Hey everyone. I have a 12-week old lab named Dexter. We've had him for a month now.
Most of the time, he's a good boy who likes to cuddle, play, and sleep. However, sometimes, he gets really aggressive with me and my family members. Or at least, we think it is aggressive. He's been extremely aggressive and worked up three times. Once he even was growling loudly and baring his teeth and bit me quite a few times, enough to make me bleed in a few different spots. Whenever he is told 'no' or 'leave it' when he's chewing on something he's not supposed to or getting into something, he gets really upset and growls, smacking his jaws. You can hear them clap, even. He sits there smacking his jaws at you for a few minutes, and then if you get up, he'll chase you. He bites our ankles, clothing (he's ripped holes in quite a few different items of my clothing) and legs. He also tries to jump and bite your face, arms, and legs. It's extremely painful and he's growling the entire time. It's really concerning to our family, and we're close to giving up. Trainers have recommended things that just don't work. We've given him time outs, held his mouth and said 'no' firmly (this only seems to make it worse, though, so we don't anymore), gave him a pat on the bum with a newspaper or folded towel. We've stood up and made ourselves look as large as possible and said 'no' firmly and didn't back away. We've remained calm with him and just been firm, but none of it works. He tries to bite our faces and it's really scary. He can't do this when he's older, and we want to keep him, but we all feel so helpless. He's a big boy now (almost 30 lbs.) and getting bigger every day. It's frightening.
Oh, and he also gets two LONG walks every day. 45 min. to an hour and he's absolutely exhausted for a few hours after. He also gets time to play inside and outside in our back yard, so I really don't think it's a problem with exercise or boredom.
Any tips or suggestions on how to deal with this? It's hard to replicate in front of a trainer so none of them have seen it in action, because he doesn't do it so often. However, it is seeming to get worse. He's terrorizing our family and being a brat. Please help!
P.S., hope i'm posting this in the right forum! I'm new here.
i wouldn't trust an "online diagnosis" for your puppy. if you are TRULY concerned about aggression please please please, find a qualified, experienced, educated trainer or behaviourist to assess in person and give you their thoughts. Not random online advice. Were the trainers you talked to educated in dog training? The dog training field is completely unregulated anyone can call themselves a trainer, state years of experience and a few "recommendations" from happy clients. but that doesn't make them worth working with. The stuff they recommended is really "old school" (smacking a dog on an energy high just adds to the intensity).
I wouldn't walk a 12 week old puppy for 45 minutes. the recommendation is generally 5 minutes per month of age of anything on leash (walking). What they need at that age is off leash free play (fetching, playing, running around at their own pace). Read up on forced exercise. Especially on cement it can cause long term damage to their growing joints.
Okay, thanks for the advice. Our trainers were definitely experienced and we're going to a few different ones for differing opinions. It's just hard to replicate his behavior in front of them. I only posted to this forum to see if anyone had had similar experiences or advice, not to get a diagnosis. Like I said, we've been taking him to trainers for other behaviors. This one just hasn't showed up in front of them. I'm a first time lab owner, so I have no idea what's normal.
I'll look into the advice about the walks. He does love them, however, and he doesn't really get tired until the 40 minute-45 minute mark. He wants to run nearly the entire walk! We don't have a fenced in yard so running in large spaces/free-play outside isn't really possible, because he darts, so we thought we'd compensate with the walking. I don't want him not to have enough exercise, because he has a lot of energy. We can play inside, but he prefers outside.
walks don't tire out a dog. running and playing off leash does. the restriction is not because they physically cannot do it, but because it puts undo stress on joints that are still very much growing. Use a long line and try fetching. Find a ball park or a fenced area.
make walks mentally challenging. sits, downs. practice all your commands. make sure to keep your requirements low at first in new environments (and pick where and when you ask) and use rewards. It's sorta re-training when you add a new location or distraction. have them hop over a branch or whatnot.
Work his brain for short bursts regularly thru the day. Work that brain. mental exercise goes a LOOONNNG way to tire out a dog.
I would not feed him from a bowl unless you really are pressed for time. Use stuffed kongs (stuffed with mostly their meal) or other interactive toys for feeding mixed with training sessions.
