I have a 7-month old Yorkshire Terrier who is wonderful, but has some bad habits.

  1. He always chews on my fingers. Not in a painful way, but it starts to annoy me because whenever I try to pat him, he will do everything to put my fingers in his mouth.
  2. He barks whenever we sit down to have dinner/lunch. We feed him before we begin with a good amount of warm food (dog food + boiled pasta), but he leaves it and starts to jump around, bark and jump up on the chairs (without touching anything on the table).

How can I approach these problems? I used to have 2 rotties and never had problems with them; they were playful, although very quiet. Any suggestions and tips will be very helpful.

  • 2
    Hmm.. these two issues don't seem to be related - perhaps you could split them into two posts?
    – Lix
    Commented Oct 12, 2013 at 9:50
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    I agree, @DaGhostman can you please split the post into two separate questions? Otherwise, how do people vote up an answer addressing one problem over an answer addressing the other?
    – ThomasH
    Commented Oct 12, 2013 at 10:13
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    Concur, I'd suggest not making this "How to make my dog stop his bad habits" and instead "How to make my dog stop chewing my fingers" and a separate question about "How to make him stop barking when we sit down for dinner". They are unrelated and deserve to be their own posts. Commented Oct 12, 2013 at 10:17
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    The question is for approaches which are helpful in behaviour problems, the 2 problems mentioned above are in my case , but would love to see answers which are abstract to problems of this kind and not for these particular problems. If I have several problems this beta will end up in having a lit of questions which are tightly related to a particular problem and will not help much in general public, which afaik is the idea behind SE sites. Commented Oct 12, 2013 at 12:36
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    @ThomasH keep in mind the abstraction :). Yep they are two behaviours, but are related to the problem with the domination. For which Skippy have pointed key tips, which could help others, 'Desexing, Walking through doors and eating' are other key points which are good to know, and are common. I've seen many dogs chewing their owners hands (the chewing I am referring is playful kind, like when the dog has carding, etc. not aggression problems) Commented Oct 12, 2013 at 18:02

2 Answers 2


There's big dogs and little dogs

Yorkshire Terriers are so different to Rottweilers. Small dogs can be very different from large dogs, and actually harder to manage sometimes, because they are so small and cute. When a big dog gets out of hand, chewing at fingers, jumping up at the table, it is usually dealt with fairly swiftly. Little dogs are sometimes allowed to get away with bad behavior for much longer, until it spirals into a group of out of hand problems. Medium sized dogs are yet again another issue.

Small terriers can be a handful, they are lively and can be quite confident that they know what's going on and how to organise it all, thank you very much. Small dogs never cease to make me smile, as when confident, they puff out their little chests to bark at bigger dogs and and it usually works.

Where your dog fits within a family

It all starts with basic obedience training. By this I am referring to establishing order within the household (pack) and implementing good household habits in how you interact with your dog. The good thing is, your dog is still a puppy at 7 months and will be quick to learn.

It needs to be made clear to your dog that the human beings are higher ranking or more important members of the household. This can sound a bit unkind, but by letting him know his place, he won't expect to sit at the table with you, and you will all be happier. This is the best groundwork any owner can do to obedience train their dog, long before you put on a leash.

Basic training:

  • Eating

    • The family always eat before the dog, when the family have finished eating the dog then gets his food, no matter how many feeds he has per day. It's good for your dog to see you all eating and learn to wait patiently. However, as your dog is already determined to sit with you, this may be a bit much to expect from him straight away. We want him to succeed and not be chastised as a nuisance.

    • To begin with put him in another room at mealtimes.

    • After a week, let him watch the meal being prepared and served, he will probably be excited, but then he needs to be put into the other room before you sit down to eat. Just to keep him within the limits of what he can manage in terms of behaving.

      • As the days or weeks progress, you need to see how he improves and if he settles, you can gradually allow him into the room with the family at mealtime (to have company, but he is not to eat until you're all finished). If he plays up, just quietly take him to another room, you can add a No!, I have found smaller terriers, can sometimes not be as receptive with negative verbal commands (they tend to ignore them). As for verbal praise, they love it.

      • if this does not work, there are several courses to take. I think it would be better to deal more recalcitrant behavior in a separate post.

