We had to go out of town this weekend, and we took Tux with us. We all stayed at my parents' house on Friday night and spent the day with them on Saturday. Tux did GREAT in the car and GREAT overnight, but some troubling behaviors have crept up over the past few days. I'm wondering if the trip stressed him out.
He's being very aggressive in his play with us...biting/nipping despite being redirected to his chew toys. He's also started to growl at us sometimes when we pick him up. And, finally, he's barking anytime we put him in the ex pen (he loved it the first few days) and anytime he hears the neighbors' dogs barking.
Do you think he's stressed and will return to his sweet self after we have several days back in our routine or do you think the honeymoon is over and these are permanent behaviors we're going to have to manage? He's almost like a completely different dog over the past 72 hours.
I'm sure that some of it was the change in routine... Just as with a human baby, changes in routine can put them out of sorts. That may also be behind his reluctance to be left in the ex-pen too. He may be a bit worried and unsettled.
The bitting and growling is NOT aggression. It is normal puppy play behavior. The honeymoon is over there!
HOWEVER, that doesn't mean it's "permanent" behavior... It's something you will have to live and train through. Think of it as the "terrible twos".
For the biting and nipping, the first thing to try is to screech "OUCH!!!!" in a high pitched voice and walk away. For many puppies, this (which is what another puppy would do) gets the point across, and they learn to inhibit their bite. If that doesn't work, particularly if the pup follows you and continues to bite at your ankles, is to pick him up, gently but firmly, with no words, and place him in his crate or ex-pen for a few minutes. Some puppies catch on faster than others, but they all eventually outgrow this phase.
As far as the growling is concerned, it depends when and why it's happening. If it's happening when he's wound up and wild, it's like a toddler having a tantrum. Back in his pen he goes (again, do it gently, but with no words) until he settles down. If he's tired or eating when he growls, don't bother him, and PARTICULARLY make your kids leave him alone. Even dogs deserve to have some "alone time", and he may be saying it in the only way he knows. (read the articles Dave has posted about resource guarding, and start some early preventative work if you think this may be part of his growling) If you HAVE to pick him up and do something with him, and he growls, make sure it's an adult who picks him up, and just matter-of-factly move him to where ever you need to put him. Don't make a fuss about the growling one way or the other.
The last thing to consider is whether the growling is play. LOTS of puppies (and adult dogs too) growl in play, and there is nothing wrong with that at all. Kodi sounds totally FIERCE when we are playing tug. You'd think he was Cujo! But if I say, "drop it!" he immediately lets go and backs off, all wags and wiggles, ready to start the game again. The "drop it" part is taught... That doesn't come naturally. But the "tug and growl" game is born into most of them!