How To Discipline An Aggressive Puppy

Jenna wrote to us about how to discipline her aggressive puppy:

From An Aggressive Puppy
To An Aggressive Dog?

“I’m very worried – my 9 1/2 week old shepherd/pitbull/lab mix puppy has been showing signs of aggression towards me, and I’m worried he’s going to turn from an aggressive puppy into an aggressive dog. He attacked my hand when I went to remove his leash after a walk around the park. I tried to grab him and say “no”. When he bites hard I grab his mouth and clamp down and say no until he yelps. Then he comes at me again with a growl soon as I release. Is this a bad tactic to discipline? Will this bring out his aggression more? I’m not sure how to discipline him when he acts out. Is this just puppy behavior or should I be worried? For the most part, he loves people and is very affectionate. However his aggressive behaviors come out periodically.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!!”

Adam replied:

Hi, Jenna:

Would it be possible to video this and put it on Youtube, so that I can see it?

The problem is: When it comes to a puppy this age, different people’s idea of “aggression” can vary quite a bit, and that can change my suggestion on how to proceed.

Definitely start reading the sections on puppy aggression in my dog training book, so that you understand basic concepts, but if you have a way to video this behavior (maybe with a smart phone, like a droid or an iPhone?) … that would help, a lot.

Lynn Stockwell added:

I too am curious. Sometimes puppies do a lot of play-biting, and there is a big difference between true aggression and play in their body language. I don’t doubt that he’s giving you trouble, and now really is the time to teach him that teeth-on-skin is Unthinkable. As Adam mentioned, a video would be helpful to really pinpoint the problem and tailor a response as to how to correct it–that’s the one drawback on the internet, is that we are not there to witness the issue!

Holding The Puppy’s Mouth Does Not
Stop Aggressive Puppy Behavior

While holding a puppy around the mouth can be done as a correction, there are also other factors that make it effective. You’ve already noticed that simply holding the mouth by itself isn’t really useful, since he just bounces back. I’ll try to get a video together showing a good way to correct a puppy for play-biting that utilizes a few other concepts too. It may look weird, but when used properly and consistently, it does teach the puppy that certain actions get it NOWHERE.

The caveat comes when the puppy decides to really push its boundaries and the play-biting “correction” is ineffective. If this is the case, it’s possible that you might have to use a properly-sized pinch collar, to correct for ONLY the biting, just to communicate clearly to the dog that it is unacceptable. We usually do NOT recommend pinch collars for young puppies, but as Adam mentioned above, knowing a few more details of the situation (plus video, if possible) might help us determine whether that’s the right course of action to take.

Jenna continued:

“Great – all that information is very helpful. I will try and get a video to post tonight of his aggression, or attitude. I’ve never had a puppy before so maybe it is just puppy play. However, when I say no loudly and hold his mouth, he comes right back at me with growling and nipping. He never nips so hard, but he is definitely defying my orders and I don’t like the growling. I’ll post a video as soon as possible.

Today, he also growled when I tried to take his kong away. I was going to put another treat in it but he didn’t like that. How do I correct that behavior? Should I be worried about the growling or is that normal? Thanks so much for your help!!”

Adam responded:

Hi, Jenna:

It’s not typical.

Give it to him, then take it away again. Show him that any aggressive behavior will not get him what he wants. Reward him when he is calm. Do not reach for it quickly or act fearful. Pretend like it doesn’t bother you at all and that it’s not threatening. Pin him on his side and hold him there firmly, until he stops growling. When you let him up, move your hand away slowly. If he tries to nip you when you start to release him, then immediately pin him down and keep him there until he submits.

A video would be helpful, because then we can advise (like Lynn mentioned) if a small pinch collar would be appropriate for this type of aggressive puppy behavior.


Is Your Puppy Trying To Dominate An Older Dog?

