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2-year-old Pug bite, barked and growled at her and jumped at my cousins

I have a question about a behavior that my 2-year-old Pug has been showing. Last Christmas we were with our relatives, and the dog was new, so everyone was crowded around him, and all of the kids were playing with him. Up until then, we had no problems with kids or anyone with the dog. He was loving, playful, and anyone could do anything with him. While the kids were playing with him (I don't know if someone did something to him or he was just upset because there were so many people crowding him), he went after one of my cousins. He didn't bite anyone and has never bitten anyone since, but he barked and growled at her and jumped at her. Over the past year, he has done the same thing to a few other people. It seems that it happens mostly when people are trying to leave after playing with him.

He doesn't like for people, except for us, to come up to him and grab him. He seems to be the type that likes to warm up to you and then come to you when he wants. Overall, Pugs are not noted for being mean, and with most people, he is great, loving and playful. It is just bothering me because he did it to one of my neighbors today. He got out onto the porch when she came over. My mom, the lady's son and the lady all tried to catch him, and he ended up barking and growling at the lady. I don't know if it was something mean or if it was just that too many people were crowding him and he felt threatened.

Your dog was socially overstressed at the party where the first incident occurred. Overwhelmed dogs often behave in a defensively aggressive manner, saying "back off!" doggie style, when they feel things are getting too close for comfort or they have had enough. It is understandable, considering they have no idea what the big gatherings are about, and, as in the case of your little guy, they are often the life of the party whether they care to be or not.

Flooding dogs with more stimuli than they can handle can push them over the edge, and when it happens, their reactions can change their social relationships dramatically. Under duress, your dog behaved aggressively, and I'll bet it got everyone's attention in a bigger way than his long-suffering, patient dog behavior might have. Unfortunately, an education was also there for your dog. When he showed his defensive behavior, people reacted; it worked. Now, each time he does show aggression, his problem will grow, as will the probability of him repeating the behavior more and more readily.

Aggression requires hands-on help from a qualified trainer or behaviorist. Your dog needs to be gradually desensitized to the situations and circumstances that make his aggression flare up. Properly done, he will become more relaxed in the presence of people. The methods must be positive and never involve punishment. He needs to be counter conditioned to feel positively about people's approaches and exits, rather than threatened. A behavioral trainer will accomplish this by having mildly threatening occurrences paired with wonderful things that inspire major mood changes away from aggression. It must be done carefully and systematically to prevent backsliding or harm, and punishment should not be employed. I suggest you contact your vet to get some referrals to behavioral experts who can help you help your dog.

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