Puppy biting - how to correct

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Postby Carissa » May 17th, 2009, 5:50 pm

I have a 3 month old puppy that really has issues with biting people. I know that all puppies like biting, but I want to correct this the right way and I'm not sure how. I've tried yelping, which usually stops her for a second, then she often retaliates biting even harder, grabbing clothing, etc. I've tried saying no, and/or pushing her away, and that also leads to more retaliatory behavior. She has a 5 yr old dog companion who she plays with a lot and they usually play well, occasionally the older dog will hurt her and she will yelp and run away and then comes back raving mad at her charging full force! This puppy has no fear of anything and the word "no" or any word whatsoever means little or nothing to her. In fact nothing I do seems to strike any fear or respect into her. Any idea on how to correct a dog with this type of temperament in such a way that will prevent these small problems from becoming major uncontrollable issues later on? She has gotten better in the three weeks I've had her, she was a ball of constant biting energy when I first got her and now I think she does have the idea that mouthing and licking are preferable but she obeys when she wants to.
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Postby Marinepits » May 17th, 2009, 6:50 pm

Have you tried immediately giving her an appropriate chew toy when she bites something she shouldn't?
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Postby TheRedQueen » May 17th, 2009, 7:35 pm

One thing you need to know...you don't want to correct for puppy biting! You don't want to suppress the behavior, you want to have the pup learn to control his/her mouth pressure. Dogs that learned bite inhibition (how much mouth pressure is too much) as pups will know how to control their mouth pressure as adults. Very important stuff if the dog ever bites down the road...

Here's a great article on teaching Bite Inhibition, that was written by a friend of mine...

Teaching Bite Inhibition
Ian Dunbar, a veterinary behaviorist who specializes in puppies, has collected a lot of data on dog behavioral problems. He has concluded that a dog who bites occasionally but has good bite inhibition is a lot safer than a dog who may bite only once in its life but has no bite inhibition. Therefore, he believes that teaching a puppy bite inhibition is key.

Bite inhibition is the puppy’s ability to control the pressure of its bite. Teaching the puppy never to bite at all is bite PROhibition, a different concept. The easiest time to teach a puppy bite inhibition is before it is 12-13 weeks old. Normally, puppies learn this in the litter. They have very sharp teeth for this very purpose. While their jaws are weak – so they can’t really injure their littermates – their teeth are like needles so that it’s painful when they bite. This causes their littermates and mother to react and give the puppy some feedback. This feedback tells the puppy to “lighten up” and the puppy learns to control its jaws very carefully. Once the puppy is out of its litter, we need to continue this process and teach the puppy to use the same skills with human flesh. And, the puppy needs to learn that human skin is more sensitive than dog skin, so they need to be even more careful with us fragile beings.

To teach the puppy bite INhibition, start with a puppy who is awake but not in a wild, zoomy, manic mood. Now play some “mouth games.” Sit with the pup and start playing around with his muzzle or moving your hands around quickly near his head, wiggling your fingers and talking animatedly. Also handle his snout and play around with putting your fingers in his mouth. (This also helps desensitize him to having his mouth handled.) While you play, have in mind a bite pressure that will be “too hard.” Start with a fairly firm pressure – probably one that is actually a little painful for you. Every time the puppy bites down “too hard,” yelp.

That yelp should be a loud, high-pitched indignant sound. Try to replicate the noise another puppy would make if it were nipped. Presumably that sound is going to be especially informative to your puppy because it says “hey – that hurt!” A low pitched “grrr” or “ouch” may still startle the puppy but probably doesn’t communicate as clearly that you are hurt. So practice that HIGH-pitched yelp. Some men, especially, feel silly doing this. It is worth overcoming any reluctance because someone’s face or your dog’s life could eventually depend on this!

Now, when the puppy bites down “too hard,” and you YELP, pause your motion for a second but do not withdraw your hand. Ninety percent of puppies will immediately let up when you yelp, and will startle a bit. Great! Now start playing with the pup’s muzzle or playing “catch my hand”again. Eventually your pup will get excited and chomp down again. Repeat the yelp and again pause without withdrawing your hand. Do this until you have counted ten yelps, then quit and do something fun. Do this 2-3 times per day, and have everyone in the house hold over age 8 do it at times. This helps the puppy generalize the lesson to all humans.

