Puppy Snaps at Teenage Son

Published by Theo Stewart on

An online Help Me Help My Dog consultation

Merlin is twenty weeks old – a clever Border Collie.

Merlin snaps

Merlin snaps, they feel aggressively, at their teenage son. He snaps at his hands; he chases and snaps at his feet.

As soon as our online consultation began I could see Merlin after the boy’s hands in the background. The teenager raises his hands in the air. Merlin leaps and snaps.

As you would expect, the teenager is playful and admits to playing ‘hand-games’ with Merlin like roughing-up his fur. Like so many young people (am I allowed to be sexist and say males in particular?), he plays rough and exciting hand games and is, quite naturally, generally exuberant.

Consequently, he is the one who mostly gets the fallout from an over-excited puppy.

Boundaries

Another common problem is that the dog has too much space and space can encourage wildness, feet chasing and so on. Merlin has no physical boundaries.

When he gets rough and snaps, there is nowhere to put him apart from shutting him behind a door. They do this when it’s too late, and, now thoroughly aroused, Merlin is banished with nothing to ‘decompress’ with.

I suggest they put a dog gate in the doorway.  When he starts to go for hands they should immediately give him something else for his mouth. 

If the lad has left it too late and he’s over-aroused, he should call him behind the gate much sooner, before things get out of hand. Most importantly, they will give him things to do and to chew in order help him unwind himself.

It can be quite hard to get the balance right between providing healthy stimulation, training and enrichment without crossing the line and over-arousing and stressing the pup.

Excitement from us or from the dog?

On the whole I would say it is when we ourselves are involved, particularly with uncontrolled rough exciting handling and chasing type of games, that we stir the puppy up and cause over-excitement.

It’s like he’s clockwork and we are winding the key until over-wound (for those of you who remember clockwork!).

On the other hand, excited behaviours the dog does of his own volition that are highly excited like zoomies, digging, chewing and so on are his way of diffusing his own stress.

Here is a video chat I made about the relevance of stress where undesired behaviours are concerned. 

Just one week later: ‘He is so much better. He has his food on a snuffle mat each time he eats. He has a couple of kongs a day and yak chew. We are walking him less and he is better for it. 
He still has the capacity to jump up and get a bit bitey  but we stop it immediately with a toy. My son has stopped the rough and tumble with him which has also helped. 
By shutting doors we have stopped him charging through the house. 
He is such a gorgeous dog now. 

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete report. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do more harm than good. For an online Help Me Help My Dog consultation, click here.

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