Lab Puppy Agression Issue

Posted by Kelkari
Nov 4, 2011
I have a 4 month old male lab who has shown signs of agression. We have a young child in the house and are trying all we can to make this work and have called in a private trainer for consultations. On Tuesday he is getting neutered, though the vet says this will help when his testetrone kicks in and she knows we are doing all we can to give this puppy an awesome home. My question is that he gets "manic" and extremely biting while play and this typically coincides with him getting physically excited in a male dog sort of way. I don't know which is causing which or if maybe the neutering will actually calm him down or lessen these over the top episodes. We are walking him 2 miles a day (morning/evening) and working on basic obedenience as he is extremely bright. I really, really want to keep this boy and any insight you have into how to manage this manic episodes other than our "time out" method is appreciated and whether I should be hopeful that the neuter will help. Thanks for your input.
Posted by Kelkari
Nov 5, 2011
Reading other posts and replies it seems that his Playful mouthing is pretty typical. But his body language and food aggression have me concerned. Especially his manic episodes where he doesn't seem to smap out of it. He is also doing some wrapping of his front legs around my leg. I remain calm and say off using his collar I lower him. He waits til I release him now before he begins to eat but growls if u try to retake the food. Working on leAve it. Considering a cage muzzle so he can interact with the entire family without risk of a bite. It will give me insight into how he is with our little one. Will keep him on a lead too. Let me know any ideas u may have. Thanks so much!
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Nov 6, 2011
Hi Kelkari,

Your puppy sounds like handful I have seen so many young labs that get excited when meeting people and jumping and licking or play-biting people's hands.

I am not so worry about him humping on your leg. Dogs do that, even after being neutered. You are doing the right thing to tell him "off" firmly. You can also remove yourself, instead of giving him time-out.

I am more concerned of his food aggression. You want to correct this behavior as soon as possible. The best way is to hand-feed him, or put his food in his bowl little by little, instead of giving him the whole meal at once. If you give him the whole meal, he would claim that is his. Instead, make him realize that all his food comes from YOU and he would not get it unless he takes it nicely and wait politely. I know it is time consuming but it is important for him to realize he doesn't need to, and in fact, shouldn't be protective of his foods, treats, toys, his favorite person, his favorite bed or anything at all. Food aggression is just one example of resource guarding aggressions and you really need to curve this behavior sooner.

Another good way to train him not to be protective is to teach him "Leave it" and "Drop it". Give him a toy and when he has the toy tell him to drop it by offering him a tiny treat. You can gradually make it more challenging by using something he sees more value to, such as lawhide or bone, but don't get there until you really feel comfortable with him, and/or you have confident he would give it to you. If you cannot get the object from him, that would teach him that he doesn't need to obey you if he doesn't want to and it back fires you

Let us know how his food aggression gets under control.
Posted by KOPCaroline
Nov 7, 2011
Hi Kelkari,

Congrats on the new pup - lets hope things settle down soon!

First off - these "manic" episodes, where puppy does not calm down at all but just builds and builds, can be pretty typical. I know a few dogs who either are like this, or used to be. When he gets like that, try ignoring him. Turn your back, fold your arms...that sort of thing. If he keeps at you for attention, give him your stern "no" or "off" and keep ignoring. He should pick up on not getting attention pretty quickly. If he's an absolute terror and not getting the point, try putting him in time out to calm down. Just a quiet, dark room by himself, and keep him there until he's calm. Obviously a room where he cant destroy things in his excited state is better I think if you just start removing any kind of attention when he gets worked up that he might understand its not fun.

The hand biting and mouthing is a common puppy problem, but it sounds like you've got a hang on it? Its pretty easy to train out of, just let us know if you need help with it.

As far as leg wrapping and humping, as MHN said its also a common behaviour - some dogs do it, other dont, and neutering may or may not bring a halt to it. Its usually just a sign of excitement, though it can develop into dominance behaviour in some cases. Either way - you're reacting in the correct way - immediately getting him down and telling him no. Keep this up and hopefully he'll stop doing this.

I really like MHN's advice for training out of food aggression, and I too think its SUPER important to get control of that as soon as possible. Hand feeding is a great way to accomplish this - and it helps make mealtime fun for both of you Great way to build trust.