Cathy wrote to us about her puppy training to constantly dominate and harass her older dog:

“Hi Adam and all: I’m reading the book, and have gone through a lot of your dog training site material. I have some concerns about my puppy that I’d like some advice on: She’s a retriever mix, about 3 months-old. We also have an 8 year-old female pug. This puppy is just relentless with the pug; biting constantly around her legs and neck and jumping on her back. Any corrections have been ineffective, everything from ‘no’ to scruffing the neck to a choker collar. Is she too young for intense correction (like a pinch collar)? And is it even a good idea for this problem? The poor pug is exhausted within minutes of letting them together, but should I just let them work it out?

She is also quite mouthy with us, and eats literally anything and everything when we take walks. It’s all driving me just a little nuts! Thanks for any help!! Cathy ”
Adam replies: Hi, Cathy:

This is one of the reasons I advise against letting puppies interact too much with adult dogs: There may get to a point where the older dog has had enough, and then corrects the puppy. Some dogs can do this, just fine. But other dogs (especially dogs that allow puppies to bully them) will get to a point where they’ve “had enough” and then they snap… and it’s an “over-correction” which is too much for the puppy (way too much) and that ends up coming back to haunt you later in the puppy’s life, in the form of dog aggression.

So, it’s best to keep the dogs separate at this point.

I also advise against using a choke chain on the puppy. The pinch collar is far safer and far more effective. And you don’t need to use any force or muscle to get it to work. If everything else you’ve done to correct the puppy from biting you hasn’t worked, then get a small pinch collar and use it. But save the obedience training stuff for later, after the adult teeth come in (usually between 4-5 months of age). Just use common sense: The mother would use her mouth to correct the puppy, and she would do it with only as much intensity to get her point across, and no more.  Instead of getting hair in your teeth– we use the pinch collar.  But for those other puppy owners reading this, I should caution: This is a last resort. There’s more in the book, which I think you’ll find useful.

Dealing with Strange Housebreaking Issues

Cruzmisl writes to me about some strange housebreaking issues: “I took my 4 month old Great Dane out for a long walk in the woods today and everything was great. We were gone an hour and everything was as usual. She came in the house, took a drink from her bowl upstairs and then went downstairs to take a drink from her other water bowl. Why she does that I have no idea but I follow her down anyway. I don’t trust her when she’s out off my sight and I like to wipe her mouth (she hates that though). Once she’s done drinking she plopped on her bed in front of the fireplace.

It seemed like a good time to check my email so I grabbed my laptop. All of a sudden she’s barking/moaning and she’s sitting up, urinating on her bed! I just had her outside for over an hour and she pulls this stunt? I grabbed her by her collar and told her “outside” and put (dragged) her in the backyard.

I’m a little confused though because she hasn’t pee’d in the house in months. She’s old enough now that she can hold it for 8-10hrs at night (in her crate) so I’m curious what spawned this. Later on that night she pee’d on the carpet while my wife wasn’t looking. It was only a little bit though.

Any ideas?”

Adam replies:

Hi, J:

She’s testing you. (And also: Your prior corrections probably weren’t motivational enough.)

She may test you once or twice, even if you do everything right… though Month 9. That doesn’t mean she’s not housebroken. It just means that: She’s still a young dog, and either by accident or by “test” — you can have this occur, albeit infrequently. The trick is to make sure that she gets a meaningful correction, when she does it. As you’ve found: Pulling on the flat collar isn’t going to do it.

Have you gone through the Secrets book and the housebreaking in a hurry video, yet?

– Adam.

J responds:

I skimmed through that section because she was housebroken a week after we picked her up so I didn’t bother. I’ll go back and revisit those sections. Any other advice other than whats already contained there? It seems more of a defiance angle more than anything else.

Adam replies:

No, it’s not defiance. The dog’s mind doesn’t work that way.

You’re expecting too much from a 4 month old puppy. Housebreaking a dog this young isn’t a “scratch it off the list” and move on, type of behavior. At this age, it’s going to be more of a: We’re 99% there, but there still may be some accidents in the coming months, so I need to be 100% vigilent.

And again: If you’re not using the pinch collar, your corrections probably aren’t motivational, so you may have that working against you, too. Eliminating in the house needs to be so uncomfortable that she actively wants to hold it and tell you to take her out.

