Many puppies are naturally inquisitive, high-energy and playful. What initially appears as aggression may just be normal puppy exuberance that needs to be managed to ensure no permanent, inappropriate behaviors develop. However, a truly aggressive puppy may have health or emotional issues that need to be addressed by a medical professional before they get out of hand.
Take your puppy to your vet for a full checkup to see if there are any health issues that might contribute to his aggressive behavior. Give your vet as much background about your pup as you can -- dogs from puppy mills or dogs who have been overbred can have emotional issues. Pups from shelters can also be scarred from neglectful or abusive previous home environments, which can contribute to fear, aggression and behavior problems. The more information you can give your vet, the greater the likelihood you can develop a plan for getting your pup’s behavior back on track.
Learn the Breed
Different breeds have different energy levels and exhibit aggressive or protective behaviors in different ways. Learn about the behavioral patterns of your particular breed so you can better understand what is normal and abnormal in terms of aggressive behaviors. While this research is ideally conducted before you bring a new puppy home, if you have a dog you can’t control, or have taken on more than you can reasonably handle, both you and your puppy might benefit from rehoming rather than attempting to manage a difficult dog.
Train, Train, Train
Obedience training is an important part of raising a puppy, and is critical if you have an aggressive breed. Behavior training will help you establish dominance, set boundaries and discipline your pup appropriately. While socialization is also an important part of training an aggressive puppy, you might be better served working with a trainer one-on-one until you get your pup’s behavioral issues under control. Before being taken out in public, your dog should understand and respond to basic commands from you to ensure his safety and the safety of other animals and people. Restrain your puppy appropriately in public to maintain complete control.
Play, Play, Play
Overly-aggressive or highly-energetic puppies can benefit from lots of play. Take your dog for frequent walks and runs, play fetch and interact with him in such a way that he gets to expend pent-up energy. Don’t encourage aggressive play or play-fighting, like tug-of-war, which can exacerbate problems. Give your pup appropriate outlets, including chew toys, when you aren’t around, to hold his attention and keep him from getting into trouble.
A dog with severe aggressive issues that don’t respond to training may benefit from behavioral modification training from a professional who specializes in managing aggressive dogs. Your vet may be able to help you identify an appropriate trainer. He may also suggest some form of anti-anxiety meds if it is determined your pup has underlying issues that would benefit from medication therapy.