Eventually – maybe in the first session, maybe after 10 sessions – the puppy will just stop biting down “too hard.” This is what you have been waiting for. Now change your criteria. You are going to yelp when the pup bites down “medium hard.” Do the same routine until the pup is no longer biting down “medium hard.” Repeat the whole process when the pup bites down with “any pressure.” At the end of this, the pup should turn its head away when presented with your hand; lick your hand, or just hold your hand gently in its mouth.

In addition to these formal sessions, make sure to use the same yelp when the pup nips in play. Use the yelp when the pup grabs your clothing – as far as a dog is concerned, clothing should be treated as part of your body.

About 10% of puppies do not stop biting when you yelp. Instead they tend to dig in more fiercely. I suspect this happens a lot with terriers, but I don’t have data on that. Anyway, if that happens, get up and walk away every time the puppy bites. You can do the same exercise, but you can’t leave your hand in the pup’s mouth – since you must walk away. Do the exercise in a puppy proofed room such as the bathroom so that you can safely leave the puppy in there for 20 seconds or so until you return.

Practice this until the puppy is simply refusing to bite down.

This will have a lifetime payoff. If you condition the puppy to moderate its jaw pressure before the age of 12 weeks, it will be much less likely to injure anyone if it happens to bite in the future.

This tends to work less well in pups over about five months of age. After that age, use the getting up and walking away method.

Copyright 2003 by Greta Kaplan


More articles about bite inhibition...

Ian Dunbar, The Bite Stops Here
http://www.jersey.net/~mountaindog/berner1/bitestop.htm

A collection of articles on bite inhbition (including Shirley Chong, Ian Dunbar, and others)
http://www.crickethollowfarm.com/biteinhib.htm

Teaching Your Puppy Bite Inhibition by Ian Dunbar
http://www.roycroftcavaliers.com/manual ... rticle.htm

Karen Pryor on bite inhibition
http://www.clickertraining.com/node/725
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Postby Carissa » May 17th, 2009, 8:58 pm

I think she's pretty good at bite inhibition for the most part now. I let her "mouth" sometimes and if it's just mouthing (no teeth), I don't correct her. Sometimes she'll revert to licking which is fine. It's sharp teeth on skin (which hurts) or grabbing and pulling/tearing clothing that I want to correct. I guess based on the above article, walking away is best when she's like that. Yelping works for about two seconds, then she sometimes bites harder. She's also learning some bite inhibition from my other dog, who corrects her if she bites her ears or feet too hard. But she's also a tough dog with high pain tolerance and doesn't mind her hanging onto her neck skin for long periods of time. I can give her a chew toy and that does work to stop the behavior for the moment (literally seconds, sometimes), but this is something that happens dozens of times a day so I don't always have a toy available at that moment. I'll try the yelping and walking away if that doesn't work and see what happens.
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Postby TheRedQueen » May 17th, 2009, 10:22 pm

Carissa wrote:I think she's pretty good at bite inhibition for the most part now. I let her "mouth" sometimes and if it's just mouthing (no teeth), I don't correct her. Sometimes she'll revert to licking which is fine. It's sharp teeth on skin (which hurts) or grabbing and pulling/tearing clothing that I want to correct. I guess based on the above article, walking away is best when she's like that. Yelping works for about two seconds, then she sometimes bites harder. She's also learning some bite inhibition from my other dog, who corrects her if she bites her ears or feet too hard. But she's also a tough dog with high pain tolerance and doesn't mind her hanging onto her neck skin for long periods of time. I can give her a chew toy and that does work to stop the behavior for the moment (literally seconds, sometimes), but this is something that happens dozens of times a day so I don't always have a toy available at that moment. I'll try the yelping and walking away if that doesn't work and see what happens.


Umm...that doesn't seem to jive for me. She can't be good at bite inhibition, yet still be biting too hard. :|

How much playtime does she get with other dogs/puppies that aren't your other dog? They'll learn bite inhibition with other dogs, like you said...so the more playtime she gets with others will help. A good puppy class will help!

