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Maltipoo Aggression


One of the most difficult behavioral related problems to contend with is aggression. Owners are often taken aback that such an adorable puppy or dog can be acting this way. 

However, you'll be relieved to know that in most cases behaviors related to aggression can be resolved.

Here, we'll go over:
  • The most common ways that this manifests
  • Reasons why a Maltipoo may become aggressive
  • How to decide if you should train for this at home or call in a professional trainer
  • Exactly how to deal with these behaviors 
Socks, at 5 months old, photo courtesy of Brylla

Common Signs of Aggression

Though the reasons behind aggressive behavior can vary, the most common signs of this include:
  • Growling - This may be triggered by someone getting to close to the dog's food or water bowls, or even something as simple as walking into a room.
  • Nipping - Nipping are quick snaps of the jaw. There may be warning nips that are right next to the skin or the teeth may come into contact with the skin
  • Biting - This is a serious step up from nipping and describes when the jaw locks down and teeth puncture the skin
This sort of out-of-control behavior is often seen in conjunction with the Maltipoo having no regard for rules. The puppy or dog often will not listen to commands, and will seemingly have the run of the house. 

Causes of Aggression

There are several reasons for aggressive behavior. And even though you may think that it's clear as to what's happening, it's important to go over each of these. 

Note that in MOST cases, it will be a matter of one of this in combination with #4 (improper hierarchy).  

#1 Health issue. If a normally calm and friendly Maltipoo suddenly growls when being touched or snaps when someone gets close, this can be due to an injury or illness that is otherwise not apparent. It is normal for canines to feel very vulnerable when their health is compromised. 

If you suspect that a health issue may be at play, be sure to have your Maltipoo evaluated to rule this out. Even if your puppy or dog just recently had a vet examination, something may have developed from then to now. 

And for sudden behavioral changes, this can be due to neurological  issues. 
#2 Teething that gets out of hand. The teething stage is a really intense one. Both pain and itching can be off the charts for a puppy. And this can cause a pup to have super-strong urges to chew.

In some cases, a puppy this can lead to out-of-control behavior due to a combination of teething urges and improper hierarchy. 

#3 Play that gets out of hand. Very similar to teething related aggression, in this case a Maltipoo will want to play, which is natural, however he won't know his limits. 

* #4 Improper hierarchy. This is the main reason behind aggression. This can be seen all by itself. And in many cases, it will be a matter this combined with teething or out-of-hand play.

When this is happening, a Maltipoo may be aggressive when handled, when groomed, when an owner is trying to put on a leash, when a toy is taken away, and essentially during any event in which the owner is trying to provide basic care. 
Max, photo courtesy of Jim Copeland

Should Aggression be Dealt with By You or By a Trainer?

Whether or not you can train aggression out of a Maltipoo will depend on a few factors. This decision should not be taken lightly, because in cases of severe aggression this is a matter of personal safety. Some things to consider include:

1. What is the level of aggression? Is this growling and nips in the air? Or does this involve actual biting with blood being drawn? 

If you or someone else in the house is being harmed or feels that they are in danger, this is a clear sign that a professional trainer must be involved.

2. Are there any children or elderly adults in the house? 

If you have young kids or if there are senior citizens in the house, a very aggressive dog that bites is a serious danger. This is also warrants professional intervention. 

3. Do you feel confident in your training skills?

To reverse aggressive behavior, an owner must take a firm stance. If you feel afraid or do not feel safe in moving forward, this is also a clear sign that you should obtain help. 
Kyrie, at 5 months old, photo courtesy of Dona
If You Decide to Hire a Trainer
If you are thinking about getting a professional dog trainer to help you with your Maltipoo's aggression, it is wise to consider this. 

While Maltipoos are a toy sized dog, their teeth are sharp and you should seek this sort of help if you are being harmed or if you feel nervous in your own home. 

Group classes will not work very well for this. You'll want to find a trainer in your area that will work with your Maltipoo at your home. 

