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Teaching Your Puppy Not to Bite

1. Puppies explore with their mouths just like babies explore with their hands. Puppies have sharp teeth and weak jaws – so this is the time to teach them to bite gently – and then not at all – before they develop the strong jaws of an adolescent dog. It is important to teach your puppy to reduce both the force and frequency of his biting.

2. To do this, play with your puppy. Sit on the floor and purposely put your hands near your puppy’s mouth. If you feel a hard bite, say Ouch! And stop playing. If your puppy stops biting, lure him into a sit and reward and start playing again. If your puppy ignores the ‘ouch’, and continues to bite, say OOOWWW and leave the room. Come back after a 20 second time out and do a little sit/down training before starting to play again.

3. An excellent way to practice this is to tether your puppy in an area where he can’t have any fun except with you. Sit on the floor and play with your puppy and when you feel hard bite, say Ouch! Then get up and leave the area for 20 seconds. Repeat this 10 times in a row twice a day. You should be able to play longer and longer between hard bites. Then start reacting to the softer bites as well. If you have children, each person should practice this exercise separately, starting with the adults.

4. Another way to teach your puppy to have a ‘gentle mouth’ is to hand feed him. Your puppy only gets the food when being gentle – and not grabby. If your puppy likes to bite and grab pant legs, stop moving immediately and interrupt him. Call his name and then ask him to do something else such as Sit.

5. Be aware that when your puppy is excited, he’ll be more mouthy and bitey. So first practice when he’s calm. When he is calm, you can do a lot of gentle petting and give him a nice belly rub. If he bites, then all petting stops for 20 seconds. Another consequence to biting is 30 second time out in his crate. Don’t do this in anger – it’s just a neutral consequence to his biting – “Oops – time out – in your crate.”

If you don’t see an improvement in reduced biting, consult a Certified Professional Dog Trainer in your area.

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How to Have a Better Behaved Dog

We all want wonderfully behaved dogs, but it doesn’t happen on its own just because we wish it. It takes time and effort to create the kind of dog and relationship you want. Here are some basic principles that can help you have a better behaved dog.

• Have realistic expectations about your dog. No matter how good your dog is, things will get peed on, chewed or scratched/dug up. Barking / meowing, door dashing and/or pulling on the leash can happen with even the best animal. Accept the fact that dogs are living beings and not china dolls to sit in the corner. If you have a dog, some time during his/her life, you will loose something of value.
• To change behavior you have to be patient and persistent. Change will not happen over night. Sometimes it can take weeks or months to change behavior. The more time you spend and the more often you work with your dog the quicker the change. Despite what some books say, most puppies can’t be housetrained in 7 days.
• Recognize and meet your dog’s behavioral needs. Dogs have needs for exercise, social contact with people and other animals and mental stimulation. Problem-solving toys, can provide mental stimulation. Games such as ‘find the hidden object’ and events such as agility can provide all three.
• Make it easy for your dog to do the right thing. Arrange the environment so that the behavior you want is easily produced. The more often desirable behavior happens the stronger it becomes. For example, minimize distractions when you’re trying to teach your dog something new. Put scratching posts where they are easy for your cat to find and use.
• Make it difficult for your dog to do the wrong thing. Arrange the environment so it is hard for your dog to make mistakes. The more often unwanted behavior happens the harder it is to change. Close the blinds to keep your dog from barking at those that pass by. Scoop out your cats’ litter boxes every day.
• Realize that animals don’t do things out of spite, for revenge or just to make your life miserable. They do what works – that is, what meets their behavioral needs, gets them rewards or allows them to escape or avoid bad things. They sometimes do some things because they are ill. Dogs counter surf because they occasionally hit the jackpot of a sandwich or chicken leg. Cats sometimes pee out of the box because they are sick even when they don’t act sick.

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Building Focus with your Puppy

This tip comes courtesy of Trish King, Director of Behavior and Training at Marin Humane Society

Watch Me!

Nothing can be taught to a dog who isn’t paying attention! So use your motivator to get your dog to watch you. First, put the treat, ball or squeaky on your forehead or right in front of your eyes. Now, say the dog’s name, “PUPPY!” When you get eye contact, pop the treat into her mouth (or give her the ball or squeaky for a couple of seconds). Do it again and again, gradually increasing the amount of time you get eye contact. While she’s looking at you, praise her verbally.