Potty Training a Puppy

Jandon writes to me about potty training a puppy:

I’m about three weeks into potty training my (four month old) puppy and now he comes and sits in front of me as a signal to go out. I take him out and he usually does his buisness rather timely. The problem is that he does this about every twenty minutes now. I don’t want to ignor him because the one time I thought I would just wait because I know he can hold it for hours when he is in his crate,he wizzed in the house. I do give him a treat/praise every time I take him out.Any suggestions? Do you think he will get tired of this?

Adam replies:

Hi, Jandon:

Make sure he does get a correction (every time!) if he eliminates in the house.

The trick is to set up a very strict feeding and watering schedule. Do not let him free feed. And if you’re home with him all day, do not let him have free access to water. Take him out at regular intervals (every 2-3 hours or so) to drink and then afterwards, let him urinate.

Because he’s learned that he can tell you “let’s go outside and play” I recommend keeping him on a “place” command. Or in the crate, when you can’t interact with him.

But the real key at this age is to set up a strict schedule, and that way, his routine will adapt to the schedule you create.

– Adam.

Jandon responds:

Thank you…I allow him to have free access to water except one hour before bedtime. I’ll change it up a bit and put him on a water schedule. I thought maybe he was just toying with me because he could get a treat more often by reliving himself more frequently. Thanks again.

Adam replies:

Hi, Jandon:

Yes, he is toying with you. Exactly. But he may be toying with you 9 of 10 times, and 1 of 10 times it’s real. By putting him on a strict schedule, you’ll know. Also, by correcting him when he does eliminate in the house, you’ll see him get uneasy when he really needs to go outside, so it’ll be easier to tell when he really needs to “go”.

– Adam.


Training Your Puppy To Stop Biting His Leash

Cokersmoses writes to me about puppy training to teach your puppy to stop biting the leash:

Hi Adam,

On a past post you gave the following puppy training advice with a older puppy biting their leash:

The easiest way is to use a leather leash, and then just pull the leash fast, across (and out of) his tongue, as he tries to bite it. It will give him a slight burning sensation. He won’t like it, and when he realizes this happens every time he tries to bite the leash, he’ll stop. You should also just say, “No!” when you do this

My question is does this advice go for a 9 wk old Rott puppy since he still has his baby teeth? I’ve been afraid to yank the leash out of his mouth b/c i’m afraid of breaking his baby teeth. I also need to get a leather leash b/c I only have the nylon kind.
Thank you


Adam replies:

Hi, Coker:

No, for 9 weeks, you can just say, “No!” with a low, firm voice and then cup your hand around the top of his muzzle and open his mouth and take the leash out… and then stuff something else in his mouth (a toy) or distract him with a “chewey”.

If you have trouble getting the leash out of his mouth, you can gently bend his lips around his teeth and he’ll open his mouth so you can take it out.

Keep me posted. There’s nothing in the world more adorable than a Rottweiler puppy. Someday in the next couple of years, we’ll likely get another one.

Coker Responds:

Thank you so much for getting back to me, Adam. I am in the middle of reading your book and on the posts. There is so much good info. However, do you have some page numbers for me to get fast info on what to do with my Rott puppy? I mainly need info on walking him and stopping him eating grass and anything else he will instantly pickup while out on our walks (and in his potty area in the yard). Also, biting is a bad habit i’m trying to deal with. It is hard to tell what advice you are giving for what age in your book. I know that you have said you can start to train after adult teeth comes in. Does that mean any advice in the book is for above the age of 5 months? I brought my boy home and I want so much to have him be everything he can be that I started out expecting too much and getting very frustrated (both of us). Sorry this is getting long…I’m planning on finishing your book but just need something to get me through this next couple months. What do I need to be doing (besides potty training,which is going pretty well) when it comes to my beautiful puppy? Thanks again for your help and your book.

Adam replies:

Hi, Lisa:

You’ve got the “Baby Einstein” syndrome. You’re expecting too much, too soon. Just like you wouldn’t put a 5 year-old in college, you can’t push a puppy through the process, too quickly. The pup isn’t mature enough.

