7 month old Rottweiler pup showing aggression?

by Talitha
(Melbourne, Australia)

Hi my name is Talitha and i have a male rottie who is 7 months old. I didn't buy him from a registered breeder but i met his parents and they were so friendly and freely let me into their backyard with their pups around.

In the past month he has shown fear aggression towards my family members and i don't know what to do. I tell him "no" every time he shows this behaviour and make him sit and when i tell him to stop, he does but it's getting worse. When i try to walk him he will growl and bark at strangers on the street and if he sees a car or truck he will freeze.

He has never shown aggression towards me or my 2 year old daughter (who he lets do whatever she pleases to him). I'm so confused and don't know what to do as i have another baby due in 7 weeks and really want him to be happy. I've also just started taking him to training lessons but i'm unsure if i have found the right trainer as she said if it doesn't stop i will have to re-house him because he will be unsafe to be around my children and i really dont want to do this as i love him dearly and don't want to give him away.

Any help or advice you can give me will be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Talitha.

Hi Talitha
I think what you're seeing here is a result of several things. Firstly, your pup is an adolescent and his guarding instincts are starting to show up, but he's not sure why he feels this way, or what to do with them! It's confusing and he over-reacts. This happens quite frequently.

Also, puppies go through two distinct 'fear periods' in their development, one at around 8 weeks of age, and another at about 8 months. Your pup is likely in the grip of the second one.

In addition to both of these things, you are about to have a new baby and there is probably an undercurrent of activity, anticipation and change going on in your home. Your pup will sense this, but have no idea what's happening, and so will likely feel unsettled and insecure.

I doubt that he has a temperament problem as such, or that he's an aggressive pup, it's most likely a combination of the above factors leading to him feeling anxious and worried, and so he's expressing that the only way he knows how.

I know it's difficult to handle this sort of change at first, but he's relying on you to help him regain his self-confidence and understand his place and role in your family. I definitely think a professional trainer will be hugely helpful with this, but you do need someone who is experienced with this breed (or large guardian breeds in general) and who won't over-react or read things into his behavior that aren't there. Perhaps you may want to explore other options in terms of dog obedience schools or trainers and find one that you are all comfortable with.

Try really hard not to over-react yourself and remain calm, loving and confident in all your dealings with your pup. Dogs are extremely intuitive and tend to absorb, and then reflect, their owners' emotions. If you keep your calm, he will feel more in control too.

The fear period will pass as it's just a 'stage', and if he gets proper training and corrections he will learn when he needs to 'protect' you and when he doesn't, and he'll relax a bit overall. Do be sure that you continue to tell him 'no' if he barks or growls when it's not needed, and use a prong collar when you walk him (see my Leash Training A Puppy page to see why I recommend these) and give him a 'pop' on the collar if he starts to overreact to strangers.

Don't 'baby' him if he reacts in fear to a car, or truck, maintain a confident matter-of-fact attitude and just keep walking. Also be aware that if you are tense or worried, that will transmit down the leash to him (sort of like a telephone wire!), so keep your grip on the leash relaxed and don't tense up yourself in anticipation of trouble. Be calm, and firm, and lead by example.

Of course, if your pup threatens you or your family, if you feel afraid of him, or if he threatens to bite without provocation, then you need urgent professional help with him and you would need to consider the safety of your children. But from what you have written I don't think this is the case and it would be awful for your boy to lose the only home and loving family that he knows simply because he needs a bit more guidance and some confidence-building.

Anyway, I hope this helps and wish you lots of luck. With time, patience and loving discipline I'm sure your pup will grow up to be an awesome dog with the temperament and attitude of his parents.

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