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Postby pitsnok » December 17th, 2010, 1:09 am

Sorry to DP but I felt like I should say that although it seemed play-ish, it wasn't just mouthing. It was like, my arm in his mouth, but there was no vocalizing or anything, and it was brief. When Ollie, and all our others, have been mouthy they have shown signs of realizing they did something wrong when they have been corrected...not boss. It almost seems like he is "standing up" to me...or something? (Does that even make sense?)
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Postby hugapitbull » December 17th, 2010, 7:19 am

I have stayed out of this thread because I am not a trainer and because the trainers here will give you excellent advice. They are the reason we still have Duke and the reason he continues to improve. I am forever thankful for what I have learned from the folks here.

But since I've been in almost the same place you are in (without the biting, just growl warnings), I thought I would relate a couple of things I've learned dealing with Duke. Duke is on strict NILF. It isn't as hard as you may think, as a matter of fact, it just becomes routine. He sits before he is fed, to be leashed & unleashed, and does a sit, down, or speak for treats. Sometimes we will throw in a roll over if there is room.

I never attempt to take away anything he is trying to protect. I get something else he likes and trade for it. It took just about a year to get to a point where I know what to expect with him and to successfully avoid confrontations. We continue to work on his outside issues with people, 4-wheelers, motorcycles, etc., but even those things are slowly improving (most days).

Duke is very vocal when he plays, if you don't know he is playing, it will scare the pejebers out of you. You have to know when the growl is playing and when it is seriously warning you.

Like Duke, you brought Boss into your home as an adult dog, complete with whatever quirks he has developed along the way. Changing him isn't going to be an overnight process. You should see tiny improvements along the way.

You are making progress with the crate. Now you know you have to work on the toy guarding as well. Only you can make the decision to keep trying or if keeping him isn't worth the risk. If you come the the point where you must make that decision, know that you have given Boss every opportunity.
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Postby TheRedQueen » December 17th, 2010, 9:22 am

I hate to say this, but regardless of whether he's playing or not...he doesn't appear to have very good bite inhibition. This will be a problem with being adoptable...as you can't have him around kids or anyone else that might have a problem with a big dog biting. :( I have herding dogs...so I definitely understand the problem of using their teeth inappropriately. When I adopted Xander, his way of playing was to jump up and grab my bicep with his mouth. But then again, I had adopted a herding dog...and was familiar with the type of dog he was...so it wasn't a big deal for me. Having a pit bull that does the same thing...doesn't bode well for being adoptable. Sorry to be a downer.

That said...I do have to agree with Amalie...dogs guard what THEY view as worth guarding. As I always tell people...it's up to the dog to decide whether it's a good thing or not. When you're training, you can shove dog treats at a dog all day, but if the dog doesn't like that flavor/texture/etc...it's not reinforcing. The dog decides. Same thing with guarding...it's what the DOG views as valuable. My Inara is my worst guarder...but she does it on a low-level, and it keeps boarding dogs from getting into trouble...as she actually guards the trash can, the pantry (where the food is out on open shelves) and my bed (which I don't need EVERY dog getting on). She also guards the counters...and has cured counter-surfers that stay at my house. lol She's a true herding bitch. But none of these things are the typical thing that dogs guard...I can take any toy, bone, chewie, etc away from her...and I can sit and mess with her dinner bowl or Kong all day. But no dog is allowed near the trash can! (except her brothers)
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo

"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw
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Postby TheRedQueen » December 17th, 2010, 9:32 am

pitsnok wrote:Sorry to DP but I felt like I should say that although it seemed play-ish, it wasn't just mouthing. It was like, my arm in his mouth, but there was no vocalizing or anything, and it was brief. When Ollie, and all our others, have been mouthy they have shown signs of realizing they did something wrong when they have been corrected...not boss. It almost seems like he is "standing up" to me...or something? (Does that even make sense?)