What you want to focus on right now (before the adult teeth start to come in) is just:

– Housebreaking
– Crate training
– Using food to create associations with words (sit/down/come) — but ONLY AS A GAME, right now.
– Socialization to as many different sights, sounds and experiences. (No other dogs). Your vet will tell you to keep the dog indoors until you have the full series of shots. In my experience, it’s best to expose to as much as you can, but keeping the dog away from high traffic areas where other dogs are.
– Mild leash corrections for biting, if distraction or a scruff on the back of the neck is ineffective.

That’s all! No leash walking. No obedience exercises where the pup gets corrected for breaking a sit-stay, etc…

Make everything a game. Make everything fun. If you kick the side of a metal trash can and he recoils, then produce a toy and play with him IN AND ON TOP OF the metal trash can. Walk over a grate and it makes noise? YIPPIE! It’s play time!!!

Make sense?

Check out the “Puppy Primer” in our download library in addition to reading the rest of the Secrets book.

Keep me posted.
– Adam

Is Eight Weeks-Old Too Young To Crate Train Your Dog?

Hi, Adam: I got an 8 week old puppy from a person that just let him run free in his house. I am assuming that the puppy was free to potty any where and it was just cleaned up instead of working on training him to go in a certain place. Now enter me who is trying to crate and potty train. I put him into his crate and he sits there and whines, cries, and scratches at the door. I know 8 weeks is young but he potties everywhere and anywhere, doesn’t matter, in the pen or on the floor. I take him outside and he sits at my feet whining until I bring him in and then he potties. I just purchased your book and am reading it but I need help fast and there is just so much to absorb. Any advice is greatly appreciated. I just got a new house and can’t have him going everywhere.

Adam replies:

Hi, Gini:

No, it’s never too late to start. In fact, we recommend that you start as soon as you get your new dog– regardless of his age.

In the beginning, expect it to take 2-4 days, before the puppy acclimates to the crate.

Watch these videos. It’s a good “quick start”

You might want to focus on this department, too:

Some of the articles jump back and forth, between mentioning “adult” and “puppy”. I’m trying to clean this up. We hired a search engine optimization company, and they ended up doing more harm than good. I think you’ll get the general idea, though. If you have further questions, just post a new question at the top of the forum. We’re here to help you.

– Adam.


Getting a timid dog out of her crate to potty

JMDay writes to me: “Hi – we adopted a shelter dog two weeks ago. She is a lab mix (emphasis on mix) and is extremely timid. According to the shelter, our girl is about 4-5 months old and was dumped in a bar ditch along the highway. She had lived at the shelter for a couple of months before we got her. Our vet has checked her out and says she is healthy. My husband and I are attempting to crate train her and want the crate to be her “safe” place. The challenge is getting her out of the crate to go outside to potty. There are no children in the house and we have another 10 year old dog that virtually ignores her. She will allow us to approach her and pet her. She “cowers” in the corner when we attempt to remove her. We know we must be very patient and kind, but we’re frustrated that getting her in or out of the crate is an ordeal without picking her up. Any suggestions… and thanks! ”

Adam replies:

It’s not an issue of being “patient and kind”. We already know you’re that kind of person, because you adopted a dog like this in the first place.

Here’s the real secret to helping a timid dog get over their timidity: You ignore the timidity. You treat them just like you would a normal dog. If she won’t get out of the crate, you call her name and then immediately reach in and BRING HER OUT. She will gain confidence by DOING. Doing activities.

But she needs you to make her do these activities. That means: You make her do it, you don’t “ask her” to do it, and then wait to see if she has the confidence to do it or not. You make her do it, and then after she does it a couple of times, she pokes her head up toward the sky and says to herself, “Hey– I just did that!”

This builds confidence in your leadership, too.

The trick is to make it “no big deal.”

When you make her sit, do not allow her to droop her head down. Sit means: Sit with your head held high.

You make the body do it, and the dog’s mind will follow.

Make sense?

Please keep me posted of your progress.


