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We brought Oliver our 8 week old American Cocker Spaniel home last week.

Oliver seems to be bordering on aggressive. It might be totally normal puppy behavior and it might not be, we’d like to hear what you have to say. Sometimes when he’s playing he gets very worked up and will growl or bark and then continually nip and bite at us. It goes from him playing aggressively with his toys to him nipping at clothing, hair, and face, whatever he can try to reach (most of the time this behavior is more severe with Dana, not sure why?). When we notice him getting aggressive with the toys we make him do a “sit-wait-gentle” and give him a treat and praise if he does as we ask. When he is too crazy and that doesn’t work we both get up cross our arms and turn around, if that doesn’t work we do the same stance but leave him in his pen (we now have him gated in the kitchen) with our backs to him till he settles down. On top of the aggressive toy/person playing, he will sometimes growl if we try to hold him and he doesn’t want us to, this has only been on a few occasion, but we are worried it is a bad sign if he’s growling at his owners. One more thing is his aggression towards the cats, they have started sitting by the gate and he will run over and growl/bite at them. He doesn’t do this all the time; most of the time he’ll run up sniff them, wag his tail, and continue doing what he was already doing. When it does happen we tell him no and give him a toy or try to get him to do some training, but it seems very distracting for him. I think this might be normal for a puppy, he probably just wants to play with them, but we wanted to let you know he also growls at them sometimes. I guess we’re concerned we might be dealing with an overly aggressive puppy, who will grow up to be a too aggressive dog. What do you think?
 

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Awesome questions! I am going to start at the bottom of your post....As for the cats it seems as though the barking and growling is when there seperated from a gate and this could be barrier fustration...Puppy acts nice when loose but acts up when cannot get to cat.....always reward good behaviors when they are together, or just passing by or just a look or a head turn away, and possiby when they are seperated from with gate reward good behaviors before pup reacts....you might have to seperate visual stimuli of cat if pup keeps reacting when sees cat on other side of gate...

As for playing rough seems quite normal! what you are doing is correct just read up on bite inhibition and work that down to either soft bite or no bite. I like to go to soft bite so I can always teach in later in life....It also depends on how you want your pup to play. puppy doesnt know how you want to play you have to shape your pup the way you want it to behave. You can stop play when he gets to rough or just keep redirecting him to his toys and stop play anytime pup redirects to your clothes or anywhere you dont want his teeth. Or no rough play and just redirect puppy to a game of fetch !

As for growling when your holding him! growling is always a good thing never punish it is there warning sign...First never touch a dog when it is aroused or reacting "until you know the dog" they will redirect a snap or bite towards you. When they are aroused and reacting they have know idea what is touching them....

Most of all are you on an obedience program, and Nothing in life is free program? let him work for all "whatever is good for the dog" sits for food, treats , going outside ETC....

hope this makes sense you'll get a lot of great advise here :) this is just to start you off :)

Don't forget to SOCIALZE next 5 weeks are VERY VERY VERY important as puppy is in his critcal stage......
 

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No, it sounds like puppy behaviour to me, it sounds like he is playing. With both humans and cats, though with the cats you have to consider prey drive. Prey drive is completely natural and normal, but takes a lot of time, management and effort to try to curb and keep the cats safe.

He is a baby! He doesn't come knowing manners and that house cats aren't for chasing. These need to be taught in a fun and safe way. He won't learn these things in one or two sessions either, it takes a while. Also keep in mind that he is learning all of the time, not just during training sessions (I just mention this because it is easy to forget!). I can give you the "what I did" for the cats if you want, but no matter how you handle it....it takes time.

I highly recommend watching some of these videos on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/kikopup/videos?view=1
Browse through, there is a bunch of useful information, just don't let the vids get you too disappointed, she is a professional trainer and it'll take normal people like us a LOT more effort than she seems to have to expend lol. Time and patience....patience in the long term, not just during individual training sessions. Caeda didn't get out of the behaviours you describe until she was several months old, and she had many lapses. Hang in there! It doesn't sound like aggression, if you ever have the unfortunate chance to see your pup truly aggressive you'll see the difference.

As painful as those puppy teeth are, and as frustrating as some of this can be try to enjoy your pup experiencing the big exciting, scary world for the first time :)
 

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Thank you both for your responses! I think you are right, after reading around and hearing what you have to say...his "Aggression" is just normal puppy behavior... we will continue to do what we are doing and work on his bite inhibition.

We both read Dr. Ian Dunbar's book about getting a puppy and we're taking most of his advice and tips. We also have a trainer coming once a week to help us learn the right way of teaching him good "manners"

If anything this has been a real lesson in patience. We love him so much and it's so wonderful to see how fast he learns and grows!
 
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