I haven't had an 8 week old puppy for a long time! I was just wondering if growling along with the mouthing, biting thing was normal behavior in a puppy, or if this is a sign of bad things to come! Also, what is the best way to stop the behavior?
When the puppy is biting, we tell him no very firmly, and make him settle by holding him on his side on the floor. When I do this he gets mean about it (if a puppy can be mean, aggressive that is!). He growls and tries desperately to get back up and tries biting even more! I'm worried that we got ourselves into an aggressive dog problem! After I hold him down for a few seconds and firmly let him know it's not permissible, he does stop snapping and growling and somewhat relaxes.
Does this seem like normal puppy behavior?
Mouthing and vocalizing is normal. It's play. Holding him down is going to wind him up and make him act out more. I would not hold him down. That is about as effective a behavior modification technique as holding down a 3 year old child. A child would cry, scream, struggle with you. I don't think you want to break the puppy's spirit, do you?
If he is out of hand and being wild he likely needs a nap. Put him in his crate. My now 12 week old puppy has a pretty regular nap schedule and when he varies from it his behavior is worse (like a little kid).
When he bites/mouths you I find it more effective to make a sharp loud sound (ACK!) or yipe as a puppy would. When he stops - praise him. When he latches onto your hand or other item you don't want him chewing on YIPE or ACK, remove the item, praise when he stops and offer an alternative chew item. Puppies are teething and REALLY need things to chew on. He will learn quickly what you approve of him chewing (which is not to say that he will stop chewing on other things if given the chance).
Sharon, Blaise and Diesel.
Here is a handout from my puppy class. I find that tethering works very well.
Mouthing is a normal behaviour in puppies. It should go away on its own by the time your puppy is between 4 and 5 months of age. That is unless your puppy’s mouthing is rewarded. Very often your attempts to correct your puppy will inadvertently reward him. Instead of punishing your puppy for play biting on human skin or clothes, it is recommended that you teach your puppy bite inhibition. This means to control the amount of pressure he exerts when he play bites. First, you will target the bites with the most pressure, the ones that really hurt. These hard bites should be marked with a signal from you, “OUCH” or “AYE”. Then you should immediately remove all rewards from your puppy. This is a time-out. A time-out should mean no fun for puppy for 30-60 seconds. Think of it like a penalty in hockey. There are various ways to carry out a time-out…
1- Take the puppy away from the fun by immediately escorting him to his crate/safe area. Remain unemotional, you are not angry and he is not “in trouble”. Release him after the allotted time and carry on. If he re-offends repeat the time-out. Make sure there are no toys in the crate. Your puppy will likely cry in objection, ignore this completely. Only release him from the crate if he is quiet for at least a few seconds.
2- Take the fun away from the puppy. Get up and leave, taking any toys around with you. Leave the room if you have to. What you are trying to teach your puppy is that no one will play with him if he bites hard.
3-This is an exercise that requires just a little planning but if practiced regularly will be very helpful. Tether your puppy to a doorknob or stable piece of furniture. The tether should only be about 3 feet long. (Use your house line, which has been pre-treated with bitter spray or a light chain leash so he can’t chew the tether). Sit with your puppy and either play with a toy or cuddle. If your puppy plays nicely, the fun continues, but if he bites hard say “OUCH” and immediately move out of your puppy’s reach taking the toy/treats with you. Now ignore him for the 30-60 seconds. This exercise allows you to achieve accurate timing. Timing is very important to help your puppy understand exactly what he did to make you leave and the fun stop. Once he is quiet, return to your puppy and interact with him again. Every time he re-offends, repeat the time-out. It is important to completely ignore your puppy while he is on a time-out. Do not try to quiet him if he is vocal in his objections. If he is crying or barking, he really doesn’t like the fact that the fun is over. That is the whole point! Once the hard bites are far and few between, it is time to target medium pressure bites, and then finally any mouthing at all. Your puppy will have learned that humans are very sensitive, even grazing them with puppy teeth and they don’t play with you.
