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Help, my dog wont stop biting!!

jeannie00
June 19th, 2006, 02:02 PM
Valentine, here recently has started biting. Not in a mean way or anything, shes getting so bad, that you cant even reach down to pet her without trying to "play" bite you. I have three small kids, and she keeps biting them pretty hard. She bit me and hubby last night as well. Noone can pet her without her biting. She doesnt bite to hurt, she just wants to play, but how to i stop her from doing this.

Im checking in on getting her in some classes, but i dont know if weve got the extra money to put her in any classes. How can i fix this on my own?? Please, someone help.

doggirl
June 19th, 2006, 02:50 PM
How old is this dog?

This is "mouthing", not biting, and it's normal for young dogs but usually diminishes as they reach adolescence/adulthood. If it's not diminishing, or if it's getting worse, there is usually something the people are doing (inadvertently of course) that encourages the behavior.

The solution is to figure out what you're doing that's causing her to mouth. Of course some dogs are mouthier than others. Things that will cause her to mouth more:

- pulling your hand away very fast when they mouth
- playing games where she has to 'catch' your hand, or poking type games, pulling on their feet/ears etc
- encouraging them to be boisterous at the wrong times
- inappropriate interactions with kids
- insufficient exercise
- not understanding how to calm them
- lack of overall leadership
- wrestling/battling with them when they do it

...among other things.

Unfortunately kids often ruin dogs, nothing against children, it's just that the natural behaviors of kids and those of dogs (esp puppies) are not very compatible and kids very often bring out very undesirable behaviors in puppies/dogs. I would really limit the interactions with the dog and the kids til you've made some progress with this. My gut feeling is that the kids are probably a big part of this (again not meant to knock your children, it's all kids). How old are they?

In a nutshell, some things to work on -

- general obedience/leadership - do obedience training for 10-15 minutes daily (twice daily is even better)
- up the exercise (cardio - vigorous fetch games in the yard etc)
- stop reacting in any way to the dog's mouthing. If she mouths and you do x, y or z, she is in control. We think that we are because we're reprimanding but we're not. You're reprimanding because of the dog's action, she caused you to exhibit a behavior. You want to ignore. When she mouths (or jumps up, these 2 behaviors often occur together), slowly cross your arms across your chest, turn away and completely stop all interaction with her for several seconds. You can do a 'crash course' to try to get her to 'get it', by going over to her, petting calmly - as soon as she mouths, do the above...as soon as she calms, turn around, wait a few seconds then slowly give her low key pets - circular motions on her head, tummy, chest. Each time she mouths, repeat.
- keep your interactions low key with her - verbal praise, physical touch, and play. Some dogs are more naturally inclined to mouth and stimulation/excitation will elicit this behavior. You want her to learn self-control so keep your interactions with her controlled and tempered.
- teach the kids in simple terms they can understand, the above concepts. (Personally I would give them a role - ie, they are responsible for the dog's behavior; their job is to keep low key and NOT encourage her to mouth - just to give them some accountability and to make them feel a part of this training - not to blame them or bring them down).
- as hard as it is, resist all temptations to correct her physically. She does this to get more of you. Remember how puppies play, it's pretty rough and tumble. She may not see physical attempts to control or correct her, as negative reinforcement; she may see them as a response from you that indicates you want to wrestle with her. Puppies are not the masters of correctly interpreting our actions. The most I would correct would be a sharp verbal correction (eg the infamous "AT!"). It doesn't matter that she stops because you just startled her, not b/c she realizes this is what you were asking. As long as she stops that's good. You can give low key praise and she will eventually pick up that this is what is expected of her.

I believe that there are a lot more subconscious elements to a dog's training than conscious. They are also so much more black and white/binary than we are. ie do this = good, do that = bad. They also don't grasp complex concepts (ie, jealousy, spite etc are concepts that we attribute to them, b/c we feel them - these basically do not exist in dogs). Plus be aware that when you hit the method that is going to work for you, it will usually get worse before it gets better. This is a known phenomenom called the "extinction burst". Basically you've found the method that works and the dog (subconsciously!) knows it. So they put their best effort forth to NOT give up the behavior; think of it as fighting back against the effective training method that's making it impossible for them to continue the target behavior. If you think hard you will see that this is also common in parenting/teaching children, and behavior therapy for humans. This though, is usually where people give up ("I tried that! It just made it worse!"). Unfortunately they were on to the solution but just didn't ride it out. Thus the function of the extinction burst - to get the behavior therapist to give up. Be aware of this so if/when it happens you do not fall into the trap. Ideally when it gets worse you'll be able to tell yourself aha! We're finally getting somewhere, this is going to be resolved soon now.

Also, realize that mouthing is a very natural and important behavior for puppies as they grow up. As being inappropriate with dogs is, for human kids. :)

Good luck.

satchelp
June 19th, 2006, 05:35 PM
Here are a couple of good articles on puppy mouthing and bite inhibition:

http://www.jersey.net/~mountaindog/berner1/bitestop.htm

http://www.roycroftcavaliers.com/manualbiteinhibitionarticle.htm