle
I am the founder of PawLeaks where I share weekly tips on dog training and behavior. Sharing a passion for dogs and helping owners to solve problems through understanding canine behavior and modification is my number one goal.


Thursday 27th of June 2019

Keep up the quality posts! I love to try everything with my dogs.


Wednesday 15th of May 2019

Thank you for this information!


Thursday 30th of May 2019

You are so welcome!