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My dog is 7 months old, she's pretty large, and is still biting...

My dog sometimes gets energized, starts biting her toys, running around the house, and this can quickly turn to biting us and our clothing, specially my girlfriend. Saying ouch in a high pitched voice and ignoring her used to work a bit, but no longer, again, specially with my girlfriend. At this point, she starts biting her clothing and pulling (already ruined a few shirts), and biting the legs and ankles, and not very gently. She also gets frustrated when we ignore her and starts howling and barking so that we give her attention.

We can't continue to ignore her because her bites are painful, my girlfriend is full of bruises due to these bites and she's getting pretty desparate... We had a trainer that I didn't like his methods so switched to another marker trainer, and she's doing really good with all the obedience training - eye contact, ignoring food, etc, but none of this is helping our most urgent problem of biting... I'm looking anywhere I can to get help, it's getting unbearable. Did I mention she's a large dog? (Golden Retriever hybrid)

I should mention that she hasn't been teething for over a month, and that biting us is almost always accompanied by general energy surge. This can happen even after she spent an hour and a half running and playing with other dogs in the dog park, so releasing energy is not the issue. We also try to channel her biting to her toys by playing fetch, tug, etc, but when she's in this biting mood she doesn't care about the toys, only biting us. The only solution we have is putting a door between us, which she then scratches like crazy, barks, and already peeled part of the paint off...

  • I wonder what you might have been doing wrong. All that you mention here sounds quite ok. When either of my two dogs come begging for attention at a moment when I don't like, all I have to do is utter an "uh" sound and the dogs back off. So why won't yours back off, then. It's almost like your dog feels she is the top guy in your family and what she wants she gets. How does that sound to you? – Esa Paulasto Jan 16 '14 at 17:32
  • @EsaPaulasto, thats not the feeling I'm getting. She knows how to sit down very nicely and quietly when it's time for her food, she knows she's not allowed into the kitchen so she should sit outside the kitchen, and she comes to me to protect her when she feels threatened in the dog park. It's just these crazy attacks she gets at least once a day... – tbkn23 Jan 16 '14 at 18:45
  • "Ignoring the dog" in this context should not mean standing there and letting it bite you. It means not interacting with the dog, and removing yourself from the situation where it can bite you. The easiest way with young puppies is to have baby gates set up throughout the house and to go to the other side of one every time they get too nippy. The puppy doesn't like being left on his own, so he learns not to bite so hard/often. – kaynetoad Jan 16 '14 at 19:20
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    I've merged the answers to the original biting question here - this is a much more well-formed question, and the alternatives posed there will also be useful for this situation. – Ash Jan 17 '14 at 4:16
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    She spends around an hour every afternoon playing with other dogs in the dog park. At first that seemed to tire her out for the day and also solve the biting issues, but after a week or two in the park, she resumed biting sessions as before. Usually not right after the park when she's too tired, but later in the evening. – tbkn23 Jan 17 '14 at 21:02
16

From my experience:

My dog is now 9 months old and still bites when playing but he now knows that his jaw can hurt. I am not stating this is the best way, there are loads of ways I have read, and decided to use this one as it was the one I was the most comfortable with.

A bit of context

When the puppy is young, he might bite for no apparent reason when playing or not. One important thing to remember when playing with him: you have two hands that can be used to hold him for fun. Pay close attention at how many times you close your hand on him while playing (I love to "wrestle" with my big boy). He wants to do the same but without hands; dogs use their mouth. Add to that the fact that the teeth are growing, and like for humans it hurts and chewing anything is attractive. (My dog ate a lot of volcano rocks, my vet compared them to my childhood toys and was not concerned by it)

Remember that the puppy is not biting to hurt, he's just biting as he does not know better yet. Some people say a dog should never be able to feel human skin on their teeth. But it could bring some other problems that my solution circumvents but might create others.

The Idea

The idea behind the solution I adopted is to make sure the puppy is aware that biting can hurt, and teach him the strength that can be used when playing. That way, when he gets bigger, he knows why he should not bite hard and not just because we said so. He will also understand better how hard to bite if need be such as in domination. Although he should not be allowed to bite hard at any cost, no matter the way you use for him not to bite, he might bite. This makes sure he won't bite as hard as he can, he knows better than that now.

How to do it

The easiest way to do it is when the puppy bites a bit too hard (too hard should be 80% of the strength that could be applied without hurting so you have a buffer zone), is to simply say a sharp and acute "ouch" and immediately stop playing. Come back to play a little while after. Rinse and repeat. He might not seem to understand still he learns that hurting stops the game. I also had to show him that biting hurts, by sometimes biting his ear (easily reachable, soft, clean spot; get cautious, he will turn his head towards your face)

My personal conclusion

What I liked about this is that my puppy now knows how to use his jaw, and knows that it can hurt. Things like very slowly taking a toy/treat from my hand, not getting too close of my hand when pulling became natural and I never needed to teach him those. The biggest advantage I have seen between that and not allowing to bite at all is that when he will want to bite for real, he still knows it can hurt and can control the strength applied instead of over doing it.

