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Old 07-24-2002, 09:42 AM
Junior Member
Join Date: Jul 2002
puppies growling

We have had our 2 nine week old female puppies for a week and a half now. They are doing well with training, however the past 2 or 3 days they growl and try to nip at me when I pick them up. I am the only female in the house. (It is my husband, my 6 year old son and myself) They do not growl or nip at my husband and son when they pick them up, just me. Im wondering if this has anything to do with dominance? Has anyone else experienced this problem or have any suggestions? Thanks.
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Old 07-24-2002, 12:09 PM
Junior Member
Join Date: Jan 2002
> newpuppies wrote: ...The past 2 or 3 days they growl and try to nip at me
> when I pick them up. I am the only female in the house. (It is my husband,
> my 6 year old son and myself) They do not growl or nip at my husband and son
> when they pick them up, just me. Im wondering if this has anything to do with dominance?

There could be many explanations for the pup's "picking" on only you, but here is a common situation.

Often a pup will paradoxically not obey the human who is its primary caregiver, the one who spends the most time with it and pays the most attention to it. If this is the case in your situation, then I would predict that you are the prime caregiver, the one who plays and cuddles and responds to the pups the most often. Your husband and son, I would predict, do not spend as much time with the pups, and perhaps treat them with a bit more aloofness, ignoring them at times. Another way to put it is: When the pups call, YOU come!

If this sound like your situation, then the following will help. Even if this doesn't sound like your situation, the following will probably help because although YOU may not perceive the situation as I described it, the pups may! Sometimes, even if the others in the family DO give the pups equal time and attention, the pups may perceive one member as "weaker" than the others--it could be because of your size, it could be because your voice is higher-pitched, because you are simply spending more time with the pups, or for other reasons that you may never figure out.

And yes, the situation does in a way have to do with dominance. In the canine world, the Alpha dog, the most dominant member of a pack, is usually aloof and quietly stern if it disciplines another pack member. The Alpha DOES NOT run around serving the other pack members and waiting on them hand and foot. Quite the contrary, it holds itself proudly apart from the others. A kind glance from the Alpha will make the day of another dog in the pack! Also, contrary to what many people think, a true Alpha is not an aggressive dog that gets its way by growling and fighting with any dog that disagrees with it. It is more likely to simply withdraw its attention from a dog that is bothering it, or to give a relatively quiet growl or small nudge to inforce its will.

On the other hand, the dogs that most often play together and are very sociable with each other are the "lower" members of the pack. These "equals" or "peers" also fight and squabble over things they disagree on. But they would never dare fight or squabble with the Alpha dog!

So, in a human family, the puppy will often obey the family members who pay it the least attention, while thinking of the family member who pays it lots of attention as more its "equal" than its Master. The "textbook" case is: the wife who spends a great deal of time fawning over HER pup, and a husband who is aloof or less often present and who largely ignores the pup. The pup will pick the husband as the Master almost every time.

All you need to do, if this is the case, is reestablish that you are also a Master, not an equal to the pup. (Remember: pups growl at and bite equals, not Alphas!)

1) YOU should start training the pups, if you aren't already, with some simple commands such as SIT or COME. Reward them with a treat each time they comply. If they do not comply, do not punish, but instead ignore them. This starts to put you in the role of Master (the human equivalent of Alpha). You will also be establishing that you expect your commands to be followed and that you have the "rewards"! To intensify the training, you may want to have your husband and son stop giving the dogs anything--treats, dinner, toys, etc.--for a few weeks and get the pups used to looking at YOU as the only source of all good things.

2) Like an Alpha dog, you will not fuss or argue or get involved in petty squabbles. Alphas are aloof and do not "yell." So never yell at the pups or raise your voice. Use a stern but gentle voice, and it may help to pitch your voice as low as you can.

3) For this training to work, though, you need to REQUIRE the pups to earn their treats, their meals, their play time with you, even your attention, by making them obey simple commands before you give them any of the above. So, if you can just get the pups to learn a Sit, you can then say "Sit," while you hold their food bowls in the air, and then wait for them to Sit before you put the food down. If they don't Sit, don't put the bowls down. Put them away for five minutes, then try again. If a pup comes up to you and wants to play, again, say "Sit," and require it to comply before you play. No sit? No play! Do this with every treat, toy, meal, and every bit of attention you give the pups.

4) Part of what you want to establish is that "We do things when I say!"--not whenever the pups want. So, you should plan time periods during each day when you will ignore the pups. Randomly select periods of 15--30 minutes, and during these times ignore the pups completely no matter what they do or want. If they come up to you and want to play, you just turn away, or sit still and ignore them, or walk away and go in another room if you have to.

At other times, when you wish to play or pet them or whatever, give that "Sit" command. When they obey, you then play with them for as long as you wish. If they do not Sit, then you walk away and ignore them for five minutes. Then let them try again. They must learn that your attention and efforts do not come for free, whenever the pups want them. Everything happens when YOU want it to. Again, for the time being, make sure other family members are not meeting the pups' needs. If they are, the pups will just get what they want from your husband or son, and the training will not work.