Sorry, I missed this one before...so I'm DP too. ;)

Here is one problem with correcting this type of behavior...some dogs need a different level of correction than others. From the sound of it, the other dogs all show submissive behaviors when corrected for mouthing...and Boss just shrugs it off. The dangerous part is finding out HOW much more punishment to add, if you're headed that route. Adding punishment to a (could be) aggressive behavior is fighting fire with fire. And I'm using the word punishment to mean Positive Punishment (adding an aversive stimulus)...you're using a vocal punisher or physical...not sure which, but with a dog like this...you're asking for trouble, imho. He's a big dog that's shown that he has NO trouble using his teeth to solve problems.

He's not being dominant or standing up to you...he just doesn't give a crap about your punisher, like the other, softer dogs do. I've got herding dogs, as I mentioned...and they all use their mouths at times. Sawyer actually put holes in my arm when I pushed him years ago (I won't go into it all again...it's probably searchable here on PBT). Suffice to say, he was growling, I pushed him...and pinned him...and he bit me, hard. I still have scars. We went completely hands-off at this point...NILIF but also only clicker and treats, with NO handling at this point. It wasn't easy but it paid off as he now trusts me completely. So when I say that it's hard to fight fire with fire, I do know. I gambled wrong and have the scars to show it. I'm not just talking out of my ass on this one.
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo

"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw
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Postby amalie79 » December 17th, 2010, 10:12 am

Robin, as I said, is very mouthy. She plays hard and plays with her mouth. And while I'd say she has pretty good bite inhibition in terms of force (she's not broken the skin on any of us here), she does "bite" hard.

I've tried the yelping thing you can do with puppies that's supposed to simulate a sibling's response to being too rough...Yeah right. The look on her face when I do that is something akin to, "Whoa. That is the COOLEST thing I've made her do yet! AGAIN!" :rolleyes2: Noise "aversives" aren't very aversive for her-- they're escalating for play. Same with pushing her off. I have to completely ignore her until she stops, or distract her with some commands.

And, yeah, we have a dog that was trained in very traditional methods (choke chain, newspaper, etc.) and was punished when he growled. And so he learned not to growl. We also learned the hard way not to fight fire with fire.
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Where you invest your love, you invest your life." --Marcus Mumford

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Postby TheRedQueen » December 17th, 2010, 10:29 am

amalie79 wrote:Robin, as I said, is very mouthy. She plays hard and plays with her mouth. And while I'd say she has pretty good bite inhibition in terms of force (she's not broken the skin on any of us here), she does "bite" hard.


To clarify...when I say "good bite inhibition" I mean that the dog knows how to control the mouth pressure no matter what it has its mouth on...human, dog, toy, etc. and the frequency of the use of the mouth. It's very hard (dare I say impossible) to teach an adult dog (over 4-6 months old) to have good bite inhibition. You can work on it...but to have a really good mouth, it should be done as puppies. Not to say that you can't have your dog get better...but when it comes to crunch time, a dog with good BI (tired of typing that all out) taught as a pup, is going to have better control.

I do play lots and lots of bitey games with my dogs...but it's all on MY timetable and request...they don't just mouth me when they feel like it, or when they want attention, or when they get too aroused. Inara is my one to nip my legs when I'm running and she's excited...but that ends all play for her. Xander and Score love to play bitey games with my hands under the blankets. Figgy loves to nip and tug my pant legs and shoelaces (and I'm putting that one on cue so I have control over that potentially dangerous game). Sawyer mouths John when they play. But it's all when WE say so, not when the dogs say so. I think that's VERY important for dogs to know...so they don't just grab people when they're out with their owners (and probably doubly important for bully breeds). My dogs are Service and Therapy dogs...they can't just grab someone's hand/arm/pant leg when they want attention. lol

One of my favorites on BI is from Shirley Chong:
M. Shirley Chong has a wonderful article on the Keeper Page at on teaching bite inhibition.

http://www.shirleychong.com/keepers/archives/bite.txt

She has two basic assumptions:

1) Any dog, no matter how stable and well socialized, could be pushed far enough to bite. I don't think there's a dog alive that wouldn't bite if it thought it was defending it's own life.

