If A Puppy Growls And Bites Should You Get Rid Of It?

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Sam Basso
PHOENIX , AZ AREA: (602) 708-4531
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“My puppy growls and bites me, should I get rid of it?”

I’ve heard this question numerous times over the years. And it always surprises me that the person asking the question is already thinking more about getting rid of the dog instead of figuring out what is wrong.

I sometimes get the opportunity to watch other trainers work with dogs. I was observing a 5 month old, male German Shepherd Dog / Akita puppy in a training class the other day. The dog’s demeanor was very “Akita” like. People that knew the dog and the owners came over to me, privately, and told me that the dog growls and tries to bite you if you attempt to pet the dog or put on a collar or leash. They said the puppy was owned by an older couple. They said that the dog won’t look at you, is very distracted, and won’t take food treats. They wondered what was wrong and what should be done about the biting.

The first question I had was: where were the owners? The dog was working with a trainer on basic leash walking skills, but the owners were nowhere to be found.

I could tell, by watching the dog that it was under stress. The trainer didn’t see it. These other folks didn’t see it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t my student, and it wasn’t my place to go talk to this trainer and give them advice. I could see that this trainer was frustrated with this dog’s indifference to the lesson, to him, and to the treats he had.

The dog didn’t need the kind of lesson that was being taught. The dog’s emotional state needed to be sorted out, starting with that dog’s home life. From what I was hearing and seeing, I suspected that this dog had been hit by the owners for puppy mouthing and play. I’ve seen that a lot with older couples that get a big breed puppy. Akitas don’t take well to any kind of rough treatment, nor will Akita mixes. Further, the dog showed signs of being under stress. The best course of action would have been to sit down with the owners, in their home, and get a case history on the dog… what is the home life like, what problem behaviors have the owners encountered, what corrections have they applied, and so forth.

Not all dog problems have a “training” solution. More Sits, Downs, No’s, and so forth won’t fix all dog problems. An electric collar, or treats, or clickers, or chain collars, or harnesses, or head collars won’t solve this kind of problem. Something is wrong in the home, and in the relationship the dog has with its owners. Fix that, and then the training will go smoothly.

This dog needs a behaviorist, not dog lessons. Same with the owners. Same with that dog trainer. Without that, then this dog will keep getting worse and worse. And to complicate matters, being an Akita mix, owned by an elderly couple, there needs to be a pretty good, in depth conversation about what kind of dog breed this is and how best to work with it.

In these situations, I just have to look away. It isn’t my student, and I have no right to interfere with someone else’s dog training classes. I could make this work out, if the owners were willing to do what is necessary. I’ve seen this kind of situation many times, and I know how to save this dog.

I left, not feeling great. The other people said they were sure that the dog would end up in a shelter. I couldn’t disagree… That’s probably this dog’s ultimate fate.