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Aggression in garden with pup? Some advice needed.

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Novapup, Dec 6, 2020.

  1. Novapup

    Novapup PetForums Newbie

    Oct 12, 2020
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    I got a young female beagle-harrier a few months ago. (Late September). She was the runt of a litter of eight (not sure if this will play a part). She's about four months old now and has grown very quickly. She's been to the vet for all of her shots and has been given a clean bill of health every time.

    This dog is very intelligent. You can see it in her eyes and she learns exceptionally quickly (she was house trained and asking to go outside to do her business within the first three days). However, she is very willful. She knows that she's not meant to chew certain things for instance and will move her toys next to them, wait until she thinks you're not looking and start chewing them. She's been getting better on that front however.

    Over the past couple of weeks however, she's developed a slightly worrying trait.

    She will bark quite aggressively at people (this is in the family we're talking about) and in the garden start nipping at your heels and trouser legs. The bites don't actually hurt but these aren't playful nips either. There does seem to be a certain amount of malice behind it. She's quite tense when this happens and knows she's doing wrong as she will attempt to run away if approached.

    There seems to be no reason for these (outbursts). She will be quite fine in the garden and then, a few minutes later suddenly come over to someone and start nipping.

    In terms of exercise, she is walked outside once a day (confinement regulations prevent longer walks) for half an hour to an hour over one to two km through a small village. She is also allowed into a 2 acre fenced garden to run around for 20 minutes to sometimes 3 hours at a time. Right now, she's always accompanied as she has escaped once or twice in the past and whilst these escape points have been fenced in, I'm still paranoid about her escaping.

    It's in the garden that the majority of these incidents occur. She usually only targets one person at a time but has been known to "switch" on occasion. I should point out that she's fine with people outside the house. If anything, she can be a little too eager to greet them and shows absolutely no aggression towards other dogs.

    My family have had several dogs before and I've grown up around them in many respects, so I wouldn't call us novices in that regard however none of us have ever seen this sort of behavior before. I think that this is just a "phase" but if anyone could shed some light on it, I would be grateful.
  2. Burrowzig

    Burrowzig PetForums VIP

    Feb 18, 2009
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    I wonder if the nipping is her asking for interaction? What happens if you divert her with some training, such as getting her to sit, wait (which would also help with impulse control), lie down, come to heel-work position?
    Cleo38 likes this.
  3. Linda Weasel

    Linda Weasel PetForums VIP

    Mar 5, 2014
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    Only a few points from me:
    Dogs aren’t ‘wilful’. That’s a human trait. You haven’t yet found something to motivate her to do what you want so she doesn’t do it.

    She doesn’t know she shouldn’t chew certain things, she has just learned not to chew them when you’re looking. Two entirely different concepts.
    It’s up to you to see that she doesn’t have access to things you don’t want her to chew, not set her up to fail by expecting her to know the difference.

    I hope you are teaching her things that she can do, and get rewarded for. In your post you only really focus on the things she can’t do. If she’s an intelligent dog then she needs to learn how to learn and this isn’t achieved by negative interactions.

    I’d agree with @Burrowzig ; she sounds as if she needs more to do than you’re giving her in the way of using her brain. Lots of exercise will just give you a fitter dog.
    To me, the chasing and nipping sounds like a dog who’s inventing her own entertainment, so you could try initiating games and training before the behaviour starts, and a way to end the sessions with some sort of marker (like treats or a chew indoors) to avoid her trying to continue the fun with the nipping game.

    Dogs don’t do ‘guilt’ either. What you’re seeing is either her reaction to you giving out ‘cross’ signals (unreasonably from her point of view) or an attempt to add you chasing her to the game.

    Forget about how you dealt with your past dogs and look very carefully at the dog you have now, and particularly at the jobs that her ancestors have been bred and hard-wired to do. Harriers ‘harry’
    LittleMow, Cleo38 and Torin. like this.
  4. Novapup

    Novapup PetForums Newbie

    Oct 12, 2020
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    "Dogs aren't willful." My experience says that they are. She knows certain tricks and commands "such as come here" and 7/10 will obey. However if there's something else which she deems to be "more interesting". She will ignore the command.

    Also she DOES know that she shouldn't chew certain things as she will actively look around to see if you're watching before chewing them. The trick with her toy is a conscious one. She'll very carefully position it, chew at it for a while and then switch onto whatever it is she shouldn't be chomping. If you look at her or give her a row, she's instantly switch back to the toy. Additionally, sometimes if it's something like a shoe she knows she shouldn't have, she'll put it down (the other day she actually stopped and went and put my shoe back in the cupboard).

    She does know and learn tricks quickly (usually within about ten minutes of training). Her repertoire includes sit, paw, fetch, high five, lie down, come here, go home, etc. She usually performs these upon command.

    The nipping game is about 90% barking. It does tend to stop if I start playing fetch with her. On occassion however I have known her to be playing fetch and suddenly switch to angry bark mode.

    What sort of extra stimulation would you advise? Someone suggested Kong toys.
  5. LotsaDots

    LotsaDots PetForums Senior

    Apr 15, 2016
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    My JRT pup is almost 5 months and will go for feet I think in his head it's a game, sometimes they come across as aggressive but it's actually play. When he plays with our other dog it sounds like they are killing each other sometimes!
    We distract him with a toy and have taught him 'leave it' which he is getting better at. She sounds very intelligent so you shouldn't have too many problems training her you just need to find something more fun than biting feet! A toy on a rope is always good as she can chase it, Billy has a real rabbit skin he loves to chase and attack.
  6. Sairy

    Sairy PetForums VIP

    Nov 22, 2016
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    The behaviour you are describing simply sounds like play. Puppies can seem quite aggressive when playing, particularly when they are over-tired. It sounds like you are over-exercising her, which won't help. A good rule of thumb is 5 minutes per month of age, twice a day. So at 4 months I would be aiming for 2 x 20 minute walks. The half an hour to an hour you have been giving her, plus being allowed to run in a field for several hours is too much.

    I also think you are misunderstanding her chewing behaviour. She wants to chew your shoes because they are more enjoyable than whatever else she has to chew. She knows that you will tell her off if you see her doing it, which she doesn't like, so she tries to hide the behaviour. This is not the same thing as knowing that she shouldn't chew the shoes. The best thing to do is manage this by putting anything out of the way that you don't want her to get at. It won't have to be forever, but it is the best thing to do whilst she is young and teething.

    Dogs do what works for them. They repeat behaviours that they find rewarding. If she is only coming to you 7 out of 10 times then whatever you have to offer for her recall is less rewarding than what she can get from the environment, so I would think carefully about how you can increase the value of your rewards. Also, it's worth noting that you will need to proof the behaviour in different situations, so although she may recall well in your back garden you will need to re-teach this out and about.

    Again, this sounds like play - nipping and running off. She is probably trying to incite you to chase her. She doesn't know she has done wrong at all - that is just your perception of the situation.

    Honestly, if it were my dog, I would be decreasing the amount of exercise and making sure it is not the kind of exercise that will get her over-excited (plenty of sniffing and being allowed to go at her own pace, combined with some training and a bit of play with you). I would also take note of times and circumstances when she is likely to have these bursts and do training with her instead, or get her to settle with a kong. If she does start the behaviour then re-direct her biting onto something more appropriate, such as a tug toy or even an old tea towel.

    I would also have a good tidy up and put away anything I don't want chewed. Perhaps have a safe area or puppy pen where she can go when you want her to settle.
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