2) Although I try my best to protect my dog from situations where they could be defensive, life happens and I may not always succeed.

If the worst happened and my dog were pushed to the point of biting, I'd rather have a dog that knew how much pressure is enough to make their point rather than a dog that rips someone's face off due to a lack of experience in biting.

A dog that causes a bruise or superficial scratch is much less likely to be condemned to death by the local authorities than one that leaves deep punctures and/or rips.

Ian Dunbar studied over 130 cases of serious dog bites. In every single one of those cases, the dogs had been brought up with bite prohibition (love that word for the distinction, Helix!) rather bite inhibition.

Yes, it's true that dogs raised with bite inhibition do bite more. But I believe that they cause fewer injuries and less severe injuries.

And playing bitey-bitey games with dogs is lots of fun.

I want my dogs to be experts in just how to bite humans just as I want them to be experts at dog aggression. My intention in both cases is to have a safer dog.

M. Shirley Chong



I know we're a bit off-topic, but I think it's important to this thread also... :D
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo

"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw
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Postby amalie79 » December 17th, 2010, 10:50 am

Thanks, Erin! You reminded me of where I was actually going with that post!! I was just listening to Ian Dunbar's podcast on dog bites the other day...

What I was going to say is that while Robin never does harm, this just shows why teaching bite inhibition as a puppy is so important-- I can't use the same techniques and her jaw is a lot harder. Unfortunately, those of us who take on adult dogs always have things we have to manage, and inappropriate mouthing is oftentimes one of them. I'm trying to teach her that there's a time and place for bitey games-- mainly because it'll be easier teaching her those things than it will be teaching my husband to NOT play those games at all. lol

I have watched her go a little postal on the other dogs, and she never made a scratch. She just doesn't know yet the appropriate time and place with people, and that people aren't ok playing as rough. May never teach her these things, but we can try. It's always something with an adult adoption...
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Where you invest your love, you invest your life." --Marcus Mumford

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Postby TheRedQueen » December 17th, 2010, 11:28 am

I think with a dog that is mouthy, that appropriate bitey games are good...so you have it under control. Like I mentioned that Figgy loves to grab my pant legs and shoelaces. So I've got him tugging my socks off, and my pant legs, like a mini-service dog...which makes a cute trick, and I'm gaining stimulus control over the behavior. lol
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo

"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw
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Postby mnp13 » December 17th, 2010, 4:40 pm

We've had Ruby for 8 years. She and I play bitey games all the time, and it hurts. In 8 years, she has never done more than give me bad bruises. She has made Riggs, Connor, Emma and Inara bleed (some more times than others) but with the exception of a scratch from her newly broken off canine hasn't left a mark on me.

Poor Riggs tries to play, but has all broken teeth, so even when he tries to be nice he draws blood.
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Postby pitsnok » December 17th, 2010, 7:04 pm

I definitely now KNOW what he sees as valuable. That was just the first instance of guarding anything from a person that I have seen...if it was in fact guarding at all. But I sure won't be reaching for anything like that again.

Also, All I said was a firm, "No!" when correcting him. Nothing angry or out of control. And I picked up the ball and we were done playing.

I guess because this is all so new to me I feel unqualified. Like I won't know what decisions to make... and also that I'm not even qualified to make those decisions. It's just so hard because I can't read Boss that well. When he is being snippy at another dog, I see it coming. But with people...maybe I just don't protect myself like I do the dogs, but I don't ever see it coming. And he is just so freakin' wonderful at all other times that it makes it even harder.




(I will warn, this semester has just come to a terrible end, and I am an emotional wreck right now...so I could be blowing things way out of proportion. I'm also a little concerned that the dogs have been a factor in my semester ending so badly. like I said, I am a wreck.)
~Brittany, Degan and Harlow's mom


"It is true that Pit Bulls grab and hold on. But what they most often grab and refuse to let go of is your heart, not your arm."
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Postby TheRedQueen » December 17th, 2010, 8:24 pm

pitsnok wrote:Also, All I said was a firm, "No!" when correcting him. Nothing angry or out of control. And I picked up the ball and we were done playing.


