My 1 1/2 yr old rotty boy baring teeth/growling/snapping at me over toy bone

by darrell b
(middletown ohio usa)

Just this week – For the first times ever – My 1 1/2 yr old Rotty boy has been baring his teeth and giving angry growls as well as snapping at my 82 yr old dad and myself just for walking past him while he was chewing on a toy bone!!! how do i handle this?

Dad lives with me and has been around my dog since we got him @ 10 weeks. Dog has never done this before except one time a month or so ago over another toy!! Help!!!

Hi Darrell
At a year and a half, your Rottie is still a pup – albeit an older adolescent (think of a 17 or 18 year old human teenager) – and this type of acting out isn’t uncommon during this period. Just like teenagers, adolescent pups want to test the limits, set their own rules, and see just how much they can ‘get away with’.

Your pup is trying to assert his authority over what he sees as HIS possessions. This is a normal stage of development, and doesn’t mean your Rottie is ‘bad’ or aggressive. But, just because it’s normal, that doesn’t mean you should allow it! Again, as you would reprimand a human teenager and discipline them if they stepped over the line (for their own good), you need to do the same with an adolescent pup.

On my Puppy Training Tips page, there is a section (towards the bottom) that deals with teaching the ‘Leave It’ command, and that’s what you need to work on with your pup now. This sort of guarding behavior is most common with food or edible toys (such as bones or rawhides) as the dog considers these items to be very valuable! When starting to correct this behavior I’d advise beginning to practice ‘Leave it’ with toys or items that he is less fond of and working up to the bones.

Sometimes this behavior can also show up at mealtimes, so you may also want to take a look at my Dog Food Guarding page so that you can work with him to prevent this from happening by getting him accustomed to your hand being near his food.

It’s very important not to back down when challenged by your pup in this way. You don’t want him to think that he can control your behavior with his. Always correct him firmly with a verbal ‘No’ if he growls or shows his teeth and be sure to continue with whatever it is you were doing. Make sure that your dad does the same. If you are confident, but not aggressive or combative yourself, in your corrections and behavior your pup will remember who’s boss.

If for any reason you find that after several weeks of working with him to reduce this behavior that you’re not seeing progress, I’d recommend talking to a professional dog trainer and enrolling him in a basic obedience class or getting one-on-one instruction to help you get a handle on it.

I hope this helps and wish you the best of luck.

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