Hi everyone. This is a wonderful web site.
We just bought a six-week old lab puppy five days ago. She's yellow. The last couple days she's been growling at us, biting at our legs and feet and wanting to pick fights. I know this is a domination game, but how does one stop it?
And she bites constantly without any breaks. She doesn't cuddle or like to be petted, she just wants to know on your legs, pants, hands or whatever else is available. Any solutions for such a young pup?
Thanks ahead of time.
Part of the reason for her behavior is that she was taken away from her siblings too early. Unless you had to rescue her it would have been better for her to stay with her siblings and dam until she was 8 weeks old. This is critical for her to learn proper social behavior, which includes bite inhibition. Many states now have a law that a pup can not be sold before they are 8 weeks old. If you haven't already, buy the book Labradors for Dummies or Puppies for Dummies - it has some useful suggestions. Meanwhile, distract her from biting by always having an alternative chew toy to give her. Also say 'ouch' in a loud voice when she bites and say 'no' and give her the chew toy. Be consistent and good luck.
Although it would have been better to wait until eight weeks (and most responsible breeders will ask that you wait until then, or at the very least seven), what's done is done, and you certainly can raise a wonderful pup. And although I agree with threelabs' post and suggestions, young puppies are nipping/biting/gnawing/playing machines. It seems that they never stop unless they're sleeping!
My first advice is to totally forget about the dominance thing for now--what you have is a tiny infant, and she is not thinking in those terms. She is trying to play with you and to explore the world with her mouth, which is what all puppies need to do. However, you do need to teach her (as her mom and littermates would) that (1) hard biting is unacceptable. You will go on to teach her that (2) any teeth on human skin is unacceptable. This is called teaching "bite inhibition." Many Labs seem to stop nipping on their own (they go from piranhas to teddybears as they mature), but it's by no means guaranteed.
You will find that the more riled up she gets, the more she will bite. Pups are just like kids--sometimes when they are most tired they are the most crazy. If she is driving you crazy, put her down for a nap and ignore her. Many times you'll find that she'll just go to sleep.
In addition to Labradors for Dummies and Puppies for Dummies, you might want to look at Before and After You Get Your Puppy, by Ian Dunbar. He's a little hysterical (implies that if you don't teach everything in the book by 16 weeks, you're sunk), but he has excellent discussions of chew toys, bite inhibition, crate training, and housetraining.
Also search this part of the site for "nipping" and "biting" and you'll get a lot of other advice.
Good luck and enjoy your pup!
Edited to add: I forgot to mention that there is a big difference between a "play growl" and a "threat growl." Chances are she is just doing play growls to get you to play with her. Play growls are usually short and repeated and accompanied with bouncy happy behavior, where as threat growls are slow, sustained, and are accompanied typically by stillness and a hard stare.
Awsome post theoconbrio... Everything said was true for us!
Try to divert the biting/attacks to a toy. Allie liked things that moved quickly more than us because we stayed stationary... Heres a video of what I mean...
also keep in mind that when you are trying to calm your puppy down, you can keep your movements slow and deliberate and also keep your voice down as well. if you yell, push, wave your arms, stomp your legs and such, the puppy will more likely to think that you are enjoying the game of biting despite your angry words. your body language may very well be telling your pup, "please keep biting me. this is so much fun!"
if giving an appropriate chew toy doesn't work, give the pup a time out. being denied access to a playmate is the kind of punishment that the puppy will respond to. puppy hate to lose playtime.
batting your pup away or otherwise manhandling often backfires. doing these things can get the pup more excited and harder to control, because to the pup, you are play yelling, and you are play fighting.
if you hurt the pup, they stop playing, right? they become very calm and quiet. some people would say that THIS is how you teach your pup to stop acting badly. i admit that this is very effective, especially in teaching your pup that you don't understand her, you send mixed signals about playtime, you are unpredictably violent, and you are the source of pain. not good.
as i said, if you hurt the pup, they stop playing, right? well, you can use this concept to teach your pup the rules of biting. right know she doesn't know the rules. all she knows that biting is fun, fun, fun.
set up training senarios in a room where you and your pup can play. make sure the room is puppy proofed.
when the pup starts biting too hard or too much and the chew toy isn't working to redirect, tell your pup, "that's enough," in an even tone of voice and leave the room. if you get too upset and you cannot control your tone of voice, simply get up and leave the room, closing the door behind you.
wait a minute of two. go back inside to give your pup another chance to play nicely.
repeat as needed, and you may need to repeat this a hundred times, but you must be consistent.
you can use whatever word or words you want to indicate that the unwanted behavior should stop. if you repeat "that's enough" and leave the room every time, i mean every time, then the puppy will be conditioned to see and understand that "that's enough" means you will leave her, and this behavior from you ONLY occurs when there is too much biting. eventually you'll be able to say "that's enough" and she will stop, and you won't have to leave the room.
you mush teach her that inappropriate biting = losing playtime and companionship
dogs are great at grasping cause and effect concepts. right now your puppy doesn't understand that biting you is bad. you have to train your pup so that she knows the rules before you get upset that she is breaking them.
Ian Dunbar is a reknowned and well respected vet and dog behaviorist and trainer. i highly recommend anything written by him. if not one of his books, please, please get a puppy training book of some time. they are so very helpful for all sorts of training challenages.
first, work on teaching her that too much biting on you is inappropriate.
you want to work on the too much biting probem first, because puppies NEED to bite in order to learn HOW to use their teeth and jaws. if they don't get to practice when their mouths are still relatively harmless, you could have a worse problem when the dog becomes an adult with powerful jaws and teeth.
at around 5 months of age, your pup should have a soft mouth. then, you can work on teaching her not to bite at all.
"Properly trained, a man can be dog's best friend." ~ Corey Ford
Great advice already.... I'll just restate the effectiveness of a stern tone of voice and withdrawl of attention, immediately and consistently to teach bite inhibition. Biscuit HATED it when I'd withdraw my attention (e.g., my arm which he was "attacking") and within about 1 or 2 weeks, figured out that this was NOT the way to play with mom. I'll just add that it will be important to have everyone that your pup plays with do the same thing, or training the bite inhibition will take MUCH longer. This can be hard when people see an adorable puppy and say, "Oh it's OK that he nips me a little bit--he's just playing". :-\
<br />Kristin & Biscuit
I second everything everyone said above...
BUT... wanted to add another book recommendation... not necessarily for this particular problem you are having now but just a great book that taught me so much about "reading" my puppy. "The Other End of the Leash" by Patricia McConnell
Also... there is some excellent advice in the "Our Best Advice" thread at the top of this forum.
Zakk is the same dern way - my hands, arms and legs look like a WAR zone. I have some BAD cuts on my hand where he grabs and I can't get my hand out of his mouth and he's pulling away from me. He ripped 3 shirts and ripped a hole in my FAVORITE jeans last night.
I guess he's getting better, but the NO BITE thing is coming in handy - plus we hold our hand on his tongue and say NO BITE when he's bitting at us.
When Allie was a puppy she had random attacks of nipping. We wouldn't even be playing, on our way out for church, she would just up and nip my hand in a playful way. Between human yelping, snout holding, and baby teeth falling out, the nipping went away completely. But for months my hands were a wreak. I tried gloves when playing, BAD IDEA. Allie realized that she could do all these things rougher and harder, even today when I put on gloves, she thinks its play hard time...