My 12 week old rottie has become a terror

by Sheena
(Clinton, IL)

I have a 12 week old female rottie named Chloe. I have had her since she was 8 weeks old, but from 8 weeks until 11 weeks, she lived with my boyfriend. Now we are all living together.

The first 6 days I was here were normal. We have been working on leash training her and working on her to not nip and bite (she has been doing it a lot lately). Two days ago she turned into a complete terror, biting and barking at everyone who walks by the house or yard, as well as doing it to my boyfriend and I.

I have been scouring websites and this website on how to fix the biting and barking. Everything I have tried seems to make it worse. If we try and tell her "NO" or discipline her in any way when she does this, she starts snarling and barking and biting more and harder.

I thought it was partially fear aggression so I have been working on introducing her to everyone who is willing to pet her. I am taking her into pet stores and asking total strangers on the street. When people approach her she flips. I have to hold her in place. I started using treats to try and coax her into letting strangers touch her.

I tried to ask a local trainer and all she told me was I needed to socialize her and her behavior was a result of the owners, not her.

This morning, she bit me hard. Broke the skin and I bled pretty good. Out of instinct I smacked her and I felt horrible about it afterwards.

I read on a website this morning about the "cuddle and chill" method. So I tried that while giving her treats every few minutes while I held her down. I don't think it worked because she still would try and escape me every so often, so I finally let her go after about 10 minutes. We did two sessions of this, about an hour apart from each other. And then afterwards she was so worn out she didn't nip or bite me at all.

But what I want to know is if I am doing more damage than good. Is there something I am missing that I should try to incorporate into breaking her of these bad habits.

Hi Sheena
I'm sorry you're having such a hard time with your pup right now, but it sounds as though she's having a hard time too!

She's still very young, and from what you say it sounds as though she's been through quite a few changes in her short life and although everything you are doing is designed to help her, personally I think it's ending up making her feel very anxious and unsettled.. even scared. It also sounds as though you're first-time puppy owners and it can be very difficult to know what to do in this sort of situation if you've never experienced it before.

Luckily, she's still only a baby and you love her and want to do the right thing and help her overcome her fears. So, given some time you should be able to do just that.

First of all I'd recommend that you all relax! Her behavior has got you all upset and anxious, and she's picking up on that and it's reinforcing her fears and feeling of uncertainty.. which is in turn making her behavior worse. Occasionally there are pups who exhibit aggressive behavior, or who have true temperament problems - but they are very rare.

At this age what you're most likely seeing is simply a pup who is on the brink of her 'tween' years acting up in response to her feelings of insecurity and lack of self-confidence. This is most likely in part due to her age and developmental stage and partly due to her environment and circumstances. It's all 'fixable', just needs some time, patience and a whole lot of 'calm'. However, the fact that she bit you hard enough to draw blood is a 'red flag' and you need to get control of the situation now, before she gets any older/bigger.

There is some merit in the 'cuddle and chill' method, but right now I don't think it's going to help your situation. She's not in the right frame of mind to accept this yet. She also does need socialization and it's important that she learn to be more comfortable around other people and places, but first she needs to feel secure and confident at home and to respect you and your boyfriend as the 'alphas' in the home.

You need to set up 'ground rules' for behavior and ensure that she realizes that the humans are in charge... AND capable of protecting her and providing for her. That's what dogs respect and right now she doesn't feel as though you're in control and so is acting out and trying to control you. But that's making her scared and insecure.

Here are some things to work on..

1. Start feeding her one meal a day by hand... either a piece of kibble at a time, or a handful of dog food in your palm. This will help her closely associate you with the food that she loves and needs to survive

2. If she barks at you, tell her 'No bark' firmly. If she continues to do it, put her in a 'time out'. Her crate would be the best choice. Take her there calmly but firmly, make sure she has a safe chew toy to play with, then leave her for 10 - 15 minutes. Don't worry about using her crate as a time out in this situation, it's necessary and won't harm her crate training.

3. Whenever she bites or nips, tell her 'No bite' firmly. If she continues, use the 'muzzle wrap' technique - but no alpha rolls, no smacking, shouting etc. That only ramps up the situation. If after 3 muzzle-wraps and verbal commands she is still biting - time out in her crate as above. She loves you and wants attention, by crating her and leaving her alone for 10 minutes you are withdrawing interaction and attention and given some time she will associate the two and realize that her bad behavior doesn't have pleasant consequences.

4. Do not allow her to control your behavior or set her own 'house rules'. For example, don't pet her because she demands it (either by barking, or nudging or whatever), don't allow her to jump up on furniture or beds, don't allow her to get under your feet and trip you up, push through doorways before you, or lie in passageway or doorways and block your route. These are all elements of control or dominance and she is not allowed that

5. Start short, rewards-based training sessions at home and make them fun and positive experiences. Help her to 'succeed' and give her treats and praise whenever she does. Never punish her for not complying, just gently but firmly insist that she does.. then reward

6. Check out your local dog obedience schools until you find one that is familiar with large, guardian breeds and only uses positive, rewards-based training methods. Talk to the trainers and once you find one that you're comfortable with, get your pup enrolled in a class. The sooner the better, but make sure you pick a school and trainer who inspires confidence in you - that way both you and your pup will benefit.

Even with all this, don't expect overnight miracles. It takes time and patience to train (especially to RE-train) a puppy and they're very much creatures of habit, learning through cause-and-effect. She needs time to associate the result with the behavior.

Be consistently loving, calm and firm. If you set fair guidelines for behavior and enforce them calmly, but lovingly, and are CONSISTENT, you will see an improvement within a couple of weeks. Once that happens it will all come together as long as you stick with it. And, once her behavior at home has settled down and she's in a training class, then you will be able to move forward with the socialization as her self-confidence levels will have risen, she'll be calmer and it will be much easier to work with her.

Hopefully all of this will help get your situation under control and soon you'll have a much less stressful household. However, if it doesn't help, or if she gets worse or bites harder and more often, you will need a one-on-one trainer or dog behavioral specialist to help you.

Best of luck

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Jun 27, 2011
by: Sheena

Thank you for all the advice. I love this website and it has been a wonderful help because, as you said, we are first time puppy owners.

I started doing the crate thing the other day and that does seem to help calm her down. I am still working on the no getting on furniture and no pushing thru a doorway before me. She knows "sit" already and is learning "stay", so I try and make her sit before I go thru a doorway. It seems to do good most times but it is still definately a work in progress.

She has nipped/bit me a few more times, and I think I am noticing a pattern. It isn't that she is trying to be aggressive, which has helped alleviate some of my anxiety on that subject. It is usually in play because she is wanting to play with the moving object, i.e. my hand or leg when I walk. I talked to a trainer about this and he said the same thing. Also, I have been socializing her the last few days more, taking her into the local pet store for about an hour a day and taking her on walks. She has had the chance to play with some other dogs and puppies and her behavior/fear towards people has improved trememdously. She is learning a little from the other dogs I think. Especially about the biting too hard. She got a chance to play with an older dog and whenever she got too hyper and bit too hard the other dog would correct her and calm her down.

I will also start trying the muzzle wrap thing. Because "no bite" multiple times and then crating her just always isn't enough.

I definately need to work on calming down. Not only has she gone thru alot of changes but so have my boyfriend and I, as we are adjusting to living together for the first time. I think the tension between us at times absolutely feeds her anxiety and stress.

Again, thank you for all the advice and help and I will keep asking if I come up with any other issues or concerns.

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