Your local SPCA should be able to refer you to a trainer and of course, you can do a web search for this as well. Look for someone who is certified. 

Some will offer package rates, and while this can be a good way to save money, we suggest starting with just one lesson. You'll want to see if you personally like the trainer and if you feel comfortable with him or her. 

The rate can vary between $50 to $100 a hour. 
If You Decide to Proceed Yourself
This is a good option if your Maltipoo is growling or nipping but not locking down and drawing blood. And, if there are no young children or elderly relatives in the house. 

You should also only be choosing this option if you feel comfortable taking your place as leader in the house. Since doing so will be a vital component to fixing the issue. 

How To Stop a Maltipoo from Being Aggressive

Please note that these remedies may not seem that powerful or impressive by themselves. However, fortunately, Maltipoos understand 'canine' just like any other dog. 

These methods work by directly improving aspects as seen from the perspective of your dog. 
#1 Resolve any teething issues.
If you have a Maltipoo puppy that's teething, it will be important to help him with what may be very intense oral sensations.

Extreme itching, pain, and urges to chew will need to be addressed. If not, you'll be fighting an uphill battle, and a puppy that's feeling these things cannot be expected to keep himself composed. 

We have a newly updated article regarding how to help a teething Maltipoo. There are quite a few components to this; however, it really boils down to having the right teething toys and reacting appropriately to teething behavior. 
Jax, at 3 years old, photo courtesy of Kendell
#2 Instill Proper Hierarchy. 
Ruling out health issues, including neurological issues, just about all disrespectful behavior can be attributed to a dog not understanding proper hierarchy. This is so even if a Maltipoo is teething at the same time, hates his leash, or any other elements are at play. 

You will want to resolve teething issues if you have a puppy (previous step #1), and then continue on with this. 
How dogs see the world: 
Every dog, big or small, purebred or hybrid, sees their immediate world the same way:

Within the den (household) lives the pack (all household members, both human and animal). That pack has a leader (The Alpha; this should be you) and all those under the Alpha are the Betas (those that respect and listen to the Alpha). 
How things are seen when proper hierarchy is in place:
When you are seen as the true Alpha, there is absolute loyalty and respect. 
photo courtesy of Debbie
Your Maltipoo would not dare growl at you. And trying to bite you would be out of the question. Doing so would go against all canine instinct. These thoughts would not even go through a dog's mind. 
What went wrong for a Maltipoo to be aggressive:
Many Maltipoos are really laid-back dogs. They are playful yet mellow and have no desire to question or challenge the rules of hierarchy. Even if their human is not doing a good job in showing their leadership skills, most Maltipoos will 'roll with it' and let things be.

However, some dogs are predisposed to not feel comfortable with weak leadership. This sort of instinctual dominance can be seen more with males than females; however it does appear with both genders. 

They see weak leadership as their clear sign to try and take charge when someone more assertive is not stepping up. 

If a dog believes that he is the leader or thinks that his leader is weak and there could be a change in command, he can become aggressive. 

The king (or queen) of the castle tries to establish what is done to him, which of his belongings can be touched, whether or not he wants to interact with his 'pack' at any one given time, and all other aspects of his day.
In addition, if your Maltipoo was pretty calm before and has just started becoming aggressive, this can be due to reaching an age and maturity level where he/she feels more confident in vying for the Alpha position. 

This may happen in conjunction with inadvertent actions done by an owner that suggest leadership is weakening. 

It is very common for an owner to never even think about making it clear that he/she is the Alpha. After all, they bought or adopted the dog. They spend their hard earned money feeding their Maltipoo top not-notch food. They buy all sorts of toys, and grooming items. Their dog is like a child. 

But, these are human elements. A Maltipoo does not understand these things. 

