In a perfect world, all puppies would be well-adjusted, social creatures who enjoy going on outings and who interact well with new humans as well as other animals. In reality, some puppies (like people!) simply have more dominant and aggressive personalities that result in an assortment of less-than-desirable behaviors and traits. Recognizing and correcting bullying behavior in puppies can minimize behavioral problems as a dog matures into an adult.
What to Do If Your Puppy Is Being a Bully
NOTE: "Dominance Theory" is a widely debated topic among dog behaviorists, but we at Cuteness like to give voice to writers on both sides of the debate. For an opposing view, please see our article Social Hierarchy Among Dogs.
Recognize Negative Behaviors
Canine bullying behavior can be difficult to recognize if you do not know what you are looking for. Some bullying behaviors are easier to identify than others. Puppy bullies often pick a single specific victim for their bullying behavior. This will be an animal who does not defend himself well and lacks the skills to protect himself from the bully. For example, bullying behavior exists if you have a litter of puppies and your puppy will allow most of his littermates to eat and play with him but specifically attacks or behaves aggressively to a certain weaker littermate, refusing to allow that puppy to eat or play. The weak puppy is the target, and the strong puppy is behaving a bullying manner. Other signs of bullying include aggressive play behavior when the dog your puppy is playing with is clearly unhappy, not enjoying the play, being injured or trying to escape.
Obtain Professional Help
It's a good idea for all puppy owners to enroll their dogs in a good obedience training class, and it is absolutely essential for the owner of a bullying puppy to do so. Start obedience training early and be extremely consistent with your training. Have a professional dog trainer assess your bullying puppy and provide a plan of action for how you can deal with the behavior in a productive and educational manner. Continue working with a professional until the behavior is under control and continue until the behavior has been completely corrected.
Socialize Your Puppy Properly
Work with your puppy's trainer to teach your dog how to socialize in a happy and productive manner. Monitor your puppy closely when he is interacting with other dogs in a play setting, and correct any negative behaviors that occur in a timely manner. Make sure your puppy gets frequent socialization and never gets away with behaving like a bully. You need to enforce timeouts from play and verbally reprimanded for bullying behavior. Never hit your dog; it will only cause more problems and bring out more aggressive behavior tendencies.
Some dogs are simply more aggressive, more dominant and are more stubborn when it comes to training than others. Be aware that your puppy has a tendency to act like a bully and do not make excuses for his behavior. Do everything in your power to train your puppy out of the behavior but remain vigilant about this type of behavior and correct it when it occurs, no matter how minor the incident is or how long it has been since your puppy displayed the negative behaviors. These are times it's most crucial to enforce what you've taught the dog. If you can not make your dog stop behaving in a bullying manner, you will have to keep him away from other dogs and not give him the opportunity to abuse his playmates. An antisocial, bullying, aggressive dog will need to be kept in a controlled environment where he does not have access to other animals who might become the targets of his aggression.
By Jen Davis
About the Author
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.