Play time and aggressive behavior - 10 weeks

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hawki's picture
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Hi Again EVeryone,

 

Thanks for all the welcoming responses and kindness to us and our new puppy, Apollo. I have an additional specific question regarding Apollo and his play and aggressive behavoir. He is now close to 10 weeks old, we have had him 2 weeks as of tomorrow.

We play with him, run and he chases, lots of tug of war and play with his many toys. We have several in the family so he gets a lot of time out of the crate. My wife and youngest son are home all day so no shortage of time. He is kenneled at night and sometimes for 1 to 1 1/2 hours at a time for a couple of times a day the rest of the time he is being played with, loved on, or cuddled while he naps next to one of us on the couch or on my son's bed :)

Anyway, 2 things are happening that I want to double check on. WHen he really gets worked up playing, he relentlessly leaves the toys for our feet, pants when they are moving. We correct the biting with a "no" and redirect to a toy. Sometimes the "no" isn't enough and he comes after our appendages with even more Doberman intention. We have tried the scruff of the neck mommy dog grab with "no" works sometimes. If we put our hands in his mouth against his lips he will let go with a little yelp - mind you we are very gentle and careful. He really can get quite aggressive barking and coming after our legs and hands sometimes growling even more after the correction if he is really worked up.

We are telling him "kisses" when our face is near him and about 50% of the time, he changes to kissing, so he is getting the message there slow but sure.

Sometimes when we hold him and he wants down, if restrained he will let out a real growl and a yelp. And that growl with a snap bite that seems a little different than the playful one. I know that he is aggressive and rough and we think much of this is cute but want to make sure we are not doing the wrong thing in our play and/or we need to correct differently, more aggressively. We are not afraid to discipline but we think of him as a baby and don't want to do the wrong thing, we alos don't want to allow the wrong behavoir.

Any input or correction from more experienced Doberman owners/trainers is welcome.

Thanks, JD

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Sounds like a doberman puppy to me!  I was a little concerned when Harley behaved that way.  We got him all his vaccines and signed him up for Puppy Obedience and Weekend Puppy Socials.  Those two things taught him, and us, how to deal with the Den Shark Phase.  Have you done research on any puppy schools near by?  

You don't necessarily have to go to professional training (although it helps a lot), you can also buy a good book.  One that Fitzmar recommends is "How to Raise a Dog you can Live with" or something like that.  There are also two free ebooks by Ian Dunbar that you can download.  He is like the Guru dog trainer here in the SF Bay Area and has these books for free because he genuinely wants to help people.  People who work and train with their dogs are more likely to have them forever, so he does his part.

Anyway, good luck and please post pictures.  

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I think ignoring the negative behaviors works better than reacting to them.  When I "scruff"  Kevin he interprets it as play and becomes rougher and less manageable.  I walk away and wait until he ignores me.  Then I play with a toy.  He's 8 months and still learning but MUCH better.  It'll get worse before it gets better for you, especially when he's teething in a couple months.

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My thoughts are the same as Harleybear.  He reminds me "alot" of Atticus!  They are energetic, bitey, play, play, play puppies for sure.  lol  At times I would get so frustrated with trying to get Atticus to calm down and not be biting...but at the same time, not be mean or make him fearful or possibly aggressive.  I can remember having to walk away to take a break a couple of times in tears because he would get so rambunctious that I'd have scratches all over my arms.  I tried all the different recommendations.  Sometimes they'd work...other times...forget it.  The one that never, ever worked for me was "turn your back on him and ignor him".  What seemed to work for me, which may be very wrong, but Atticus is a sweet boy now and he's over that biting thing.  But what seemed to work for us...I got from an old veterinarian on some website on here.  He said, "hold their mouth closed and say, no bite...and don't hit them...hit your arm."  I tried that once...lol  Yea it hurt my arm...  but I didn't have any lasting scratches in my arm and no bite marks on me.  It seemed to work.  Maybe he was like....ouch, don't hurt yourself!  and that seemed to stop him.  I would hold his mouth closed...say no bite, and hit my arm.  The smacking noise maybe was an interruption.  But after doing that about 5 or 6 times, he stopped biting and has never bitten us again.  