4- Another option, is to simply stop the fun without leaving the puppy. Signal you felt the bite and don’t like it with an “ouch!” then freeze. Hold the puppy still not allowing any fun and wait for polite behaviour. Then you can continue playing with or handling your puppy. You don’t have to sound angry, however you do want your puppy to understand that the biting was not appreciated.
The “Anything But Biting Game”
This game will help teach your puppy to keep his teeth off people skin and clothes and will also teach your puppy to love being handled by people. Everyone in your puppy’s life should regularly play this game. It focuses on rewarding the absence of mouthing. (When behaviour is rewarded, it is more likely to happen again.) There is no punishment for your puppy in this game for not getting it right.
You will need many small treats (or your puppy’s dinner). You can do this with your pup on the floor, on the bed, on the table at the vet’s, in the car (as long as you aren’t driving!) just about anywhere! Touch your puppy and hold for a few seconds, if he doesn’t put his teeth on you say “good” and give him a treat. Now touch again a little different, maybe on the leg and reward your puppy again as long as he doesn’t put his teeth on you or your clothes. If it seems too easy, use longer touches before giving the reward. Handle your puppy all over, his face, ears, front paws, back paws, tail, belly etc. Keep your handling gentle and gradually make it more difficult but holding for longer and longer. At first you are just looking for 2-3 seconds of “not biting”, eventually you will expect over a minute and then…infinity!
While playing this game, if your puppy puts his teeth on you or your clothes he does not get a treat. He is not in trouble. Simply say “OUCH” and freeze. Do not take your hand away. When your puppy stops biting, take your hand off and try again. The only consequence for your puppy for biting in this game is…no treats for puppy!
Do not play “wrestly” games that encourage your puppy to play bite at this time.
Handle your pup with gentle, slow motions. Messing up his fur will encourage him to play bite. Teach others how to touch him too.
Toys! Toys! Toys! Always have toys available for your puppy to chew on and play with. Everywhere you go with your puppy, be armed with something “legal” for him to play bite. Encourage your puppy to focus on the toy instead of people and their clothes by moving the toy around in front of him. Puppies are attracted by movement.
Be consistent and patient. Try not to get frustrated. Sometimes you simply need a break so go for a walk, play in the yard or set puppy up in his crate with a filled Kong or other yummy chew toy.
I do not recommend physical corrections for play biting.
To err is human:To forgive, canine."
Thanks for the advice!
So the growling and turning up the biting volume is normal when I try to hold him down after biting. He is actually thinking I'm playing with him?? That's whay I understood from the article. Am I right? I'm glad I asked!!! When he turned up the biting volume I was worried that he was an aggressive type! I guess he's too young to really be able to tell that.
I'll have everyone in the family do the ignore thing. They'll be happier with that tactic anyway.
More likely he feels threatened and helpless and under attack (alpha rolling is not a natural behaviour and all too often makes problems worse,not better.) -one of my favourite articles on this issue: http://www.clickandtreat.com/html/of...ck_article.HTMHe is actually thinking I'm playing with him??
Fall river's advice is excellent.
Some dogs will shut down with excessive pressure and some will just ramp up. Labs normally ramp up The madder we get, the crazier they get. We see it as insolence but they are only trying to elicite play to get us to calm down. The more we hold our breath and glare and yell at them, the more they will try to initiate play. It is a common strategy with labradors and one reason why I love the breed so much.
People commonly think that dogs make a real effort to be 'dominant' and behave in a hierarchical fashion and this really isn't true. Dogs do not go around offering dominance behaviours in an effort to take over the house, they typically offer submissive behaviours in an effort to avoid as much conflict as possible. So when you roll your puppy you create a whole heap of social pressure for him and he will become more 'puppy-like' in an effort to appease you.
