I’m Afraid Of My Puppy – Dog Training – Dog Trainer – Behaviorist
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Are there valid reasons to be afraid of a puppy? And if you are afraid of your puppy, what should you do?
Fearful / Aggressive Puppy: I do not let myself get bitten by dogs. Like everyone else, I’ve watched some of Cesar Millan’s TV shows, and seen dogs that have bitten him. Look at his hands some time, in one scene his hand is fine, and in the next, it has a Band-aid on that same hand. I don’t take those kinds of chances, and neither should you. I also don’t go and provoke dogs to bite me. Yet, I’ve been bitten by a puppy before. No, I’m not referring to playful puppy mouthing, which you can expect all puppies to do. I am instead referring to a 12 week old Australian Shepherd puppy that I was called to evaluate. To make a long story short, I was bitten very hard on the thumb by this puppy when I came in too close. This puppy would threaten, ears back, and glare at strangers that entered the home, something that is NOT normal for any well bred dog of any breed. Something was wrong with the puppy, and I told them to take it back to the breeder and switch it for a different puppy, which they did. The new pup was friendly and normal, and trained very well. They got a second Australian Shepherd several years afterwards, and I trained that puppy for them, as well, and all turned out well. So, were they justified in being afraid of this puppy? Yes. It was a danger even to the people in the home. This was truly a vicious dog. Something was wrong with the dog. It wasn’t anything they had done. It was born this way. Fearful / Aggressive puppies need professional evaluations.
Fearful Puppy: I have met many timid puppies. Some can be worked with and made sociable. I know of a puppy that was afraid of strangers and other dogs at 4 months of age. We heavily socialized the pup, did a lot of training so as to challenge the pup to do skills that would boost confidence as the dog was able to do them, and by 2 years of age, this dog was well mannered and sociable. On the other hand, I worked with a woman that got a protection breed puppy. After 24 hours in the home, it became evident something was wrong with this puppy. It wouldn’t come out to see you. It would hide behind furniture, hide behind bushes outside, hide under furniture, and started growling at people it had spent time with just hours before. The owner wasn’t afraid of this puppy, but I was afraid for her. This wasn’t normal puppy behavior, and I knew how this story was going to end. By the time this pup became an adult, it wasn’t going to let any friends or strangers in the home, and would become a liability. So, I recommended that she return the puppy to the breeder and exchange it for another puppy. I had a similar experience with a puppy, and I returned the puppy and got another one. That second puppy turned out to be one of the best dogs I ever owned. All fearful puppies deserve a professional evaluation, and then, if the trainer feels it can be made better, they should be immediately enrolled in lessons.
Puppy That Wouldn’t Bond: I know of a trainer / breeder of police dogs. He bred a litter of protection dogs, and kept one for himself. The dog didn’t bond to anyone in the family. Wanted nothing to do with any of them. When the dog turned 6 months old, it started threatening his pre-teen daughter. He put the dog down. This dog was going to grow up to be vicious. A protection dog that won’t bond will have no inhibitions to attack even the people it knows. Was this person justified in being afraid of this puppy? Yes. Dogs of this type need a professional evaluation to determine if this is what is going on.
Rough Playing Puppy: Some puppies play roughly. They are super physical, and so they scare kids, and worry adults that have never owned such a physical dog. The concern is where all of this is going. Physically strong, rough playing dogs can knock people down and hurt them, such as children, people with physical disabilities, and the elderly. Is it justified to be afraid of such a puppy? Yes, it is. You can’t just ignore the problem, because it is going to get worse over time. I worked with a woman with such a dog, a 2 year old male Doberman. Her 91 year old dad was going to move in with her in approximately 4 months. So, we did daily obedience and manners lessons with this dog. I checked in with her a couple of weeks ago, and she said her dad has moved in, and everything has gone perfectly. She was right to be worried before the training. The dog, even though friendly, could have knocked her dad down and injured him severely. All these types of dogs need complete training.