I hope things sort out, dont hesitate to ask more questions or advice, and let us know how things go!
Posted by Kelkari
Nov 7, 2011
Thank you so much for your advice. I am also worried about the food (resource) aggression issues..I was feeding him by hand, a little at a time and he became possessive over the bowl. I removed the bowl and fed on the ground after he bit my hubby while in the process. When I described this to the trainer and she was bit by him when trying to interrupt him from eating, she suggested that he could have not had enough as a little being from a huge litter 12 I think and that we shouldn't concentrate on that right now. She advised me to move to the make him wait before he can eat. He will sit and wait until I say "okay" even with saliva dripping from his jowls. However, I have not tried to approach him after I release him, as his body seems too tense and I think it would not be smart. Not sure of where to go from next. We are working on the leave it with other things, substituting toys for kibble as he is sooo food driven.

Today at lunch we were in the backyard and he once again became manic like, so I told him "no" sternly and he raced off and came at me full force. I got him to stop before he full fledge collided with me, but then was attacked (don't mean this like an attack, more like a very overly excited, lips curled up, mouth open, nippy situation) and I tried the ignore, back turned, armed crossed and he contined to go through my clothing with his teeth. I did another firm no and off he went tearing around and another charge at me with teeth and head in a seemingly crazed state. At this point I did what the trainer told me, I calmly, firmly got ahold of his collar and led him back to his crate, placed him in there and told him "no bite."

I am walking him a mile in the morning, playing at lunch time with him in the yard (while practicing sit, stay, wait, leave it) and working on some obedience at night, with hubby walking him an additional mile. Our trainers puppy class doesn't start up until January and with all his issues, I felt it was best to wait for her. However, he does exhibit some fearful tendencies which I wish I could help him address. I know walking on the leash will help with the alpha issue and with his socialization, but I really want to do all I can to make this work.

Trainer and vet are concerned I think because of my young daughter. The neutering is happening tomorrow and I know that is likely to help us more in the future when he would have gotten a huge dose of testostorone, but again I want to do all I can to make this work.

He is already 35 lbs at 4 months and is going to be over 100 lbs. when fully grown, so I know it is vital that I gain control now. Please let me know your thoughts on the food issue and any other advice regarding how better to handle the manic episodes. I will try the timeout and try to think of this more as puppy antics than as agression.

Thanks for your support!
Posted by Kelkari
Nov 7, 2011
Thanks for your advice MaxHollyNoah.... I will definitely be working on the "Leave it" with much more diligence....(Another good way to train him not to be protective is to teach him "Leave it" and "Drop it". Give him a toy and when he has the toy tell him to drop it by offering him a tiny treat. You can gradually make it more challenging by using something he sees more value to, such as lawhide or bone, but don't get there until you really feel comfortable with him, and/or you have confident he would give it to you.)
Posted by KOPCaroline
Nov 11, 2011
Hey Kelkari,

I think if your pup goes into those manic states again, do what you did this time - put him away, and tell him no. Most dogs respond well to being ignored, but its obviously not working with your big boy! Everytime he gets overeager in play, put him up immediately, and leave him there until he's calm.

I used time outs with my own dog and they really helped. It prevents them working up even more and just staying excited.

I hope it helps, and you start to see results!
Posted by Kelkari
Nov 22, 2011
We are remaining consistent in our approaches and it seems to be paying off with Sullivan showing a more relaxed side. We actually can pet him now. That may seem like a small thing, but it is huge to me. He is still resource guarding the food and I am almost ready to remove the bowl again and hand feed him over the holidays. I did get him to "leave" his bowl for some hot dog I had, but it took quite a bit of encouragement to even entice him. Of course, once he had that his attention was all on me. LOL He does wait and drool up a storm until I release him to eat. Not sure if the hand feeding is a good idea, since I was doing that before the trainer. Just like everything, multiple tactics are taken and recommendations are made, but I KNOW I don't want to have a dog that growls and is food aggressive. The puppy is now over 40 lbs. and is placing paws on the counter....any suggestions. I am trying the cookie sheets to clatter and use a coin can when I see it happening. It helps some, but didn't know if you had any other ideas. Thanks for your continued help and support!
Posted by KOPCaroline
Nov 23, 2011
Hey again,

I really think using time outs, in conjunction with making lots of noise when you catch him (cooking sheets, coins - great idea!) and verbally reprimanding him is the best approach here.