Read up on "nothing in life is free". Make the dog "work" for all of life's pleasures. It's not about depriving a dog but asking for something before they get it. This allows use of "real life rewards". Ex: sit in front and wait for the cue = they get to go outside. Sit for your feed = release to eat. it doesn't have to be a sit either.
also, have you contacted the breeder to ask them? A decent breeders will know their lines and may have some recommendations/thoughts.
Sounds like you have gotten some good advice here.
I agree with the idea of walking a dog does not tire them out. When Murphy was younger, we would walk him a bit, he would act like he was just so exhausted. Uh huh, if something more interesting came along, so much for being tired.
The comments about stimulating the brain are good too, imho. These dogs are really, really smart.
You mentioned two 45 minute walks and some inside/outside play. Not sure of your situation. In our case (retired), Murphy gets 5-6 play times a day for between 10-15 minutes. He also likes to help us do anything we are doing. Weeding seems to be a favorite. Hopefully your schedule allows more interaction between you and him?
At about 3 months Murphy did not need to be caged at all anymore, even nightime. Before that we did not cage him when we were home (which was most of the time). He went with me to do whatever I was doing around here.
Ah, one other thing, Murphy has a "look" that he gets when he is tired of doing people things and wants to play. Since we are retired we can drop what we are doing and accomodate him usually. However, if we are busy, we will either tell him to lay down or ignore him and he relaxes and waits patiently.
Maybe something in all that blathering might help?
I just remembered. . . we figured out that he would get bored with doing the same walk over and over. So we vary his walks. One day I will take him down to the riverwalk in town, the next my wife will take him to a wooded area. Then around the neighborhood. Go shopping at Lowe's (they allow dogs). Off to the beach. We do the same things with toys that we throw for him and where we throw them.
yes a way somewhere new is always good. doesn't have to be a regular thing just when you can, try a new route. drive somewhere. I would still really reduce the duration of those walks though. three 20-30 mins walks and cap those off with some play (even on a long line if you really absolutely CANNOT find a place).
some training areas have playmates. talk to those trainers about other clients with dogs that maybe you could do play dates with. find online Facebook groups for dogs lovers of your area and ask if anyone has a puppy around the same age (or puppy friendly adults) that wouldn't mind a play date. Some training facilities or daycares have puppy play/puppy socials. search search search. there are generally SOME options.
This sounds SO MUCH like our now 7 month old black lab, Lucia. (You can actually find my post on here from June) Up until she was 4 months old, I cried almost daily because of a behavior similar to this... she would jump on myself, my husband, and our family members and friends (no kids thankfully) and shred our clothing and bite us all over. She ruined countless items of ours and when she would have these fits it seemed like she was being downright AGGRESSIVE! Like you, we tried many things and almost everything made it worse. She got plenty of off leash exercise every day and every other aspect of her personality was perfect.
I agree with everyone else who has given you advice and while I am absolutely not qualified at all to tell you how to train and treat your dog I will tell you what worked for us and maybe you could bring it up to your trainer.
We started taking Lucia to puppy class at about 3 months and mentioned this behavior to our trainer right away (by the way she has a masters degree in canine behavior/psychology so she is very qualified). Every week she gave us different techniques for how to approach this and for weeks nothing worked. We had a private lesson with our trainer where we were able to replicate the behavior and she agreed that we unfortunately needed to take a punitive approach. In her words ?I *hate* to punish a dog but I hate even more when owners feel defeated and like they need to give their dog up.? (Which is exactly how we felt) With her advice, training, and watchful eye we sprayed her with a vinegar-water solution whenever she would turn and thrash and bite us/our clothing. I WOULD NOT RECCOMEND DOING THIS ON YOUR OWN AFTER READING MY POST. Our trainer taught us exactly how to do this SAFELY and EFFECTIVELY and as a LAST RESORT. What I do want to say is this: after we sprayed her a total of six times (twice by our trainer at class so we could learn the appropriate technique and four times the following weekend at home) she STOPPED and has not done this behavior since!
What I mostly want to get across here is that there is hope for your little Dexter! Our trainer believed Lucia had a very low frustration threshold and this is something she still deals with but she is a much more relaxed dog and so much more of a pleasure to be around now that she knows not to use her mouth in a mean way to get what she wants.
Please talk to your trainers before engaging in this as I am by no means a professional and am only passing along a technique that worked for us. I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone (I felt like we had somehow been given the meanest lab in the world) and there is hope! You will find something that works!
I attached a picture of Lucia from today ? Please keep us updated on Dexters progress!