But I stress....Don't hit him, just hit your own arm.  And I was careful not to hit my arm so hard that it would hurt him.  I don't even know if it was the hitting my arm that caused him to stop or the holding his snout closed and saying no bite to him that did it, but it was the only thing that seemed to interrupt his biting times.  He's now 20 months old and I can't remember the last time he even came close to biting.  But it's one of those things that you can tell yourself...."this too shall pass".  :)  

And we also took Atticus to puppy classes.  We have worked hard at making everything in Atticus's life a happy experience, other people..... dogs.... children, etc.  Like my Veterinarian said to me.  "Everything in his puppy year's should be a joyful and happy experience."  I think he was definitely right and the first year is difficult with a little Dobie that has razor sharp teeth and nails that are also like little razors!  But those puppy days end and they turn into the most wonderful friend and companion later on.  

But anyway, not sure if my advice is wrong or right.  It worked for us.  I tried it all and it was the one that worked for us.  Atticus is now a happy guy that doesn't bite or scratch us anymore.  We still have some days that he occasionally will test us.  He will yap at us at times.  We aren't sure what he's wanting.  I think he is just bored and he will sass at us like it's our fault he's bored, but Doberman's have such fun personalities!

hawki's picture
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Thanks everyone. I think the biting play is sort of the least of our concerns right now but we will experiment. Again this morning when holding him in a sit position from behind on the floor trying to Velcro his sweater closed for outside. He gave a real growl, not the play stuff and then snapped. I told him a stern no and grabbed his snout closed gently. Just to make sure, he did I reproduced this a couple times. Agian, this is a real growl and a real snap. It seems to be related to him feeling restrained. I definitely want to nip this in the bud. Wouldn't be fun when he's bigger. This is concerning us a bit. I'd like to know if we're overreacting and what we should do. Thanks. JD

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..."I know that he is aggressive and rough and we think much of this is cute but want to make sure we are not doing the wrong thing in our play and/or we need to correct differently, more aggressively"...

A good rule of thumb is to never allow him to do anything now, while he is little and 'cute' that you dont want him to do when he is an adult, and it isnt cute any more.  This is a great time to teach him 'all 4 on the floor', too---meaning, he stands firmly on all 4 feet when he's greeted or petted, and not allowed to jump up on people, no matter how excited he gets.  It's so much easier to train proper behavior when they are little than it is to UNtrain what they have taught themselves to do after they are too big for these behaviors to be overlooked.

You're correct in feeling that you need to stop this growling and snapping before it gets out of hand. Growling and snapping are defense mechanisms that dogs use as a warning to 'leave me alone'.

If you think he's growling and snapping because he's being restrained, even just by holding him, you'll need to desensitize him to that sort of thing, slowly.  VERY slowly. 

Start by just holding him in your lap (if he's still small enough to do that) or sit on the floor with him, and put your hands around his sides and put just enough pressure to let him feel it.  Only hold him like this for a second or two to begin with, and offer him some small treat immediately---but NOT if he growls.  You dont want him to think that's ok.  Repeat this over and over as long as he is cooperative. Each time you do this exercise, increase your holding time by another second, but keep on treating him.  He'll soon realize that there is a payoff for letting you hold him.  Some dogs just dont like to be held for long periods of time, so I wouldnt try to increase the time being held to minutes or anything, but just long enough to let him know that being held is NOT something that he needs to feel defensive about.  Hope that helps.

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Have read your posts and the replies.. Really good ones too.. my first thought is to curtail the play BEFORE it escalates.You will notices signs when he gets spooled and will be able to spot from his body language just before he gets aggressive.. it's a thin line and will take careful observation, but betcha it will help

Good luck and keep us updated

hawki's picture
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Thanks everyone for your replies.

 
Apollo is very sweet in most positions. It just seems there is couple that get him like this. I.e. restraining him from behind while he is sitting and holding him in our arms when he's spooled up as Lady Kate said. I can see it in his eyes that its the "leave me alone" thing. learned to watch the eyes with previous adult dobermans. 
The rest of the time he cuddles, sleeps by us etc. right now he's laying beside me with his head in my lap, I could wrap all around him and would just let out a small groan of satisfaction and lick my face:) no problem.
We will do what's suggested with the treats and slowly work these others out. Tried it once already and it worked. Plan to do it a couple of times a day.
 
Thanks everyone for your help and your kind replies. I'll try to get more puppy pics posted soon that some of you have asked for.
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hawk... this might be completely off base, and if you've already had a full panel of tests run on Apollo, I apologize.. but..

sometimes a low thyroid can trigger sudden agression... Yes, he's a little young.. but while we're turning rocks over.. how about thinking of that one???

abrazos

Katie