I was just mentioning the punisher (not saying that you're using physical punishment...just using punishment instead of correction), because you said that it doesn't work for him. I'm using this as an example of what I've mentioned before...it's hard to use positive punishment (P+) for this type of behavior problem...because it usually escalates instead of getting better. P+ just meaning that you're *adding* an aversive (something the dog doesn't like, basically). The problem is, the P+ has to fit perfectly for it to be any good for training. So if he's blowing off your "NO", then it's not enough...not strong enough. So you'll have to ramp up your aversive...and that's risky when you're dealing with such a major issue. You mentioned that the other dogs will stop when you use the same correction...which is common...dogs have different levels of sensitivity to different aversives (what one finds aversive, another doesn't even notice) ;)

That said...:hug3:...I'm sorry that things suck right now. :hug3:
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo

"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw
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Postby tiva » December 17th, 2010, 11:28 pm

pitsnok wrote:I feel like he was just playing. Although it did break the skin this time. Earlier in the evening he had jumped up on boyfriend and bit a hole in his hoodie... I think he just had energy to burn and got a little wild. Hence why we went to play with the jolly ball.


I can't tell from your descriptions if he was guarding, or just playing roughly. It sounds like the second, but this is why relying on forums is tricky: we weren't there.

My Vanya used to get very excited playing (because my husband was roughhousing with him), and he would sometimes grab guy's jackets, and he did break the skin a couple times while playing, when someone reached for his ball. It wasn't guarding at all, but it still wasn't ok, since we have a lot of college kids working on the farm during the summer.

My first, most important training challenge was to train the husband and the kids on the farm to STOP roughhousing with Vanya.

For working with Vanya to teach him to stop grabbing at clothes and grabbing for the toys, I did a lot of work with impulse control games. Sophia Yin has a number of videos on her website illustrating them; essentially, you play with the dog as long as they are acting appropriately, and your turn to the side the moment they get too jumpy or mouthy--but the key element that keeps the dog from self-reinforcing by jumping or grabbing at you is the addition of a gate or tether, so that if the dog does become inappropriate, you can step back, just out of reach, so they can't self-reinforce. The visuals of the videos are a lot clearer than a verbal description.

I'm not recommending this for your dog, but I also eventually used an e-collar with Vanya to correct this behavior, in part because I couldn't get the humans to stop the behaviors that were reinforcing Vanya for jumping and grabbing. The e-collar worked very well for this, but I had already created a foundation with the collar in other situations, so he knew what a very low stim meant, and he knew what he had to do to turn the stim off. I didn't use high levels as positive punishment, but only very low stims. It allowed us to get his attention without causing the heightened aggression and escalation that other corrections have the potential to cause. This may just be Vanya's personality, but I'm much more comfortable using an e-collar for corrections with him than other corrections, which make him fearful, defensive, and guardy. When we adopted him, he had been a stray, and not surprisingly, he resource-guarded food and snapped when people grabbed his collar. I counter-conditioned both those using Jean Donaldson's protocols in MINE, and now he doesn't guard and he looks for treats as soon as someone touches his collar. But because of his history, I didn't want him to ever associate any human touch or proximity with pain. The collar stim is impersonal (and very mild); I'm still the Treat Lady, not the Pain Lady.
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Postby pitsnok » December 18th, 2010, 4:04 am

Erin, Is the opposite of positive punishment, negative reinforcement? (I was a psych major for a while and ... well... it still confuses me. haha.)

See with Ollie we can teach bite inhibition...because he PLAYS...and he plays pretty rough. He has gotten much better though, aside from when he is just over the moon excited. Boss though... if you try to play with him, he just doesn't understand. I think he actually sees it as being threatening.

Michelle, we have the same play time with Degan as you do with Ruby. If he even just touches with his teeth it hurts. But also, he has never broken the skin. He's just not very gentle in general, haha. Also, if he even touches with his teeth he immediately pulls his head back like, "oh sh*t! I bit!"


