Australian Shepherd Aggression

by Ann

My 10 week old male Aussie seems very aggressive at times. He will growl, snarl and bite at me and my 4 year old son for no apparent reason - like when we are playing with him or loving on him. We have a very normal schedule daily including physical and mental exercise with him as well as plenty of sleep time - he is a pup! We are not rough in our "scolding" methods so I am kind of at a loss with the aggression.

I have had many dogs in my lifetime, including a Border Collie, but this is my first Aussie. Is this behavior normal? Will it cease as he grows as long as we train him? Any suggestions as to how to stop it? I have tried grabbing him by the scruff of the neck, looking him in the eye and saying "no, stop" and have tried laying him on his back, looking him in the eye and saying "no, stop" as well. These are not working. We have only had him for 2 weeks now so I am still hopeful that this behavior can be corrected and wondering if he is just still adjusting to his new environment.

He is a bit unusual for a puppy in my opinion in that he is not very lovey or affectionate, and prefers to be by himself in another room than with us. We coax him to play by use of chew toys, and he will come when called.

Also, he is still not potty trained. Might give a slight whine if he needs out, but usually just stops in the middle of the room and squats. We have been diligent with taking him out and praising his outdoor voiding but I have potty trained many pups and not had this problem 2 weeks in.

Just hoping for a little advice or suggestions. We really want him to be part of our family for his whole life and love him dearly already in spite of his often foul mood. Please help!

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Comments for Australian Shepherd Aggression

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Aussie Aggression
by: Anne

Hi, I can help you, so e-mail me at

Anne Calmes
Gold Ring Aussies
Louisiana, USA

10 week old
by: Gayle-- Big Run Aussies

This is very unusual behavior for a 10 week old pup. First I would have him checked by the vet to see if there is anything physically wrong. He may be a product of a breeder who did not socialize the pups. It is most vital that herding breeds be handled a lot from day 1 to bond to humans. He almost sounds feral. Aussies are generally very loving and closely bonded to their families.

I would start to hand feed him -- everything comes from you or your son. Your son can sit with a bowl of food in his lap and feed the pup. The pup will soon recognize that your son is above him in the pack order. Ignoring him and putting him back in his crate to give him a time out might help his behavior, too. I would also enroll him in a positive reinforcement puppy class as soon as possible.

Your pup should not have free reign of the house at 10 weeks. You can even tie him to you to keep him in sight. This not only helps with house training, but also with the bonding process. I hope that this helps and that your pup remains with for many years to come!

Fearful Pup?
by: Anonymous

This sounds, to me, like a scared puppy!
My first suggestion would be to immediately abandon those 'scolding' techniques of shaking and rolling. All they are going to do is make your poor pup afraid of you. His withdrawn nature may be a result of that - if he is afraid of being shaken or rolled or yelled at and doesn't feel he can trust you, he won't want to be around you. It has nothing to do with "dominance." This is a huge step in a puppy's life, and some take it better than others.
Body language is most important when deciding if it is fear, aggression or play. Are his ears up or pulled back? Is his weight on his front or back legs? The latter are examples of fear, the former aggression. Another good thing to look at are the corners of his mouth: Are the pulled forward (aggression) or back (fear)? Some dogs get very rough during play. Is his body loose, springy, with a lot of play bows? That's play behavior, not aggression. Puppies are very mouthy, and that's how they explore their world. Aussies are also known to be very vocal.
When you want to take something from him try "trading." Use a high-value treat (like cheese or anything smelly that he doesn?t usually get) and ask him "trade" or "drop it." Start with something he doesn't mind giving up or shows only a little possession of (low value), then happily ask him to "trade" and show him what you have. If he decides what you have is better (if not then try something else) he'll give up what he has for what you have. Then you can treat and praise (not always loud: cooing, smiles and soft clapping work fine. Pet and rub if he likes it, but if he doesn't, then he's not going to want to give up his fun for that!) and give him lots of both for being so nice! Repeat at a low level until he's willingly giving things to you then move on to things of more value. If he shows aggression when you approach him, start at a point where he isn't showing any, but still in sight, then ask him to trade. Soing this teaches him that giving up what he has does not mean he's losing out.
My final piece of advice would be to not pet your pup on his head. Pet him above his tail or on his chest or chin. It's very intimidating for a dog to have someone huge lean over them to pet them. When he accepts your pets, give him treats and praise. Work on rubbing your hands on his body, starting at a level he?s okay with, then reward with treats and praise when he accepts it. Not all dogs like to be pet and touched, but you can teach them to be tolerant of it. Hugs and direct eye contact are two things that should be avoided - dogs do not like it, and it can really scare them.
Yikes, long winded! Of course, this is just advice from a stranger on the internet. :] I?d find a good positive trainer ASAP to work with. Also, Patricia McConnel also has a of couple fantastic books that I would suggest.
I hope this helps! Best of luck!

Support for anonymous
by: Kelvin

As a Dog Trainer, I agree and support anonymous' statement. It is incredibly rare, not impossible, for a puppy this young to exhibit random aggression. Most dog's display a possession aggression from being fed from a "community bowl." Outside of that it sounds like puppy play gone wrong.

Try saying OW! and removing any and all attention. Even a 30 second time out may help. It is critical to nip this behavior, but feeding it with aggression of your own will only increase mistrust and fear in your puppy.

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