I'm also not sure what you mean by "correcting" the behavior. You are going to have a harder time with corrections and getting bite inhibition, as you'll be suppressing the behavior (biting) rather than teaching her what is appropriate and waht is not. What are you using for corrections? When I see the word "correction", I think of positive punishment...which is not something I use for biting puppies.
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"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw
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Postby Malli » May 18th, 2009, 3:47 am

hypothetically, what if you were to redirect the puppy to an appropriate toy, and he or she were to still choose inappropriately mouthing and nipping? What would be the next step here ? I'm taking notes for a "some-time-in-the-future" puppy :)
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Postby Carissa » May 18th, 2009, 7:25 am

She understands bite inhibition when she is calmer, but occasionally forgets about it to some degree when she is excited. By correction I mean something that will let her know that biting is not a good thing. Whatever that may be. I don't think it's ok for her to be biting at all. Why would I want to teach her that it's ok to bite? Inhibition means she doesn't bite with full force. That's 95 - 99 % the case already. But now I don't want her biting at all. My thinking is that if it's ok for her to bite as a puppy, it will be ok as an adult, and I don't want that. Am I off base? Or maybe I'm trying to teach this too early?
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Postby TheRedQueen » May 18th, 2009, 9:41 am

Bite inhibition means that they know how to control their mouth...dogs that have bite inhibition are NOT running around using their mouth on everyone. Read through the articles, all of them take it to the final level of no teeth on human skin. The reason that teaching BI is better than correcting is that the dog knows how hard is too hard. Eventually it becomes "any contact is too "hard". This helps the dog in the future if they have reason to bite someone (say they're hit by a car and scared and bite their rescuer...their bite hopefully will be softer than a dog with no BI).

I have raised two puppies in the past year alone that were hard core biters. One was my SDiT, Bryce...a smooth collie pup. He was one that would come back harder for a bite if you yelped. Every time he bit too hard for that week (we did the BI week by week...), I'd yelp and get up and walk away. EVERY TIME. He learned to control his mouth pressure because all the fun stuff went away when he bit too hard. Now he's a 9 month old puppy who doesn't use his mouth on people...but knows how to control his mouth if he did. VERY important stuff for a dog that might have to put his mouth on human skin as a Service Dog. (he might have to reposition an arm or leg with his mouth)

My foster puppy, Gibbs, who is with me right now, was a HORRIBLE biter when I got him at 11 weeks. He was regularly drawing blood with his family...even on their faces. When he was using his mouth...they were correcting him, and he'd bite harder. He didn't like the anger and corrections, so he'd get mad and bite harder. That's one concern also with a biter that comes back at ya when you correct. He'd bite when I put my hands on him for anything...looking at ears, teeth, feet, petting, etc. All attention went away when he bit, rather than corrections...and he got clicked and treated for allowing handling to happen. Now at 6 months old, he knows how to control his mouth pressure...and will lick if he's uncomfortable rather than bite. He doesn't come "back at me" anymore...he doesn't use his mouth as a weapon. He was also really bad about biting the other dogs...and they did the SAME thing I did. If he bit too hard, they'd yelp. If he went back for more (and I have plenty of pics of his little snarly face going back for more after getting a dog correction)...they would get up and leave. No more playing if he bit too hard. :D

Puppies/dogs play with their mouths...that's just what they do. They explore, they learn, etc. As humans, we don't like it because we play with our hands. So we tend to want to suppress/get rid of the mouthing behavior. I prefer to guide them as to how they can use their mouths...so they don't hurt anyone down the road. :dance:

My Score was taught the same thing...and he's got the softest mouth...he carries stuff gently in his mouth...and is learning to hold my hand/arm in his mouth for demonstration. I teach Service Dogs...and I like for my guys to demo everything...I don't want him fearful of a correction if he takes my hand in his mouth. Same goes for Sawyer, John's SD. John is teaching him to pick up his arms with his mouth...in case he needs that help in the future.

To sum it up...no, she won't bite as an adult...all puppies use their mouths. I prefer a mouthy puppy to one that doesn't use it's mouth...as that puppy will have better BI as an adult. Dogs that bite hard as adults usually don't know how to control their mouth pressure. :nono: And no, I don't think she knows BI if she doesn't do it all of the time. :| If she's still biting too hard at times, she's still got work to do. 8) But that's okay...she's still young.
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Postby Malli » May 18th, 2009, 1:00 pm

ahem!
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Postby amazincc » May 18th, 2009, 1:12 pm

Malli wrote:ahem!