With dogs that have dominant tendencies and are acting aggressive, the Alpha role must be asserted in order for the Maltipoo to have a clear understanding.  
What you need to do:
If you had a child that was acting out, you'd sit him down and verbally make it very clear that you were the parent and that any aggressive behavior would not be tolerated for a moment. Since you cannot do this with your Maltipoo, instead you will take steps that make sense to a canine. 

Please keep in mind that if there is not improvement, if your Maltipoo challenges you even more, of if you are being hurt, it's be time to bring in a qualified canine behavioral trainer. 
1. Change how meals and snacks are given. 
The #1 method of quickly gaining control of an aggressive dog and making it clear that you are to be respected, as the true Alpha, is to have there be no question that the decision as to whether or not your Maltipoo eats is up to you. 

This works even if your Maltipoo does not tend to eat a lot. After all, if a puppy is growing as expected or if an adult is maintaining, that dog is indeed eating the amount necessary. It's just that with toy sized breeds, this amount is a lot less than owners may think. It is all relative. 
Peaches, at 8 weeks old and 1.45 lbs, 
photo couresy of Susan Warth
For every single meal and for any snack at all, the Maltipoo will need to obey a 'Sit. Even if your puppy or dog does not yet know this command, you'll find that he quickly learns it. 

Be sure that your dog sees that you are preparing the food. Then, set the bowl (or treat) on the counter, out of reach.

Command a sit. Only once it has been held for a count of 5, place the bowl down. 

This alone can stop a dog from growling at his humans. Few dogs would threaten their food source. However, you'll find that it works better when done together with the upcoming tips as well, which include how to respond to nips and growls.
Thor, photo couresy of John
2. Change how you enter and exit the house with your Maltipoo. 
To a canine, there are certain rules. And one is that the Alpha earns the right to enter and exit the den (house) first. 

Therefore, the vast majority of owners inadvertently send mixed messages every time they take their dog out of the house and again when they return. Normally, this does not become a problem. The dog may see leadership in other ways. And he'll not take this to heart. 

However, if a dog does have dominant tendencies, he'll pay very close attention to this. Is his leader moving down a rank? Is this a message that the role of Alpha may be up for grabs? Maybe the rule of how food is given has not been followed, so this element just confirms the dog's suspicions. 

So, you will want to always enter and exit first. While you may need to do some stretching for this, in time your Maltipoo should obey a 'Sit' while you open the door, and then only move forward once you give the okay. 
3. Superior physical positioning. 
This is also something that is rarely followed in households with calm dogs. However, if a Maltipoo is biting, growling, or otherwise showing aggressive behavior, this must be put in place. 

Fortunately, this is more easily done with small dogs like the Maltipoo than with other, larger breeds.

You will want to always be physically higher than your dog. This means no sitting on the floor with him and no having him up on the sofa or a chair with you. 
4. React appropriately to aggression. 
What you will need:

#1 You will need a designated area for your Maltipoo. If you do not yet have this, you may want to refer to The Best Set-up for a Maltipoo. 

#2 You may also want to have a behavioral device. 

This is not necessarily needed. However, part of the following training is to stop a Maltipoo in his tracks and to make him take immediate pause. 

Some dogs will respond to a firm 'No' and/or a clap of the hands. However, especially for aggressive dogs that do not yet care to listen to their human, and for Maltipoos that have heard 'No' so many times that it has little meaning, this can be a good idea.

The product we are talking about is a very safe device that makes a short, particular hissing noise that has been proven to make animals take a pause. When your Maltipoo is nipping, growling, or otherwise out-of-control, this can be just the thing to help out.
The one that we recommend is the Company of Animals Pet Corrector
#3 A very special treat. The right type of treats are the quickest method of teaching a dog that his actions are not only acceptable, but appreciated. 