Certain Breeds: I’ve had people call me to say they were afraid of their puppy because it was a certain breed. This is a more complicated question. Not all breeds make good pets for some people. It is a huge mistake to get a police bred protection dog for someone that isn’t mentally and physically capable of training and managing such a dog. So, in these circumstances, it is a good idea to talk to a trainer about your situation, evaluate what kind of dog you’ve got, and then decide if you are in over your head or not. I’ve had this question primarily about owning pit bulls. I’m in no way afraid of the bull terrier breeds. Pit bulls, properly bred, trained and managed are great pets, safe to own, and not to be feared. Chow Chows are more wary of strangers, and they aren’t going to be suitable for homes where they are expected to be treated by strangers as loving pretty fuzzballs. They love and are loyal to their families, but not to strangers. And they don’t tolerate kids pestering or abusing them. Beagles and Puggles are great pets, but they also can’t handle rough treatment, and their curious nature sometimes makes people mad enough to hit them… causing them to defend themselves by biting. If you are mistreating any dog, then yes, you will make them into a dog you are afraid of. I am currently looking to find a good Rottweiler puppy for a student. But, before we started, I had a long discussion with her and her husband about owning such a dog. He is worried about having a Rottweiler. She wants the dog, so they are getting it. Therefore, to minimize the problems, we are looking for just the right dog, and I’ve impressed upon them that they need to go overboard on the training to ensure the dog doesn’t become a problem in their home. I love Rottweilers, would love to own one one day, and am not afraid of them. It is all in how you manage them, and if you put them in the right home. Then again, some people have irrational fears about dogs of any breed, and in those circumstances, unless that can be overcome, then the dog will pick up on that, and the person – dog relationship will have ongoing problems.
New Dog Owner: I have worked with adults that have never owned a dog, and never even petted a dog. So, they are afraid of all dogs, even puppies. I have met a number of people that are terrified of dogs, even if it is a friendly, well mannered, passive puppy. If the person is committed to working with the dog, and learning about dogs, then their confidence is built through lessons and they get over their fears. This is also true for kids when the family decides to get its first dog. Kids can often be afraid of dogs, so picking a good first dog is essential, and then teaching and supervising the kids all the way through the process is the way to success. Sometimes you aren’t the one that is afraid, but it is someone the dog has to be around regularly. I encourage you to include them in watching the training lessons if at all possible. But, don’t leave your dog alone with anyone that is afraid of your dog… you never know what they might do to your dog.
Bratty Puppy: Untrained puppies can scare some people, even if the dog is a puppy. This is an easy one to solve: train the dog and the person. Bratty dogs can be turned into good dogs over time. That is what dog training is all about.
Aggressive Puppy: I have met a handful of aggressive puppies. It might manifest early, such as guarding food, toys, places or people. Or it can be in situations that you wouldn’t expect, such as when the puppy awakes, or if you touch or pick up the puppy, or another pet comes in the room, it acts threateningly. I’m not referring to normal puppy mouthing. All puppies are going to mouth you with their teeth, and gnaw on your hands, grab shoe laces, chase after the cat, or get into the laundry and get a sock. Aggressive puppies need immediate evaluation, and if the trainer / behaviorist thinks the dog is normal, then immediately put into lessons. Most aggression can be head off if handled correctly. These puppies all need work, however, and it is unwise to ignore what is going on. If you are the one making mistakes with the dog and provoking the aggression, you need to be shown what you are doing wrong and what to do instead. So, if you are spanking, teasing, threatening, or frustrating the puppy, then even a young, well bred dog of any breed will defend itself. If the puppy is aggressive by nature, then the puppy needs to be worked with to channel that aggression into proper behaviors. You can’t correct aggression. Telling a puppy “no” won’t work. You can’t correct an emotion. This is where you need a good dog behaviorist.
I’m sure there are other reasons why people are afraid of their puppies. If you are afraid, regardless of the reason, it is time to get professional advice.