Dogs learn through the consequences to their actions. Your job as an owner is to provide consequences to your puppy's behaviours meaning that you reward good behavoiur by allowing the games and social interaction to continue and you punish bad behaviour with an immediate stoppage in action. No further punitive action is necessary because puppy wants the game to continue and will figure out how to make that happen. By stopping the game AND putting an immense amount of social pressure on him, you are much less effective in your timing and communication...not to mention that you are not doing much to instill trust in your puppy
To err is human:To forgive, canine."
I read the article of Fall River and I was a person who believed the thought that if you can hold a puppy on his back and he doesn't squirm and fight, you have a good pup, whereas, if he fights against being on his back and hates it, you have a dominant aggressive one. That is what scared me so much! I'm relieved to hear that this isn't the case. I'm going to try doing the stopping play when he bites. It seems like when he is on his back, that's when he bites the most. I still kind of wonder why that is! I haven't been holding him there though, just when he's on his back rubbing his belly and playing.
Well, now you've opened a whole nuther can of worms
Puppies need to learn how to be handled. Most puppies do not tolerate it well unless we take the time to associate handling with good things for puppy. I like puppies who are easy to handle and I do look for it when selecting puppies but not because they are dominant or submissive, but just because they will be easier to handle!! Having said that, your dog can learn to accept handling.
So, here I will share another handout (although the credit belongs to Jean Donaldson):
Dogs do not naturally love to be touched, held, patted and probed
by humans. In the wild canine world, that kind of intrusive physical contact offered by another dog is very threatening, and valid cause for flight or fight.
Domestic dogs have to be taught to accept the hugging and touching that is second nature to us primates. The sooner dogs are taught to associate good stuff with being handled, the better they will be able to adapt to the strange human culture in which they are expected to live.
Some dogs are touchier about certain body parts than others. Dogs with long
droopy ears, like Cocker Spaniels, are prone to ear infections, and hence tend to be quite sensitive about their ears – they hurt! – or they may have hurt in the past. Other dogs just don’t like certain parts handled or examined. Most common areas of sensitivity are ears, mouth, neck, feet, hindquarters and tail. If your dog has “issues” about a particular part of his body, you will want to proceed very slowly in that area, and spend extra time there with your desensitization. If there aren’t any issues, it’s still a great idea to do these exercises as handling insurance.
Desensitization is simply the process of changing your dog’s negative association with a particular stimulus – in this case, being touched – to positive. The easiest way to do this is using tasty treats. Boiled chicken (or canned, rinsed and drained) works well for most dogs. Your challenge is to go slowly, always working at a level that doesn’t trigger a strong reaction (fight or flight) from your dog. With each body part, your goal is to condition your dog to love being touched, not just submit to or tolerate it.
Let’s take paws, for example. Lots of dogs object to having their feet handled, often because they’ve had unhappy nail-trimming experiences. Perhaps your dog is fine if you touch his shoulder, but starts getting nervous if you go below the elbow. Start your paw desensitization exercise by touching him just above the elbow, then feeding him a tidbit of chicken.
Repeat this exercise until your touch above his elbow causes him to look happily to you for chicken. You want him to think that a touch near the elbow makes chicken appear.
When you see his “Where’s my chicken?!” response to your touch, move down a half-inch and start touching there. When he gives you the “Chicken!” response there, move down again. Continue this until you can touch his paw and get the happy “Chicken!” response.
Remember that your challenge is to go slowly enough that you never evoke a strong negative response from him. You are trying to create a positive association with being touched, and it will be much harder to accomplish that if you keep causing negative reactions.
When you can touch his paw and get a happy response, lift the paw gently and set it back down – then give chicken. Don’t try to hold onto it yet! You still need to proceed very slowly, gradually increasing the length of time you lift the paw, and the amount of holding pressure, until you can hold his paw firmly without an adverse reaction. Good job!
Of course – you’re not done yet – he has three more paws… Depending on your dog, you may accomplish paw-holding in one session, or it may take several weeks. You might be able to work on all four feet in one session, or you and your dog may make better progress if you work on one paw at a time.
Each dog is an individual, and you need to pay attention to your dog’s level of stress and response to your actions. If he stresses easily, it’s better to do several short sessions in a day rather than one long one.