  • Just an anecdote: One of our dogs bites people to greet them. As humans shake hands as a greeting, you have to shake his jaw to say hello. He knows exactly that he only has to close his jaw softly. After we took care of another dog, she started to copy this behavior without really knowing why she does it. She is quite rough doing it, but luckily she never hurt anyone. – Baarn Oct 9 '13 at 13:45
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    :) That's lovely. Mine smiles, scares everyone who do not know him. – Salketer Oct 9 '13 at 13:59
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    @Salketer Congratulations, you figured out by yourself how puppies learn bite inhibition. You're spot on except for biting your puppy, he won't associate that with his own biting. Puppies have to learn how hard is too hard, it's not something they're born with. When puppies play in a litter and one of them bites too hard, the other yelps and stops playing. That's how puppies naturally learn not to bite too hard. When they grow up without litter mates, we have to provide the same feedback. You'll be surprised how effective a yelp can be. – ThomasH Oct 10 '13 at 21:21
  • @ThomasH : I agree with you, but bite inhibition should be well learnt by the puppy at around 6 to 8 weeks (learnt from his mother and litter mates). – Cedric H. Jan 17 '14 at 8:18
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    @CedricH. There's a difference between "should" and "has", if a dog doesn't have bite inhibition, you need to teach it. Also, dogs play a lot rougher and bite harder with each other (fur takes out a lot of the sting) than a human would be necessarily comfortable with, especially, say, a baby. There is no way around teaching a dog bite inhibition when it comes to humans. – ThomasH Jan 26 '14 at 20:32
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Ignoring won't work efficiently as biting is self-reinforcing (ie. you could ignore the dog when he's barking, whining, etc. but if you want him not to rush to its kibble, don't ignore rushing to his bowl !).

You should teach the puppy not to bite when... she's not biting. When the dog is calm you should do something with her that would lead her to bite and treat when she's not biting. Imagine she's not biting, move your hand closer to her mouth and treat (or if you're clicker training her: click and treat, or use a "yes" and treat) before she bites. Move on to more difficult setups.

Then to address the problem when she's biting: teach an alternate behaviour first (a sit for example). Then stop her from biting (remove your hand, move your clothes), ignore immediately for a few seconds, ask the alternative behaviour and treat / praise. As she's progressing, and if the biting is clearly attention-seeking, you could reward a calm behaviour (instead of biting) with praise or petting. If she's biting when you are playing, you can stop her from biting (remove your hand) and then immediately ignore for 30 seconds. If she then jumps on you, ignore. When it stops, go back and play (which is reinforcing).

This is not incompatible with the idea of stopping the game when she bites, etc. That of course can be done. The point is that it is very important to teach (to reinforce) another behaviour. Please also forget the "dominance" explanation: the puppy has no secret plan to dominate you (whatever that means), she's just doing it because it is so much fun ! Also, while it is true that a good way to solve a problem is to address the cause, in this case it doesn't really matter: most of the puppies will (play-)bite, unless she's doing it only in certain circumstances, it doesn't matter to know why each time she's biting.

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    Very informative! Great answer! This is the kind of questions we need! – Dozer789 Jan 16 '14 at 14:26
  • Thanks, but I'm not sure this helps me. First, I completely understand that she does it because it's fun and not for dominance, although it is also clear that she's asking for attention because she starts howling if we ignore her (and still bites). We do reward her for being quiet, we pet her, play with her, and click + feed while petting her so she knows it pays off to sit quietly. She also understands sit. But still, when these bite attacks happen, nothing helps... Ignoring for a few seconds isn't possible because she doesn't stop the biting so that we can move to reinforce her. – tbkn23 Jan 16 '14 at 14:37
  • That's about the "when she's bitting part". In any case I guess you have to stop her from bitting. If you move her to another room that's the "ignore" part, then I would do the rest. Clicking for a sit is good but that what about the exercice I suggest ? – Cedric H. Jan 16 '14 at 14:46
  • I said something about dominance in reference to the other topic you mentionned. – Cedric H. Jan 16 '14 at 14:46
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    I'm not sure what other exercise you're referring too, but I think we've done them all: Teach hear to sit quietly on cue, reinforcing relaxed behavior (petting, lifting legs, etc and clicking+treat when she sits quietly through it. There is no specific trigger that leads to bites, it's usually just a sudden energy surge that includes biting amongst others), even time-out (close her in another room). The problem is that if we put her in another room she scratches the door and doesn't sit quietly, so kinda hard to reinforce the quiet behavior by resuming the game. There is no quiet behavior. – tbkn23 Jan 16 '14 at 14:57
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Puppies are similar to man's child when they are in stage of growing teeth. Man's child also can tends to tendencies of biting but we give them bit-able toys. Same need to be done with dogs. They also required to chew when they grow teeth , their are various products available in the market for this purpose. Milk/calcium bones are most affected ones. Remember that sooner is better so don't appreciate their biting in early stage, it doesn't means to hit them but distraction is better option.

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When the puppy or dog play bites your flesh, command NO BITE, and gently hold the mouth shut so the puppy/dog understands, if he/she bites flesh right away again, put on a soft mesh muzzle for only 5 minutes, then must remove. Within a few days, the puppy dog quickly learns that biting flesh, when told NO BITE, will have a muzzle put on for 5 minutes. They learn not to bite your flesh because a muzzle is put on. This is easy and humane. For the first week or longer as needed, keep the mesh muzzle in your pocket or clipped on your pants so you can instantly put it on if your dog bites you again. After a few weeks, just put the mesh muzzle where you can find it quickly, hang it with your leash. If your dog starts the flesh biting again. Occasionally they forget or accidentally bite your flesh, put the muzzle on again for 5 minutes as a reminder.

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The best way is to submit her, grab her in a gentle way and lay her down on the floor so that she can't get up. Wait until you hear her sighs (it's a way of giving up), then wait 10-15 seconds and let her go. It should work.

But every dog has a way of giving up. It may take 5 minutes, or it can take 1 hour. Just don't give up.

  • Wouldn't this appear like play to her? – Eric F Mar 19 at 12:43

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