Even though Boss hasn't really injured me, I've realized that I'm a little bit afraid. Not of HIM himself, but I guess of certain situations with him. Like if he is in the way, I'm almost afraid of making him get out of the way. And tonight I gave him some claritin... (boyfriend was supposed to put it in their food but forgot) and I was afraid he was going to be mad at me for opening his mouth and bite. I know it's going to make him uneasy if I'm uneasy and that really worries me.


We are doing NILIF with Boss, and as much as we can with Ollie. (I am anyway. I'm pretty sure boyfriend is too.)
They have to sit (in their crates) before getting food. Sit before going outside, sit before coming inside. Sit (or go in bed) for treats. I make Boss sit before I pet him, etc. Like I said before I definitely think that is helping, especially with the crate issue. But now that the biting has turned to a guarding thing, I'm starting to feel more and more hopeless. Like perhaps even though he might improve, I'm just delaying the inevitable.


But guys, I've never put a dog down ever. Not even a family pet in my lifetime. To be totally honest, it scares the hell out of me.
~Brittany, Degan and Harlow's mom


"It is true that Pit Bulls grab and hold on. But what they most often grab and refuse to let go of is your heart, not your arm."
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Postby TheRedQueen » December 18th, 2010, 9:24 am

I'm still wrapping my head around P+ and stuff...;) I'm just an art major that has to learn all this science stuff to be a better dog trainer.

http://www.psychology.uiowa.edu/faculty ... digms.html
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo

"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » December 18th, 2010, 10:31 am

Here's a great post about the four quadrants: viewtopic.php?f=19&t=15822
I know some people now add "extinction" as a fifth quadrant. Quintret? Whatever, a fifth option. :wink:

I'm sorry you're so confused and uneasy around Boss. You're right - he'll totally sense that. Can you get a professional in to assess him and offer some help?
"Remember - every time your dog gets somewhere on a tight leash *a fairy dies and it's all your fault.* Think of the fairies." http://www.positivepetzine.com"

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Postby amalie79 » December 18th, 2010, 11:28 am

I know exactly how you feel being uneasy around him. It was hard to feel comfortable after the first time Simon snapped at me, after so many years of being able to handle him any which way I wanted. With him, I did lots of body handling exercises when he was calm, but his alzheimer's makes any real progress impossible. Still, Simon takes about half a dozen pills a day, and I never "pill" him. He gets them smeared in peanut butter or hidden in pumpkin. 8)

Robin snapped at me early on when I reached for a piece of bone that she wasn't even chewing on. Then she snapped at me over a stuffed toy. She never made contact, but it scared the bejeezus out of me.

After that, Erin gave me some great advice to go totally hands off with her. I herded her around the house, or had a leash on her. I took away the high-value real bones. We continued playing a lot of trade/drop it games with low value stuff and kept up with a "go to your room" command, as well as recall and "leave it"" commands, so that we never had to touch her. I think it helped her settle in and know that we weren't going to physically hurt her or take things away. As soon as she learned about tugging games, she started bringing her toys and putting them in my hand. I almost cried. Almost a year later and we're finally comfortable enough giving her nylabones. Haven't tried any real ones yet... 8)

Sometimes it feels like there's one problem after another just piling on. Robin was such a sweetie lovebug when she got here... then we noticed the guarding... then the growling at strangers outside the house... then growling inside the house... barking at people walking down the street. And I hate for people to see a growling pit bull. And I never want something to go wrong. I had to take a step back and realize that she'll take a lot of work; we already have a management dog, so it wasn't completely new, but it was sooo deflating knowing that, once again, for the next however many years, I'll have to manage my dog; we all want an easy low maintenance dog that loves everyone and everything. Luckily, she's smart and young so there's hope that she'll become a more confident dog. It's taken us all some time to get comfortable with each other, for me to be confident around her, for us to all learn each other's quirks.

Hang in there. I know how tough it is. :hug3: :hug3:
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Where you invest your love, you invest your life." --Marcus Mumford

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