Remember that you want to end on a high note – so if you’ve had good success with one leg and think one or both of you is nearing your tolerance limit, it’s time to stop, and pick up again later. Each time you start anew, begin where you know he is comfortable being touched and proceed from there – although you will probably be able to proceed more quickly in each subsequent session with the territory you’ve already covered.
When your dog is happy to have you touch his paws, you can have other people touch his paws. (If he doesn’t object to you handling his paws from square one, you can start right at this point.) Being slowly, with friends he knows and likes, and, of course, associate all touching with tasty treats. Let him greet the person (politely, we hope), and then you feed the treats while the friend gently touches his legs and feet.
When he is happy about having friends touch and hold his paws, take him out in public. Draft fellow shoppers at your local pet supply store to play the paw-touch game with your dog. Most are pet owners themselves and will be happy to oblige, at least for a brief session. Ask the staff at your vet hospital to help with the touch exercise. (Find out when their slow times are and stop in then, so they will have time to help you.) Have them practice with you in the reception area, and if there’s an empty exam room, try it on the table, too. If the vet happens to have a moment, ask if she can come in for a friendly greeting as well, so that every encounter with the vet doesn’t involve poking and prodding.
You can modify the paw-touching exercise for all the other sensitive body parts. Remember to go slowly to avoid triggering strong reactions. When your dog is happy to have you touch each new body part, again, help him generalize his new, positive association to other people and places.
Another exercise you can teach your dog to make vet visits, grooming and other handling easier for all concerned is “Relax.” This simply involves teaching your dog to lie calmly on his side while he is touched, poked, prodded and handled. Most dogs like a nice tummy rub, so when you get the “Relax” behavior, you can also reward him by gently stroking or scratching his underside. (No vigorous rubbing – remember that you
are trying to get him to be relaxed in this position.) If you and your dog already have a “belly-up” behavior on cue, you’re already there!
Here’s how to teach “Relax”:
Ask your dog to “down.” When he does, praise him quietly, but don’t give him a treat yet. Observe his down position. If he is lying on one hip with his hind legs out to one side, you’re ready to start “relax.” If he’s perfectly square, lying in the “sphinx” position, you need to get him to rock onto one hip first.
To rock him onto one hip, let him see a treat in your hand, then slowly move the treat in a semi-circle “hip curl” from the tip of his nose toward a point on his spine between his shoulder and his hip. As he follows it with his nose he should rock onto one hip. Feed him the treat. Now continue to move the treat over the top of his spine until he starts to roll onto his side. As he rolls, move the treat toward, then over, his head to a point on the floor just in front of his nose. (This will get him to lay his head on the floor.)
As soon as he is flat give him the treat – near the floor so he stays flat. Feed him several treats in this position so he realizes that staying flat is very rewarding. This is a great time to practice gently handling him all over, so he will accept grooming and veterinary exams. Don’t worry if he jumps up when you stop feeding treats - you can work on getting him to stay there longer, later. When he will stay in the “relax” position for several seconds or more you can give him that soothing tummy rub or do some massage techniques as a life reward.
Repeat this sequence until he is luring into the relax position easily for you each time. Then start giving the verbal “relax” cue first and minimizing the lure, until he will relax onto his side for you on just the verbal cue. You can also teach him a hand signal or finger cue for “relax.”
If you practice these handling exercises with your dog and teach him to relax on cue, your veterinarian will love you both. It will be easier for her to make an accurate assessment of your dog’s condition, and get more reliable readings on blood tests. You’ll minimize the risk of your dog biting someone, and eliminate the need for stress-inducing muzzles during exams. Just as important, you and your dog will be able to enjoy those visits to the vet office instead of stressing over them, and that’s a very good thing - we
can all use less stress in our lives!
To err is human:To forgive, canine."
Wow, thanks for the advice!! That must have taken a long time to type all that, I appreciate it! The puppy is doing really well for me now with the mouthing, biting thing. But he is not doing so great for my kids. We'll keep working with him though.