Dog nips at heels, ankles, legs
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Thread: Dog nips at heels, ankles, legs

  1. #1
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    Dog nips at heels, ankles, legs

    I have an adopted stray boxer-mix, about a year old. He's developed a habit of nipping at my legs and ankles. Nothing I've tried has been able to discourage him, and he only seems to do it more and more.

    A few days back I saw a thread on this (which I can't find now for some reason) which reccomended yelping, and eventually walking into another room and leaving the dog behind any time they nip. I've tried this, and it seemed to work temporarily, but now the habbit is back and worse than ever. And whenever I start to walk to the next room, he will flat out tackle and bit (sometimes fairly hard) at my ankles.

    Any advice?

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  3. #2
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    Re: Dog nips at heels, ankles, legs

    Check out the sticky "The Bite Stops Here" at the top of one of the forum pages. It is basically what you've said, the yelp method. Here's a quick description:
    -when he nips/bites, you say ouch or yelp. [some dogs get more excited by high pitches, so you may have to try a lower pitched "ouch" if yelping doesn't work]
    - if he does it again, you leave the room for 20-30 seconds. [Any longer than that, and he'll forget why you left, and he'll find something else to do]
    - come back into the room
    - if he does it again, start over with just the noise.
    - if he does it again, leave the room again.

    Some people (like my boyfriend) have a hard time being consistent because it's a hassle to have to get up and leave the room every few minutes. But, if you're consistent, it usually improves after a few days, and then continues to improve as you continue to follow the plan.

    BEWARE of "extinction burst"! This is basically when a dog tries even harder to do something that they USED to get away with. It's like the saying "It gets worse before it gets better". The dog likes nipping and biting, it's a form of play. And, they used to get away with it. NOW, you're trying to break that habit, so the more you try to break it, the harder the dog tries to keep it up. Eventually, he'll realize you're not having it, and it will stop. That's extinction burst!
    So, you have to be more consistent than the dog!

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    Re: Dog nips at heels, ankles, legs

    It's getting worse, not better. He's biting hard enough for it to hurt and to leave a mark, and has started occasionally nipping at my crotch (so far I've been lucky, and he's just gotten the the fabric of my shorts and nothing else).

    Advice? I mean, patience isn't really an option at this point. I'm getting a clear impression that it's a playful, attention-grabbing thing for him rather than an aggression issue, but once it gets to a certain point, a bite is a bite.

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    Re: Dog nips at heels, ankles, legs

    How long have you had him? How much exercise does he get daily? How much training does he get, just on basic commands? If he's not getting enough mental and physical stimulation then when he's playing with you inside he'll have more pent up energy and will bite and nip more.

    Make sure you tire him out, mentally and physically.

    And, as I said, you should expect "extinction burst", he will try harder to be allowed to continue to bite and nip just as you are trying harder to eliminate it.

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    Re: Dog nips at heels, ankles, legs

    I've had him for about 3 weeks -- he was a stray.

    He definitely doesn't get enough exercise at the moment -- I'm still in the process of training him to the invisible fence. And he's completely unwalkable -- he'll nip at my ankles non-stop when I try to walk him.

    Once he's trained to the invisible fence and I can get him out to play more, is this likely to subside?

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    Re: Dog nips at heels, ankles, legs

    Well, the more exercise he gets, the less pent up energy he'll have, and he may be too tired to constantly nip at you.

    I don't think I've asked this yet, when he gets nippy with you, do you ever offer him an appropriate chew toy? It's one thing to try to get a dog to learn what NOT to do, but it's even better to pair that concept up with what they CAN do instead. So, when he gets nippy, stick a toy in his mouth. To make the toy just as interesting as your ankles or fingers or whatever, try a rubber type toy, and smear some peanut butter or sprayable cheese on it. All of a sudden he might decide he has other options he doesn't know about! Also, try giving him a kong stuffed with peanut butter and then frozen.

    As far as exercising, I know it's tough, but you should also start working on walking. Playing in the yard just isn't really enough exercise for a year old dog. At least one brisk walk a day is really something they need. Walks introduce them to new sights, sounds, smells, people, cars, different environment, and all that is mentally stimulating, as well as being physically stimulating. Play is important, but it's just not enough....

    Check out some of the other stickies at the top of the forum pages, there are several on walking, especially loose leash walking (LLW). If you can fit several short walks in a day (until you master walking) that would help with getting out some of the energy for now...

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    Re: Dog nips at heels, ankles, legs

    one thing i can advise on is use a head collar to walk him w/......you can control his head that way......

    as for the nipping/biting the ankles.....i have Border Collies and they generally have the same "game" as pups....what i have found that works best w/ them is to carry a pull toy w/ me and get their focus on that.....if they persist in the feet, a slight scruff shake and firm "NO" is used and then getting the toy back in their sights......(the scruff shake is generally a simple "grab" on the top of the neck/shoulders and a small pull, just to set them back......nothing too harsh)

    also, put him on a long line (about 100' is good) and that way he can run/play w/out getting away....bout ONLY when you are out there w/ him
    Owned by 4 Border Collies and one Angel:

    One Border Collie shy from the Crazy Dog Lady!!!
    http://latikibc.com/

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    Re: Dog nips at heels, ankles, legs

    Lemme repeat what Doxie said with a little explanation:
    Some tweaks to that method:
    1. When the pup bites, then yelp. It should sound about like what the pup does when you step on its paw...
    don't step on his paw for a sample :-). When you yelp, the pup should startle briefly and stop nipping. Praise and pet. He'll bite.
    2. When he bites the second time, Yelp. When he stops, praise and pet. He'll nip again, although it may be a little gentler. ...
    3. When he bites a third time, Yelp (see a pattern?). But this time, turn your back for 15 - 30 secs. If he comes around and play bows or barks, then that is an apology. Accept it, praise and pet... and cringe in expectation of the next nip...
    NOTE: Boxers frequently get stuck at this point, because owners ignore (or don't recognize) the 'apology' ... then you can get the extinction burst... so the process may start over again.