  • Sleeping

    • Your dog must sleep furthest from the head of the household. By this I mean the person, everyone knows, has the last say in the house. With households with children, the children should always be closer to the parent's bedroom than the dog's bed. Do not let a disobedient dog sleep in bed with people, this is something that can be reassessed over time, but it encourages the dog to think he has the same rights, ie to sit at the table as the people.
  • Walking through doorways

    • Never allow your dog to push through a doorway ahead of you. There are techniques to gently achieve this, but it takes patience. The dog needs to learn to wait until his humans have gone through.
  • Biting fingers

    • Dogs need to be taught as early as possible that biting their people is not on, in play or otherwise. As your puppy is already 7 months, this will take a bit of effort for a few days or so, but you should see results quickly. This is, almost, the ideal problem to have. As he is biting your hands and this is where you can use your food rewards. His favorite treats.

    • Have the treat in one hand and get his attention, so he knows the treat is there. Then approach his head for a pat with your other hand. This will have to be done quickly to begin with. The moment your hand is on his head and he is investigating the other hand (how your fist closed, do not allow him to get the treat or your fingers), verbal praise Good boy! and open the hand, palm flat and allow him to have the treat. Immediately remove your hands, so he cannot bite at them.

    • Repeat this process over and over, gradually increasing the time you can pat his head and the time it takes to reward him. Always use verbal praise, as you want him to associate verbal praise with affection and treats.

    • As he improves, you need to make the treats increasingly random, so he gets weaned off the need for the distraction of a treat when you pat him. I always suggest randomly treating any dog, throughout their lives, to reward good behavior, as training and good behavior needs to be reinforced.

This post Why does my dog act differently outside the house? also discusses ways to reduce the status of your dog within the household (or pack) and, as a result, improve behavior.


It is also important to provide your puppy with things to chew for his teeth. If his teeth are bothering him, he may be more inclined to chew on your fingers.


The last point, you say he is 7 months old. It is always a good idea to get any dog desexed, unless you have the firm intention of breeding. This often assists in quelling some behavior problems, as rising testosterone levels only assist in encouraging difficult behaviors.

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    Very helpful answer! Thank you very much for the efforts you put on to reopening the question. That was what I had in mind by saying 'abstract answer' Commented Oct 12, 2013 at 15:31
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    -1 Dominance theory has been thoroughly debunked years ago. You got some good observations in the first few paragraphs and in the teething and neutering advice at the end, though.
    – ThomasH
    Commented Oct 12, 2013 at 18:14
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    If the two theories are incompatible, then we should do away with the old, if it has shown to be false. The new theory might not be 100% correct, but it is the best available theory we currently have. I don't doubt your experience, and you recommend a lot of good, reward-based advice, but dominance/alpha theory is wrong and leads to wrong advice. Making the dog sleep away from you or making it go through the door after you won't do anything to stop the dog jumping up at the table because that is not how dogs work. They don't associate one behaviour with the other.
    – ThomasH
    Commented Oct 12, 2013 at 20:56

I'm going to address one of your problems, because I think they are completely unrelated and should be split into two separate questions. If you end up agreeing with this answer, I suggest you limit your question to that problem and split the other off into another question. If you add a comment when you've done so, I'll do my best to answer that one as well.

Puppies, like children, explore the world through their mouth. In fact, lacking opposable thumbs, this stays true for dogs all their life. But because puppies are not born with bite inhibition, the technical term for knowing how hard is too hard, they need to learn it.

When puppies grow up around their other litter mates, they will chew the living daylights out of each other's ears, noses and any other appendages. Whenever puppies are playing and one puppy chomps down too hard on another, the second puppy will naturally yelp in pain and stop playing for a bit. This way the first puppy learns that it bit too hard and will, over time, learn just how much force it can put into a bite.

When it comes to humans, whose skin is much frailer than dogs, we have to teach them that they basically can't use any force at all. In order to do this, you use exactly the same technique as another puppy would.

Start playing with your puppy to get it proper excited. Whenever your puppy takes your hand in its mouth and bites too hard, you give a quick, high-pitched yelp and stop playing, even going so far as to turn your back or leave the room for a second, if that's what it takes. Normally though, a yelp and stopping play should be enough.

Start playing again after a few seconds (<10) and keep repeating. Your puppy will soon learn that it can't bite hands with any force whatsoever.

If you don't want your puppy to take your hand in its mouth at all, I'd suggest just stopping play and removing attention whenever it does so. If you yelp in these instances as well, you might associate hands in his mouth with being bad, and that can turn into a problem when you (or your vet) have to check your dogs teeth or when you have to take that chicken bone out of its mouth that it managed to pick up on a walk.

Your puppy should be comfortable with being handled in all sorts of ways, and that includes having a hand in its mouth. But if you just stop playing every time it puts your hand in its mouth, it should learn that hands in its mouth only means no more play, so it won't do it by itself.


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