Ahem... I'm not Erin, but - game would be over, and said puppy would be ignored. Biting/nipping/mouthing = no fun and no play. :wink:

And you know that praising/treating when puppy DOES play appropriately works wonders. If it works for Sepp... it's almost guaranteed for any other knucklehead... err... dog. :rolleyes2: lol
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Postby ArtGypsy » May 18th, 2009, 2:34 pm

amazincc wrote:
Malli wrote:ahem!


Ahem... I'm not Erin, but - game would be over, and said puppy would be ignored. Biting/nipping/mouthing = no fun and no play. :wink:

And you know that praising/treating when puppy DOES play appropriately works wonders. If it works for Sepp... it's almost guaranteed for any other knucklehead... err... dog. :rolleyes2: lol



Are you guys saying Ahem ((as in clearing throat )), **possible disapproval)), or Amen, as in you agree??? :dance: :dance:
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Anger that things are the way they are.
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Postby amazincc » May 18th, 2009, 2:57 pm

"Ahem"... as in Erin didn't answer Mallikas question, so "Ahem"... I tried to. lol
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Postby ArtGypsy » May 18th, 2009, 3:10 pm

amazincc wrote:"Ahem"... as in Erin didn't answer Mallikas question, so "Ahem"... I tried to. lol



Duh. :wink2:

Sometimes I get the responses out of order..... :crazy2:
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Postby TheRedQueen » May 18th, 2009, 3:36 pm

Hey now...I did answer, in a round-about way. ;)

But yeah...like Christine said...if the pup won't re-direct to a toy, and goes back in if you yelp...remove all attention. Just abruptly get up and end the game. The adult dogs will do the same thing...they'll yelp if it hurts, and if the pup keeps going, they'll walk away (often shaking their head in disgust...lol).

8)
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Postby Malli » May 18th, 2009, 3:58 pm

k, thanks ! :)
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Postby dlynne1123 » May 18th, 2009, 4:25 pm

Carissa wrote:She understands bite inhibition when she is calmer, but occasionally forgets about it to some degree when she is excited. By correction I mean something that will let her know that biting is not a good thing. Whatever that may be. I don't think it's ok for her to be biting at all. Why would I want to teach her that it's ok to bite? Inhibition means she doesn't bite with full force. That's 95 - 99 % the case already. But now I don't want her biting at all. My thinking is that if it's ok for her to bite as a puppy, it will be ok as an adult, and I don't want that. Am I off base? Or maybe I'm trying to teach this too early?



Have you tried limiting t his excitement in the home to times that you initiate them? Then you can have the toy handy? I have a multiple pit bull home and 'horse play' just isn't allowed in the house. Outside, they get a release command to go play or have fun. We also have a 'break it up' command that means mind your business and leave each other alone. When they were puppies they were allowed free time so long as it was calm time. When things get rowdy, with me or other dogs, they get a time out in their crates (this is after we've trained that crates are calm places with great toys). They had a time at first where they dragged their leash around the house so I could pull them away from myself or anything they were getting rowdy with, so I wouldn't have to continue to reach for them to put them away. This was all in a calm mind set, not flustered or angry.

In addition they get supervised play time and training time for significant parts of the day to keep them happily exhausted when in the house.
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Postby Carissa » May 18th, 2009, 7:44 pm

We're trying to teach her to give it up when she gets too noisy (mainly barking) in the house. We just started so it will take a little while. The other dog already knows what we say and responds accordingly, but it's the pup that keeps on going. I think a part of puppies brains shuts down when they get hyper.

The other thing is that she will try biting clothes, hair, shoes etc. when we're not playing with her. So to restrict times when she tries to bite to times I have a toy handy, would mean crating her most of the time.

So today I tried getting her to mouth my hand. Mostly it was no teeth or gentle but if she pushed down at all I would yelp. She understands that when she's calm, but when the puppy fits come on, understanding goes out the window and it's bite, bite, bite anything in reach. When she gets really hyper when she's playing, my other pit pins her down by the neck for a few seconds. That gets her more hyper, but, she backs off from her! :) So it does the trick. Then she hides under a table or chair and barks very noisily at her until it grates on my nerves and I take her away or put them outside.
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