House Training a Dog Or Puppy (Who Is Marking) In A Hurry

House Training A Dog or Puppy In A Hurry — Five Things You Must Dog:

Every professional dog trainer knows that there are five keys to successfully housebreaking your dog.  Ignore any of these five keys and you’ll be dooming yourself to many extra months of housebreaking misery.

1.) Correct the dog every time (100%) that he has an accident in the house. Keep him confined to either a crate, or a dog run outside when you can’t supervise him.

2.) Praise the dog anytime he eliminates outside.

3.) Establish a specific spot, and a command you repeat (such as “Get busy!”) while you’re waiting for him to eliminate outside.

4.) Set up a rigorous feeding and watering schedule, and take him out immediately after he does both.

5.) Use an odor neutralizer, such as a product called “Nature’s Miracle” (you can buy this at your local pet store, or through a mail order catalog.) You’ll need to make sure that whatever product you’re using is an enzymatic cleaner, meaning that it actually ‘breaks down’ the urine or fecal mater on a microscopic level, rather than just masking the scent.

My Real Estate Attorney Adopts A New Puppy… Here’s What I Recommended

I received a call last week about the news.

My good friend and real estate attorney, Charlie Brown (yes, that’s his real name!) finally “gave in” to his three kids and let them have a dog.

They were out at a friend’s ranch, and an 8 month-old collie-mix happened to wonder up and start playing with the kids, age 11, 7, and 5.

The dog looked healthy and was very social, which is the only reason Charlie’s wife let the kids play with the dog.  In fact, Charlie thought the dog must belong to someone, he was in such good shape.

Charlie asked the ranch hand if anybody owned the dog.  The ranch hand told him that they’d checked around, but it was a stray.  The dog just showed up several days prior, and that nobody in the surrounding area knew who’s it was.

This happens a lot in the country.  Somebody owns a dog, can’t keep it and they dump it off in the country, thinking it will survive on it’s own.

Well, this dog got lucky when he found Charlie Brown and family.

“Can we keep him?  Can we keep him?” the kids begged.

Apparently, the dog was smart enough to stick around and since he was still hanging around the next morning–Charlie made the decision:  “Okay… we’ll keep him.”

Now, normally I’d issue the typical warnings about “letting the kids” adopt a dog, as the burden of responsibility always falls on the parents’ shoulders.  But Charlie knew this already.  In fact,
he’d been planning on getting the kids a dog for quite some time, but secretly knew it would really be “his dog.”

“So, Charlie Brown… are you going to call him, ‘Snoopy’?” I ribbed him.

“No,” he replied smugly.  “I think I’m going to call YOU Snoopy. We’re calling the dog ‘Chamberlain.”

“And by the way, Mr. Dog Trainer…” Charlie continued, “… What do I do, now?”

The first thing I advised Charlie to do is to take ‘Chamberlain’ to his local veterinarian for a full check up… including blood work.

Next, I advised him to download a copy of, “Secrets of a Professional Dog Trainer: An Insider’s Guide To The Most Jealously Guarded Dog Training Secrets In History!” from the Download Library at  (See column at left).

Charlie started reading our article on “Housebreaking In A Hurry” and realized that he needed a crate so that his new dog won’t get into trouble or have “accidents” in the house when he’s

I also recommended a training collar, a tab (a one foot leash for the house) and a leather six foot leash.  (Charlie is also reading “The Perfect Puppy E-book” – also available in our download
library–to get more detailed information.  Like any good real estate attorney, Charlie likes to learn as much as he can about a subject and pay attention to details.  These are good qualities for responsible dog owners, too).

Charlie wanted to know what type of bowls he should feed “Chamberlain” with.

We’ve always used stainless steel bowls.  I use one for water and one for feeding.  (Feeding should be done twice a day for an 8 month-old puppy.  The food should be left out for only 5 minutes, after which it gets thrown away).  I’ve been told that the metal bowls do not allow bacterial growth like the plastic ones do.

Well– I received an email from Charlie this morning, telling me that they are having A TON of fun with their new dog, and that everything is working out fine.  I love these kind of updates,
because they make me feel like my life’s work has some meaning.