5) This approach is known as NILIF (Nothing In Life Is Free). You might try searching the Internet for the abbreviation NILIF, or the full name, to find more information about this approach. Many people start this type of training by spending an entire day or more totally ignoring the pups. You of course crate them at night (if you are using a crate, which hopefully you are), you feed them, and you supervise as necessary for their safety, but you do all this quickly, mechanically, without looking at them, talking to them, or acknowledging that they even exist. For pups this old, 24 hours should be plenty for the ignoring phase. You will probably feel bad for that entire day! You will feel like you are a mean nasty person, but don't give in because when the next day starts, you will begin the actual NILIF program, requiring that the pups do something before they get anything--and you will start that second day with two pups eager to please since they have had no attention from anyone for 24 hours.

6) Finally, nipping and biting are normal behaviors in a puppy (growling at a human is not!) So you should treat mouthing or nipping specifically. A very common method is to yell "Ouch!" in your loudest voice, as though your hand was just literally bitten off!--when a pup nips or bites you. Then immediately get up and leave the room, paying no attention to the pup for 3-5 minutes. Teach everyone in your family to do this. An alternate way to do this is to yell "Ouch!", walk away and ignore for about 30 seconds, and then return and give the pup a chew toy or something that it is OK to chew on. This is also based on normal dog behavior. When two puppies play--and you will see this with yours if you watch--they nip and bite each other. That is normal play, but when one pup bites the other too hard, the one that was bitten too hard will yelp! This sudden, high-pitched sound will startle the biter and the pup that was bitten will usually pause for a few seconds before returning to play, or may even move away from the other pup. This is nature's way of teaching the pups not to bite that hard. You will use the same technique, and gradually the pups will bite you with less and less force. The only difference between the real dog behavior and what you will be doing is that you will eventually require that they not bite you at all--soft or not.

So, the key points are:

1. Train a few simple commands right away.
2. Whole family ignores the pups as much as possible for 24 hours.
3. YOU take control and have your husband and son stay away from the dogs for a week or so.
4. YOU require that the pups obey a simple command before you give them ANYTHING.
5. YOU spend parts of the day IGNORING the pups and not responding to their nudges to play.
6. Give commands and speak to the pups in a gentle but firm low-pitched voice (except for the bite training "Ouch!" response.) Never yell at them or raise your voice otherwise.
7. Reward proper behavior, and ignore incorrect behavior. So, for example, if you pick a pup up and it growls at you, put it down immediately and walk away. If you are training it to sit and it sits, it gets a treat. If it doesn't sit, no treat. Ignore the noncompliance, wait a few seconds, and try again. The only exception for now will be the biting--to which you YELL "Ouch!"
8. You and the rest of the family start reacting to every nip by yelling "Ouch!" and then ignoring, (or brief ignore, then give a suitable chewing toy).
9. Convince yourself that YOU are the Boss! Develop an "attitude," especially if you are a kind wonderful and loving person, which I am sure you are. Kind, loving, wonderful people unfortunately do not get a puppy's respect unless these positive qualities are accompanied by some "Authority."
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Old 07-24-2002, 03:53 PM
Junior Member
Join Date: Jul 2002

Thank you for taking the time to give me all that information. I'm sure it will work well.

Thanks again.
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Old 07-25-2002, 09:13 AM
brunie's mom's Avatar
One of the Old Folks
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: Ontario, Canada
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Since you have 2 female puppies, you may have problems in the future. I do wonder about your breeder selling you two puppies at one time and of the same sex. Is this a reputable breeder??
Did you get to meet the mother and or see the father of the pups?
Puppies growling at that young age makes me wonder what type of temperment this "breeder" was breeding in their dogs.
A good breeder would not have sold you two pups at once... they are very hard to raise together.:(
Please keep them in seperate crates and do training and things seperatley with each one. You must get each pup to bond with you and your family... you do not want them bonding with one another. This will not be easy to do.


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Old 07-25-2002, 09:41 AM
Valued Member
Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: USA
I will second all of Barry's suggestions and add another consideration. Pay attention to the manner you pick the pups up and how you are holding them as well. If you find you are snatching them up without preliminary touching, it can be very startling for them and make them feel defensive. Speak to them quietly before taking their feet off the ground. It can be very disconcerting to suddenly find your footing gone.

Keep in mind that you won't be picking them up for long as their size is going to change rapidly so practice daily handling of their different body parts with them on the floor - teeth, ears, toes and grooming including weekly nail trimming. (one dog at a time so they don't excite each other)
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Old 07-25-2002, 10:11 AM
Junior Member
Join Date: Jul 2002

Yes we did meet the mother and father of the pups. My husband had a rottweiler growing up so he knew what to look for. We wouldnt buy one until we found one where we could meet the pups parents. The parents were very calm. And yes the breeder is a reputable one.

I have known people who have had 2 females, even littermates and they have grown up together fine. They are crated together now with no problems but if problems arise I will seperate them.

Thank you for your advice.
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