    4. When he bites the 4th time, Yelp, then leave the area, placing him in a 2 min. time-out. It is better if you can leave, rather than moving him. Then, return and interact. (He's still hungry...)
    5. When he nips the fifth time, yelp, and leave the area, stopping interaction for now.

    Immediately after you yelp (in this case), you should notice that the second nip is a bit gentler... not enough, but a bit.

    Dogs need to sleep over night in order to learn their lessons. So, keep doing this for 3 days. By the third day, you should notice significant Bite Inhibition. He may still nip, but it will be softer and he won't draw blood. Keep up the training and make sure that everyone yelps.... Very powerful method.

    If you learn the technique, then you can apply the "yelp" to other circumstances, also. I believe that "yelp" is "Please don't do that, I don't like it." in dog communication.

    Also, protect yourself as if he were trying to knee you. When he gets excited or frustrated, he could unexpectedly chomp you good. It's not aggression, but it is ...a wakeup call... nonetheless. :-) ... I speak with the (high) voice of experience.

    Pls let us know what happens after 3 days of everyone doing this. (I'm frustrated, because no one comes back to report... and I dunno if that is frustration or success...)

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    Re: Dog nips at heels, ankles, legs

    What should I do when he does this while walking? I mean, I don't really have the option of walking into another room....
    Last edited by Geoffrey Taucer; 05-28-2011 at 02:19 AM.

  11. #10
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    Re: Dog nips at heels, ankles, legs

    Always yelp, and stop, because the motion attracts him. But you do need a way to withdraw your attention from him.

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    Re: Dog nips at heels, ankles, legs

    Quote Originally Posted by tirluc View Post
    one thing i can advise on is use a head collar to walk him w/......you can control his head that way......

    as for the nipping/biting the ankles.....i have Border Collies and they generally have the same "game" as pups....what i have found that works best w/ them is to carry a pull toy w/ me and get their focus on that.....if they persist in the feet, a slight scruff shake and firm "NO" is used and then getting the toy back in their sights......(the scruff shake is generally a simple "grab" on the top of the neck/shoulders and a small pull, just to set them back......nothing too harsh)

    also, put him on a long line (about 100' is good) and that way he can run/play w/out getting away....bout ONLY when you are out there w/ him
    Same here trulac, I did the same things with my ACDs, I also taught them TO play with my feet ON command, then giving them an enough & treating them when they quit.

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    Re: Dog nips at heels, ankles, legs

    Quote Originally Posted by hanksimon View Post
    Always yelp, and stop, because the motion attracts him. But you do need a way to withdraw your attention from him.
    I can yelp and stop and he'll keep right on nipping as if nothing happened. And as I said, there's a limit to which I can withdraw attention, one because he's knawing on my legs and two because there's no way to put a door between me and him.


    ANYWAY, an update: He's almost completely stopped doing this in the house, but still does it on walks. He's also picked up another bad walking habit; he grabs the leash in his mouth and tries to play tug-o-war.

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    Re: Dog nips at heels, ankles, legs

    Breakthrough: while he still doesn't behave well while walking, his behavior is much better while running.

    Guess it's time for me to get back in shape....

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    Re: Dog nips at heels, ankles, legs

    Quote Originally Posted by hanksimon View Post
    Lemme repeat what Doxie said with a little explanation:
    Some tweaks to that method:
    1. When the pup bites, then yelp. It should sound about like what the pup does when you step on its paw...
    don't step on his paw for a sample :-). When you yelp, the pup should startle briefly and stop nipping.
    What if he doesn't? What if he keeps gnawing at my ankles as if nothing happened?

    2. When he bites the second time, Yelp. When he stops,
    What if he doesn't stop?

    3. When he bites a third time, Yelp (see a pattern?). But this time, turn your back for 15 - 30 secs. If he comes around and play bows or barks, then that is an apology.
    What if he doesn't?

    4. When he bites the 4th time, Yelp, then leave the area, placing him in a 2 min. time-out. It is better if you can leave, rather than moving him. Then, return and interact. (He's still hungry...)
    What if he's a chewer and I can't safely leave him unsupervised for 2 min in whatever room we're currently in?

    He's definitely much better-behaved on days when I can take him for a run, but I have a bad ankle and can't handle running more than once or twice a week (and even that is a stretch)

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    Re: Dog nips at heels, ankles, legs

    The quick answer is that you need someone to observe what's happening. Boxers are high energy, but also people pleasers. For the 'time-out', you can try to substitute a Kong for your leg... and walk away where you can see him, but he can't see you. I'm guessing he wants your company... and there should be a way to withdraw attention in a puppy-proofed way... but someone will have to be there to observe and suggest.

    When you yelp, or say ouch!!!! and he doesn't react, then he's gotten used to it. Consider:
    Say Ouch!!!
    Or Clap your hands once
    Or blow a whistle.

    If none of these things work to startle him, then I suggest a professional trainer to help out. If any of these work, then follow the steps given above, instead of a Yelp. AFter you reduce nipping, you may be able to fade from the other things to something verbal (I currently whisper a Yelp for my 10 yo dog when he needs a reminder.)

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    Re: Dog nips at heels, ankles, legs

    He's definitely gotten better overall, but when he gets excited, it doesn't seem to work.

    I'll try clapping my hands in addition to yelping.

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