Owning a pet isn’t all cuddles and insta-perfect moments – it can be challenging, confusing and downright frustrating at times. To help you navigate pet-parenthood and all that it brings, we have launched Dear StyleTails – think of it as your really cute four-legged agony aunt! Every month our team of pet experts, including trainers, behaviourists, vets, nutritionists and holistic pet therapists, will answer a burning question from our community. Got something you want to ask? Submit your question here.
Q: How do I stop my puppy being aggressive?
I have a 5-month old American Bulldog called Hooch that I got when he was very young. He gets somewhat aggressive towards me when he wants to play and when he needs to go outside to do his business. I’ve tried different things to stop this unwanted behaviour, however, after I correct him he settles down but is right back at it 20 minutes later. I really love my little guy and I’m worried that if he doesn’t stop this behaviour now, he will be worse when he gets older. He will be a very big boy and I just want him to be a good boy.
Valerie, from Atlanta, GA
A: Rosie Bescoby from Pet Sense
I think you are right to be concerned about Hooch’s behaviour getting worse as he gets older, particularly as he is going to be a big powerful boy! Many people use excuses about their puppy’s behaviour because they are young and may ‘grow out of it’, but instead it is sensible to consider what your puppy is rehearsing – and therefore what might become a more engrained behaviour.
Instead of focusing on what you can do to stop the unwanted behaviour using corrections, try to think about what you can teach him to do which you can then reward. Constant corrections will be gradually chipping away at him causing more frustration as he isn’t sure what he should be doing to start play or to ask to go outside.
Instead of focusing on what you can do to stop the unwanted behaviour using corrections, try to think about what you can teach him to do which you can then reward.
Consider teaching him that to start a game, he must have four paws on the floor and no-mouth contact, and to ask to go outside, perhaps teach him to ring some bells hanging from the door handle. You would be best off seeking a professional force-free trainer in your area (try the APDT) to provide you with the practical guidance to teach these behaviours.
Rosie Bescoby, BSc (Hons), PG Dip CABC
Member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers No. 1006
Full member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors
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