The treats must be 1) something that your dog does not normally get, 2) something extra tasty and 3) appropriately sized; the reward must be immediate. This is not a time that a dog should need to sit down to chew on something. It should be one bite that bursts with flavor. 
For this, we highly recommend Zuke's Mini Naturals Healthy Moist Dog Treats, which are all-natural, perfectly sized, made in the USA, and most dogs find super-yummy. It's easy to find a flavor that your Maltipoo will find to be extra-tasty with 6 to choose from: Wild rabbit, roasted pork, duck, salmon, chicken, or peanut butter. 
If you're already giving Zukes to your puppy or dog, another great option is Fruitables Crispy Bacon and Apple Crunchy Treats; these are also sized perfectly, are made in the USA, and are all-natural fruit-based and veggie-based treats. 

Other flavors in the line include pumpkin and blueberry, sweet potato and pecan, and even Greek coconut yogurt. 
Zoe, at 14 weeks old,
photo courtesy of he Random Gardenizer
The overall goal:
1- Any aggressive behavior will not be tolerated. A growl or a nip that did not break the skin will be dealt with by making the Maltipoo believe that he is being banished from the 'pack' due to bad behavior.

Since you are taken the steps to assert yourself as Alpha, these signals from you will be taken seriously. 

The way that you will get this message across is to completely ignore your puppy or dog. This means zero eye contact, no speaking, and no interaction at all. 
If your Maltipoo comes at you again or continues showing any negative behavior, you will take it one step further and give a time-out in his designate area (if you don't have this, refer back to 'What You Need'. 

2- Good behavior will be rewarded via a special treat, which as we've covered is the #1 way of showing a dog that any certain action or behavior is desired. 
What to do:
1. Upon any aggressive behavior at all, make your dog take pause. You can try to give a firm 'no!' and a loud hand clap. If this does not work, considered the behavioral device as mentioned under 'What You Need'. 
2. Immediately rise to a superior physical position.

3. 100% completely and utterly ignore your Maltipoo. This must be done to such a degree that your dog begins to question if he's been banished from the 'pack'. No eye contact, no speaking (be careful speaking to other household members, so that there's no confusion), no interaction at all. Do not respond to barking or jumping. 

If your Maltipoo does hang onto your leg or keeps jumping up on you, you can skip to step 8, below. 

4. Wait it out. It takes dogs a while to realize that they are being ignored. And it takes puppies even longer. When your Maltipoo starts to whine, paces, or otherwise seems troubled, this is your clue that he's noticed.

At the very least, this should be done for 10 minutes. 

5. Once this session is complete, return to the exact same positioning that you and your dog were in when the aggression happened. 

6. If he nips or growls again, repeat your response again.

7. If he behaves nicely, offer praise and the special treat that we've mentioned under 'What You Need'. 

8. If the aggression continues, repeat the ignoring 2 times total. Upon the 4th aggressive action, it will be time to step things up and give a time-out in the designated area. 

This does not need to be a barren spot. If you're using this area as we recommend, it will have your Maltipoo's bed, water bowl, pee pads, and a nice collection of toys. And that is fine. The idea is not to make your dog uncomfortable. Rather, it is to give temporary banishment.

Also, per guidelines of having the right set-up, this should be in a family area such as the living room or kitchen. You do not want this to be in some area out of the way, because if so, your Maltipoo won't realize that he's being ignored. 

During the time-out the dog should be 100% completely ignored as explain in step 3 above. 

And, as with step 4 above, you must wait it out. In the designated area, it can take 20 to 30 minutes for your puppy or dog to notice. 


When you take care of any strong teething issues, and then take steps to establish yourself as leader, the training to stop aggression (reward for good behavior, react correctly to bad behavior) will give a dog the opportunity respect your authority and learn what is and what is not acceptable. 

Have confidence in how you respond to your dog and understand that this sort of behavior is not personal. What your Maltipoo needs is structure and a owner who is firm (yet loving) for harmony in the house. 

If you follow all of these steps to a T and your Maltipoo does not respond, or if biting or other acts of aggression worsen, it will be time to call in a trainer, as discussed in 'Should Aggression be Dealt with By You or a Trainer'.
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