All puppies should be interested in the happenings around them, and all should show some hesitation at new experiences. But sometimes puppies can exhibit behaviors that should cause concern in an owner. A sure sign that something is amiss is when you find yourself saying, “This is not the dog I wanted.” These red flag behaviors are not likely to resolve themselves and need to be addressed before they develop into adult problems that could lead to aggression.
The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Indoor Pet Initiative lists these red flags in puppies (http://indoorpet.osu.edu/dogs/
· Avoiding or hiding from people, places, or objects. This may indicate fear that could escalate into aggression as an adult.
· Alarm barking, lunging, putting “hackles” up in response to people or animals. This is another indication of fear that could mean serious problems as an adult dog if not addressed while the dog is young.
· Excessive mouthing specifically during physical handling. Puppies should use their mouths to explore the world, but hard biting, especially if accompanied by stiffening, growling, or snarling could indicate underlying fear or pain and should be evaluated.
· Reluctance to “sit” or “down” during training. Pain, especially in the hips or elbows, can cause non-compliance to basic commands. It is a good idea to have the puppy examined to determine if there is an organic cause to his non-compliance. Anxiety is another cause of dogs not “obeying” commands (and is often labeled as stubbornness), and needs to be addressed appropriately.
· Confinement problems. If the puppy will not eat while confined, has excessive vocalizations in his crate, and/or will not settle in his crate, he may be showing early signs of separation or confinement anxiety.
· Repeated urination or bowel movements in an appropriately-sized crate. This can be an indication of urinary or gastrointestinal infection, inappropriate crate training prior to getting him, or separation anxiety.
More detailed information about these warning signs can be found at The Indoor Pet Initiative http://indoorpet.osu.edu/ as well as valuable information for dog owners in general. If you see any red flags in a new puppy, contact a veterinarian or a local positive reinforcement trainer, who can help you decide on an appropriate course of action. Puppyhood lasts a very short time, problems can last a lifetime.
By Sarah Zumhofe