I recently received a call from a woman who has a four-month-old female Husky puppy. The pup had just attacked her other dog, a male 8-year-old toy poodle. My first thought was that perhaps the dogs had just been playing roughly, and that she’d mistaken rough play for aggression. It happens all the time. Upon further questioning, she said the dogs do play together sometimes, but this time, she’d walked into the yard to see the puppy grabbing the other dog around the neck and performing what I would describe as a grab and shake. The other dog was growling. There was, however, no physical damage.
Now, even at four-months, Husky puppies are not tiny. It’s feasible that one could kill a toy poodle. The situation should not be taken lightly, and I give the woman credit for seeking help. I still wonder whether the puppy was being especially obnoxious in her play style and the adult dog was just telling her to lay off. I hope so. The fact that there was no damage causes me to think that either this was indeed the scenario, or that the woman happened to arrive in the nick of time.
Whether I will find out more about this particular puppy remains to be seen (the woman is calling around, finances may be an issue), but it does make me think about dogs who act violently as pups. Many trainers have never come across one, but they are definitely out there. It’s incredibly troublesome when any animal acts aggressively toward another at such a young age. Normally we see more serious aggression issues in adolescence, when hormones surge and confidence builds, or in adulthood. At the very least, we don’t expect to see it in young puppies.
I’ve also come across puppies who were seriously aggressive toward people at four months of age and even younger. I once went to a client’s home to work with her three-and-a-half month old Golden Retriever puppy. Now, what could be cuter than that? I sat on the floor, called the dog over, and…the dog went for my face. I don’t mean the pushy, I-have-no-manners-yet type of lunging/nipping that puppies are famous for; I mean the I-really-want-to-hurt-you leap and snarl. To say I was surprised would be an understatement.
So what do we do with these puppies? If the owners are calling a trainer, that says they’re committed to working with their pup. Great. Can this type of behavior be turned around? Absolutely. Although there could certainly be a genetic component, with training, leadership, consistency, and patience, progress can be made. But really, should the dog stay in the home? That depends on the circumstances, such as whether small children or elderly people are involved. It’s always my hope that, assuming acceptable circumstances, the dog does stay. Being bounced around from home to home would only make things worse for this type of puppy—someone needs to take responsibility and address the issue early on. Truly aggressive behavior from young puppies is always surprising, but thankfully, the cases are few and far between. And hopefully if it does happen, the owner will seek professional help early on.