Correcting him, then immediately putting him locked up/ tied up somewhere usually works well to train a dog out of most bad behaviours, no matter what age or how long theyve been doing the behaviour for. I really cant think of much else that you haven't tried already to suggest beyond that. I just takes patience and perserverance

I'm really happy to hear that you're already seeing progress, I hope it continues!
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Nov 26, 2011
Hi Kelkari,

I am glad that Sullivan's food aggression is somewhat under control.

Regarding his counter surfing, the best way to correct this is to set up some kind of trick/trap so that he will be scared and learn not to do this again.

One example is to put a flat cardboard across the counter and put some cans or pot lids or something at the other edge so that when he put his paws on the front edge the cardboard will flip down along with the cans and stuff to scare him. It won't hurt him but make him startle.

One time my foster dog tried to get to some bacon fat in the cast iron pan and the pan fell on the floor with a big noise as he put his paws on the stove top. It was scary enough for him to learn the lesson

I didn't try this trick/trap with my own dogs since they were all already grown up when we adopted each of them. Instead, I taught him/her not to jump on the counter by doing this: I put some treats or pieces of meat at the edge of the counter and looked at my dog. Of course he tried to jump and take the treat from the counter. I caught the action right before he reached the treat and told him "No" and tapped the counter. When he stopped, I guided him to the other end of the kitchen and gave him the treat as I praised him a lot. I repeated this lesson a few times and each dog learned not to put paws on the counter or dining table. It is so nice to have dogs that won't touch foods unless they are offered even if the foods are within their reach. I think early training will really pay off

Good luck!
Posted by Kelkari
Dec 1, 2011
Went back to hand feeding yesterday. I gave him a Kong yesterday and when I went near him he growled at me. So using the broom and being safe, I took it away. Not sure if taking it away was the proper thing to do (any input here is appreciated), but I didn't want him to win and think it was his to guard or keep. His mouth is sooo much softer at taking food from my hands then it used to be thank goodness and he will sit and wait for me to give him the okay to take the food. I make him look at me off and on so that he remembers where the food is coming from. HOWEVER, today I tried to stroke his head in between and his lip lifted and body stiffened. I gave him a stern no and he seemed to give me an I'm sorry look, but his ears stayed back. Should I just keep hand feeding him for a week or so and then add the stroking or what do you recommend... So happy he is being better on some things, but frustrated on the other hand. Tried to feed him using a kong and refilling after it was empty and he sat and gave it back to me thinking that would be another way to feed him and he growled at me during that session when I tried to pat confused, so I am sure he is too. Let me know any tips you have on how to work on this issue. I really do thank you MaxHollyNoah and KOPcaroline for your continued support and advice.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Dec 2, 2011
Hi Kelkari,

I understand you used a broom in order not to let Sullivan win when he had the Kong but it is a big "No-No"

What we want to accomplish here is to gain Sullivan's trust on you so you should not scare him away like that.

Instead, I would play an "exchange game" with him to get his Kong back. When he growls, just ignore him. Call him to you with a super tasty treat or a piece of cheese, ham, turkey, etc. that he would not usually get. When he comes to you with the Kong in his mouth, offer the treat. In order to eat the treat, he would drop the Kong. Pick it up right away as you give him the treat saying "Good boy!". Give him back the Kong and before he growls again, offer another treat. Don't offer a treat when he is growling because that will make him learn [Growl = get a treat] You can walk away with a treat and call him back. If he doesn't bring the Kong and he leaves it where it is, walk him back to the Kong with the super tasty treat in your hand. Pick up the Kong before you give him the treat. Repeat this a few times every day. Always finish the practice by you putting the Kong away and give him a treat

Food guarding or resource guarding (sometimes it can be sitting on the couch, or somebody he likes) is a result of him not trusting you 100%. Therefore he thinks he needs to guard his possesions. As you and Sullivan build bonding and trust with each other, he would learn that he doesn't need to be protective against you (he might still growl to strangers so it will take a while to correct that behavior altogether).

If the above "exchange game" doesn't work, you might not want to give him anything he would guard for the time being.

My youngest and smallest dog Daisy doesn't have a jaw as strong as her brother and sister so it took her a long time to eat the stuff in her Kong. The other two dogs finish theirs so quickly and just look at Daisy eating. They will never take anybody's food/treats even from our cats and Daisy knows that so she just keeps licking her Kong in front of them. Then, I ask her "Do you need any help?" she brings the Kong to me, knowing I can dig the treat out of the Kong. She knows she doesn't need to guard it from me, instead she knows she can get my help and she trusts me 100%. I am sure Sullivan will learn something like this if you keep using the "win-win" approach like the exchange game, not a broom, please.

