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Who she is

So I will start off with who my dog is. She is a Golden Doodle of 9 weeks old so still very much a puppy. We have had her for about 3 days so I understand that a lot of training will take time but I mostly just want to make sure I am doing things correctly.

Background

As of last night she has just gotten over crying for long periods of time at night and now will wimper for about 5 minutes then fall to sleep which is great! Right now we can't take her for walks until the weekend to get her vaccines because we don't want to risk her interacting with another dog and having health problems. We have started this week going to work to which we crate her. She gets our time in the morning, she is in her crate for 4 hours, a dog walker comes over for half an hour, and then 4 hours more in the crate. I mention all of this as this shows her energy level somewhat. I also hate XY questions so figured I would just give all of the information I know.

Problem we are trying to solve

So naturally she is a puppy and wants to play play play which I know is normal. We will sit down with her and play quite often but she will start to nip and us which I understand is because she is playing but of course it hurts and we want to curb that behavior. From reading I have tried this method:

  • Redirection: Putting a toy in her mouth. This is usually effective.
  • Ignoring: If she redirection doesn't hurt or she starts to bite something that isn't hers like the rug, couch, etc then we say no then ignore her.
  • Time out: If the first two methods don't work then we close her off in our kitchen that has two pocket doors for about 2 minutes.

So probably about 50% of the time this will work but I do get confused on a couple situations that occur..

  • When we leave the room and come back, of course all she wants to do is play so she starts nipping at our legs. Now when that happens we try to stop movement and ignore her but of course it hurts! So we usually pull her away. I can understand where this may be interpreted as playing so not really sure what a better method is.
  • We do try to be super positive with her when she does stuff right.. If she is playing alone, playing with toys and not household things, we will say "good girl" in a positive tone, pet her, to let her know its a good thing.

I apologize for this getting so long but I wanted to make sure any experts on here had all the information and aren't left to assume anything. She will be very sweet at times and cuddle up in our lap and realize it takes time with a puppy, but I just want to make sure we are handling her correctly.

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I am very appreciative for the support in the other answers but wanted to share specifically what I did that seems to be working so that others in the future may learn.

I realized a couple days ago that our method was unintentionally reinforcing bad behavior.

Here is our mistake:

  1. Puppy would nip at pants / legs
  2. We would try to substitute with a toy or ignore.
  3. Ignoring usually resulted in continued biting to try and get us to come down and play with her.

The reason this was failing is because we gave her a toy and played with her, in her mind, so it enforced that biting legs gets that result. Instead what I tried yesterday was:

  1. Puppy would nip at pants / legs
  2. I would slowly walk away so that I was in her vision but then look away with my head up (body language for dogs that says I am not interested). Slow is key. If too fast she thinks its playing.
  3. She would come over and have a little melt down (barking / whining)
  4. She would go do something else like play with a toy
  5. After a little bit of her playing for a bit I would reward her by playing with her.

One of my biggest learning was that in her mind me playing with her is one of the top rewards, much higher than pets or "good girl".

Repeating this has yielded great success. I think she was getting frustrated, as were we, when we were just saying no to everything. The key difference in the ignore was walking away too. This method has eliminated almost all nips at the legs with an occasional one today so we are continuing it and will have to see.

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    Besides what you are doing, prevention could also help. By that I mean try to eliminate the situation in which the bad behavior is happening -- tire the puppy out more at appropriate play, and it'll be less inclined to bite, or look for specific body language or indicators that the puppy does before biting, and anticipate the situation by redirecting with more appropriate play before the puppy actually bites. – Kai Mar 20 '19 at 19:48
  • @Kai That is great advice that I have started doing as well. I can definitely see before she is about to – Eric F Mar 21 '19 at 14:57
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Puppies are mouthy and, similar to human babies, both go through issues while they are teething. Here are some tried and tested methods that have served me over years of new pups in the house:

  1. You can avoid nipping by spreading a tablespoon or two of peanut butter on the palm of your hand. (Seriously. A little gross but it will work.) The idea is that you offer your hand to the pup and while he is licking all of the peanut butter off, praise him and thank him for the kisses. He may spend the rest of his life wondering where the peanut butter is, but he shouldn't bite your hand or fingers any more.
  2. Take a couple washcloths, soak them, twist them to wring out excess water and toss them in the freezer. When the pup is trying to chew on inappropriate things, trade the first item for one of the frozen tug toys. The cold will soothe their gums. (Accept that these washcloths will come back with holes ripped in them.) Rinse and repeat as they are used.
  3. You can also get some (beef) neck bones from your grocer's meat department (they sell for about a dollar a pound where I live). Spread them out on a cookie sheet and freeze them. Then store them in a zipped freezer bag. Give your pup a frozen bone from time to time. Again, the cold soothes his teething pains. He gets to actively chew something that is 100% edible and won't hurt him. And the bones in the meat help to clean and strengthen his teeth. [warning: pick up the bones when he's done... it really hurts to step on them!]
  4. Most of all, do not put your hands in his mouth. We do this all the time with puppies, because they tend to play this way and we want to play with them. Unfortunately it only reinforces biting in the future.

Congrats on the little one. Lots of praise. Lots of patience. And you will end up with a terrific dog!

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    Some brands of peanut butter contain Xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is extremely poisonous for dogs. Please make sure your peanut butter doesn't contain any Xylitol at all. Chocolate should be avoided, too. Read more: preventivevet.com/dogs/is-peanut-butter-safe-for-dogs – Elmy Mar 20 '19 at 5:48
  • True, Xylitol is poisonous for dogs, along with about a dozen other things. Xylitol is typically used in "diet" products. Most peanut butter is perfectly safe for dogs, but please double check to make sure your favorite brand does not have xylitol. – elbrant Mar 20 '19 at 14:14
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    We use peanut butter and ours only contains peanuts and salt. This is also recommended for humans too! Peanut butter should always be only those two ingredients. – Eric F Mar 20 '19 at 14:44
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In addition to elbrants answer, you should make your puppy understand that nipping hurts and that you won't play with her if she hurts you.

Dogs vocalise pain in a high pitched, short yelp. You could simply say "Ouch!" in a high pitch to emulate a dogs vocalization.

Make nipping unattractive for her by stopping whatever you did with her in addition to saying "ouch". If she nips while playing or being pet, push her slightly away from you and stop playing or petting.

That way she understands the connection between nipping, you being in pain and something negative happening (you stop playing).

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  • I appreciate the answer but I have heard pros and cons on this method. We did try the first two days doing this but it wasn't as effective. I did get through bite inhibition though – Eric F Mar 20 '19 at 14:08

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