Killer Puppies?

BulldogI 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.

8 Responses to Killer Puppies?

  1. Kerry says:

    I have always been amazed by how rough husky puppies play fight with each other, the current litter are 11 weeks old and they often rough each other up and the throat grabbing is a normal part of this play (the trust me behaviour) I could see how a small dog who is not as sturdy could get hurt by this. I always advise my new owners with smaller older dogs to never leave them alone and always let the older dog teach the puppy their place when they get pushy as new owners tend to punish the older dog for snarling or snapping at the overly playful pup instead of backing up the older pack member and teaching the puppy manners.

  2. I take pleasure in, cause I found exactly what I was having a look for. You’ve ended my 4 day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

  3. Jim Crosby says:

    I’ve seen a few too Nicole…particularly one Fox Terrier that was 7 months old. The owners called, then told me they had improved because they were “only getting bitten once a day”…To work with the dog I had to use full protective gear-chaps and kevlar gloves-and never could get a full trust response from the dog, despite extensive negotiation and positive presentation. Sent them for a full neuro workup at a University Vet School-that dog was not wired right. Thankfully these are relatively rare-and most are not that bad, and seem to respond to counter-conditioning for fear issues and socialization with lots of positive. Good post to bring this up.

  4. Yep, it can be tricky to recognize true aggression in a very young puppy. It’s rare, luckily, but I have seen it. I was fostering a Pyrenees/Border Collie cross puppy from a rescue group with the intention of adopting him. At the age of 8 weeks, he got a little rough with my 50 pound adult dog, who chose to deal with the situation by moving away from the puppy. The puppy followed the adult dog across the deck and stood next to the dog bed with a threatening posture. Needless to say, I did not adopt that puppy!

  5. Alia says:

    I can only offer my own experiences for consideration. Lab #3 (female) came from a litter of 11 at 8 weeks old, joined Lab#2 (male, 6 yrs) in our home and growled whenever I tried to move her when she was asleep. I considered this could be a normal response from a pup with so many siblings so worked on a “desensitisation” programme, letting her know through scent and sound that I was there then gently moving her a short distance. The problem disappeared within days, and now at 2.5 years she is widely acknowledged as one of the most laid-back dogs ever. Lab #4, (male, nephew of #3) came from of a litter of 8 at 8 weeks, joined #2 and #3 and growled / snapped whenever scooped up to go potty (which I ignored) or disturbed when sleeping. As with #3 worked on a similar desensitisation programme and now at 7 months he is also laid back regards being disturbed. (At ‘Xmas festivities, a toddler crawled under dining table where family was eating and woke him up with a “pat”. He rolled over on his back and “smiled”). On first experiencing this from puppies I was startled by the growl response from both dogs, however having decided it was probably a dog-dog response rather than a dog-human response and this “explaining” I wouldn’t accept that kind of behaviour in the gentlest of ways, I seem to have resolved any issues. As further background, #3 would launch vicious attacks on #2 who treated these puppy attacks (10kg vs 35kg!) with the disdain they deserved. #4 now attacks #3 but I only intervene if it looks like getting serious, and indeed that has only happened a couple of times.

  6. Janice Allocco-Ange says:

    Working with rescue dogs, I have seen this first hand with a Toy Terrier/mix puppy about 10-11 weeks of age. We were showing him at one of our adoption events. He is cute as a button, but rough and tough and thought nothing of challenging an older dog. The older dog attacked and instead of retreating, the puppy took on the challenge. I had to pull them apart! He came from a puppy mill in Missouri, supposedly one of the biggest and cruelest in our country and was a Christmas gift that lasted 3 days:( Now he is up for adoption. I hope whoever ends up adopting him is ready and willing to seek out a trainer if needed.

  7. Cara says:

    We too have a husky dog and with other dogs (even as a pup) she came across as overly aggressive and I was even told that she wanted to “kill” a smaller dog she was interested in playing with. Now that we have dogs of a similar temperament/type the play is ALWAYS good natured and fun for all 3 of our dogs. We haven’t had one fight or injury and they all have a blast together because their play styles are the same, so no misinterpretation is to be had that could possibly start a fight.
    It’s so important to keep in mind what TYPE of dog you are getting and not just go for looks. We have learned that there are just some types of dogs that she is not allowed to play with because the dog and/or owner will not see the play intent of the different play style.

  8. Evelyn Haskins says:

    While I cannot comment on whether or not the Husky puppy was ‘aggressive” or just playing predatory behavours (as puppies do with toys and old socks) I must say that leaving an older TOY poodle alone with a half-grown Husky pup was irresponsible.

    Accidents happen between dog of such disparate sizes. What would be a minor scuffle between dogs of a size, when the the size differences are so great the dearh of the smaller one is quite likely.

    Personally i would recommend rehoming the Husky (with no blots on its reputation) and the poodle owner, if she really does want another dog, to replace it with a smaller and gentler breed.

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