Hand feeding Sullivan is a great idea. Your hand always brings something good to him
Posted by Kelkari
Dec 2, 2011
Thanks MaxHolly for your response...I was so upset at his growling...that I used the broom to block him from the Kong, but knew after the fact, it wasn't probably my best move. :confused: Sullivan is intimidating at now probably nearly 50 lbs. he gives a deep growl and went ridged. I should have thought about the exchange game and will start working on that again with him. He is definitely much improved from where he was and the hand feeding is a good start. Should I try to pet him while hand feeding? A day or so ago I got a raised lip when I did so. Did some stroking last night and this morning and didn't see that, but did keep it to a minimal and watched his body language. I praised him when he let me do it without any negative body reactions. I will definitely start working hard again on the "leave it" or "give" technicque as I know I have slacked off some lately, as my life has gotten even busier than usual. I am excited to have him on a lead with me in the living long as I have kibble (saved from his meal) he is soo good and sits right next to me. Only problem is he sits at full attention, just waiting for a treat. He is soooo food driven that he doesn't relax and enjoy being with his pack...he is just eagerly waiting for a treat. Any ideas ?? Thanks so much for your continued advice and assistance. Sullivan is making progress and it is such a relief to see.
Posted by KOPCaroline
Dec 5, 2011
Hey Kelkari,

Sounds like you know what to do from here - with MHN's great suggestions and your plan to work more on "give", etc I think you'll see progress soon!

As far as trying to get Sullivan away from being so treat driven - start substituting things for treats - toys, and especially good pats and rubs. Work to put your hands on him more and more, so he learns that its an awesome feeling. This will help you two bond more as well.

If he's distracted by food to the point that he doesn't stay in a room with you for long - shut him in. I know it sounds like forced affection, but you need to do what it takes here to get him to appreciate other forms of treats besides the edible kind. I think overall your problems with him will decrease if you start upping the time you two spend together just relaxing and giving pats and playing. Try to take lots of mini breaks in your time at home to just have one on one time with him. I'm sure this will help you.

This applies to when you're hand feeding as well - I like that you are gradually trying to pet him while feeding him, I think its a good idea - especially since you're attentive enough to read his body language. I would definitely say keep it up!
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Dec 8, 2011
Hi kelkari,

Humm, he raised lip to you when you were hand feeding and petting him? That's not nice

He already weighs 50 lbs. I know that is intimidating... We need to figure out how to correct that behavior without making him feel uncomfortable with you.

Does he get stiff or nervous when there is no food associated, does he gets aggressive only when there is food/treats/Kong, etc. involved?

Does he ever just lie down next to you relaxed? How does he do on his walks?

I would strongly recommend you take him to obedient classes. The reason why is that you will learn how to train your dog through those classes, as well as it will be a good opportunity for Sullivan to get socialized with other people. You will first need to talk to the instructor and explain his issues before enrolling him though.

It sounds like you are afraid of Sullivan since he has shown aggression to you, but he is also afraid of you because he sees your nervousness. Dogs like to have a confident leader so this is like a catch 22. As you become more confident, Sullivan will feel more secure and willing to obey you. That's why I would recommend you take classes with him.

In the mean time, try to use every opportunity as a training opportunity. For example, take some treats with you on his walk. As you walk him, call his name from time to time in a happy voice. As he turns to look at you, make him sit and give him a treat Throw in a couple of pets as he sits.

Does he like fetch? If he does, have him sit when he brings the ball back. Pet him or stroke his back, shake his paw before you through the ball again.

What is his routine to go to bed? Have him lie down on his bed and stroke him for a few minutes as you talk to him in a relaxing voice. Tell him you love him as many times and kiss him good night on the head. All these gestures are for him to get used to be touched by you. There is no food associated so I hope he would not get protective.

Anyway, interacting Sullivan throughout the day as much as possible. Let us know how it goes.

As for him being food driven, start reward him every other time, or alternate treat and praise. Also, don't show him treats as you give him commands. In other words, tell him to "sit" and if he sits say "Yes! Good boy. Now stay!" and go to the treat jar and bring a treat and give it to him. This way, he can also practice "Stay" and he will learn "Sit" without a treat. In fact, most of dogs who knows a "Sit" command automatically sit when they come to you as if it is the default

But also remember that being food driven means that he has a good potential for training. Good luck