Now, put the motivator behind your back, and call your dog’s name. When you get eye contact, praise her, give her the motivator. Now do it with the motivator at arm’s length. The dog must look at YOU, not the motivator, in order to receive the reward. Pretty soon you’ll have a dog that looks you right in the eye whenever you call her name. Work up to 8 to 10 seconds of attention. As your dog gets better, you can use your release word to allow her to look away.

Your dog doesn’t ALWAYS have to watch you… but she should always be aware of where you are and whether you want her around. Hide and seek (you hide, she seeks) is a great game for teaching her to be alert!

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Adolescent Dogs

A dog’s adolescence is the time when everything starts to fall apart, unless you make a concerted effort to see it through to the stability of adulthood. Your dog’s adolescence is a critical time. If you ignore your dog’s education now, you will soon find yourself living with an ill-mannered, under-socialized, hyperactive animal. Here are some things to watch for.

Household etiquette may deteriorate over time, especially if you start taking your dog’s housetraining and other good behavior for granted. But if you taught your pup well in his earlier months, the drift in household etiquette will be slow until your dog reaches his sunset years, when housetraining especially tends to suffer.

Basic manners may take a sharp dive when puppy collides with adolescence. Lure/reward training your puppy was easy: you taught your pup to eagerly come, follow, sit, lie down, stand still, roll over, and look up to you with unwavering attention and respect because you were your pup’s sun, moon, and stars. But now your dog is developing adult doggy interests, such as investigating other dogs’ rear ends, sniffing urine and feces on the grass, rolling in unidentifiable smelly stuff, and chasing squirrels. Your dog’s interests may quickly become distractions to training, so that your dog will continue sniffing another dog’s rear end rather than come running when called. (What a scary thought, that your dog would prefer another dog’s rear end to you!) All of a sudden he won’t come, won’t sit, won’t settle down and stay, but instead jumps up, pulls on-leash, and becomes hyperactive.

Bite inhibition tends to drift as your dog gets older and develops more powerful jaws. Giving your dog ample opportunity to wrestle with other dogs, regularly hand feeding kibble and treats, and periodically examining and cleaning your dog’s teeth are the best exercises to ensure that your adolescent dog maintains his soft mouth.

Socialization often heads downhill during adolescence, sometimes surprisingly precipitously. As they get older, dogs have fewer opportunities to meet unfamiliar people and dogs. Puppy classes and parties are often a thing of the past and most owners have established a set routine by the time their dog is five or six months old. At home, the dog interacts with the same familiar friends and family, and is walked, if at all, on the same route to the same dog park, where they encounter the same old people and the same old dogs. Consequently, many adolescent dogs become progressively de-socialized toward unfamiliar people and dogs until eventually they become intolerant of all but a small inner circle of friends.

If your adolescent dog does not get out and about regularly and few unfamiliar people come to the house, his d-socialization may be alarmingly rapid. At five months your dog was a social butterfly with nothing but wiggles and wags when greeting people, but by eight months of age he has become defensive and lacking in confidence: he barks and backs off, or he snaps and lunges with hackles raised. A previously friendly adolescent dog might suddenly and without much warning be spooked by a household guest.

Puppy socialization was a prelude to your safe and enjoyable continued socialization of your adolescent dog. However, your adolescent dog must continue meeting unfamiliar people regularly, otherwise he will progressively de-socialize. Similarly, successful adolescent socialization makes it possible for you to safely and enjoyably continue to socialize your adult dog. Socialization is an on ongoing process.

Dog-dog socialization also deteriorates during adolescence, often at an alarming rate, especially for very small and very large dogs. First, teaching a dog to get along with every other dog is difficult. Second, it is unrealistic to expect a dog to be best friends with every dog. Much like people, dogs have special friends, casual acquaintances, and individuals they don’t particularly like. Third, it is quite natural for dogs (especially males) to squabble. In fact, it is a rare male dog that has never been involved in some physical altercation. Everything was fine with young pups playing in class and in parks, but with adolescent dogs, the scraps, the arguments, and even the play-fighting seem all too real.

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Great advice on picking the right type of dog for you and your family

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