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At my wits end with puppy biting

2176 Views 4 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  StephanieW222
I am at my wits end with my 15 week old Border Collies biting. I have raised other Border Collie puppies and none were this bad. I am nearly ready to give this dog up. My children have to be completely segregated from the dog. They cannot walk anywhere in the house without him jumping all over them and biting. They are starting to fear him. The dog gets 2 walks daily with lots of outdoor and indoor playtime. I doubt exercise is the problem. I have tried ignoring the biting, making high pitched yips, dousing ourselves in anti-chew spray, waving a vinegar soaked rag in his face, and saying leave it. The problem is only getting worse. We try positive reinforcement when he chews his toys and when he only sniffs or licks. Literally nothing works. I do not want to permanently muzzle him, but I may not have a choice. We end up leaving him outside by himself often just so our kids can have some peace. I know this is probably wrong too, but we are out of things to do. I am desperate for something that works.
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Keep a toy on you at all times. If he bites, divert his attention. Don't give it to him right away, or he'll think that biting you is how to ask for playtime. But squeak it (if is squeaks) and wiggle it around, just generally make it as exciting as possible. Once he lets go, say "yes!" or "good!" (if you're a clicker person, click) and play with him for a minute. Redirection of his natural biting instinct is one of your best tools.

You said you did positive reinforcement- if that's jut treats, I'd recommend switching to toys, because the biting is a game to him, you want to show him a more acceptable way to play. (even in general training, toys are a very underestimated reinforcement tool)

Have your kids interact with him mostly just after he's been exercised. If he tends to be riled up after exercise, wait for him to calm down first. This is also the ideal time to do training with him.

**Try teaching him to greet properly first- instead of reacting when it does happen, try to prevent it.
-One drill could be you keep the dog on a leash while someone else enters the room. Ask the dog to sit, and if he sits, the other person can say hi to him: play with him, pet him, give him a treat, etc. If he begins to bite, the other person exits the room or goes out of his reach (since he's on a leash). Then you ask him to sit, and the whole thing repeats. As a general rule, if he's not actively biting- it's a puppy party: playing games getting pet, etc. Once he bites, though, everything stops. You take the toy away, stop petting him, and say "nope" in a bored voice. Once he stops, the party resumes.
-Another good drill is to close him in a room and open the door a bit. Just an inch or two. Wait for him to calm down, then open it slowly a bit more. Reach through to pet him. if he starts to bite, close the door again(but slowly. First of all, you don't want to hurt him by closing the door on his nose or paw, secondly, the quick movement would add to his excitement). Start all over. Reward him with play and pets any time he allows you to say hi without biting. You could also do a variation of this by leaning over a puppy gate. Biting=you leave.

-You could probably make up more of your own drills, too.
Try to get your kids in on these. Having the ability to be safe (closing the door, leaving the room) will give them a better opportunity to interact with him.

You said he gets plenty of exercise- great! :) Have you tried mental exercise/stimulation? For instance, teach him a trick or two, do basic find the treats (scentwork), try a puzzle toy, and be sure to let him smell a lot on walks.

Whenever you can't be working with him you will need to keep him either fenced off by a puppy gate, in a playpen, in a crate, or on a leash. Biting is like a game, so it's very self-rewarding. The more he gets a chance to do it, the more he'll continue to do it.

In regards to saying leave it, since the puppy can't (of course) really understand what that means, it'll only work if you've done some serious training on that command.

If, when he bites, you tend to jerk your hand back (the natural reaction, I know) try not to. (you may need to wear gloves when handling him at first) When you jerk your hand away, it becomes a fun, moving toy. When you train "let go" with tug-of-war, you make the toy "dead" and boring-perfectly still- and then praise him the second he lets go (which he will, eventually, because he'll get bored). It's the same exact thing with hand biting, although that's harder to do for the human.

The general rule of thumb is, teach him that biting equals totally boring human who basically becomes dead. NO reaction, not looking at him, VERY boring. Not biting equals PARTY TIME.

You'll definitely need to do training sessions that you set up(primary sessions), not just training him whenever the behavior starts(secondary sessions).

If none of this works, you may need to consult a professional trainer and/or vet. Muzzling may stop the behavior, but it isn't a long-term solution.
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I completely understand as I was in this situation (minus children) a few weeks ago with my Staffy x Frenchie. I've had 2 puppies in 30 years and can't remember them being as bitey. I was literally black and blue and cut all over. She had even started snapping at my face. I'm ashamed to say I was starting to hate my puppy, and I'm not that type of person.
In the end, I conquered it 90% by using 'sit' and treat/good girl for every unwanted action. On the occasions when biting didn't stop, I removed myself from the room for 1 minute. The positive results of this were an immediate reduction in biting and a better relationship with my dog because she was only being rewarded and never scolded (I had found myself constantly being negative with her because she had worn me down so much). Now she is mouthing gently but only when she's tired/hungry/she wants interaction because we've ignored her for too long (our fault). I'm still working on the mouthing but it's getting better on a day by day basis.
Just one final thought, do you know WHY he is biting? Sounds like a stupid question, and don't be offended, but you might find it's something you're doing (likely not doing,TBH) - negativity, children squealing like play toys, etc. Good luck.
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I had a cat I was terrified of when I was little because she thought it was fun to pounce on my feet at night when I got up to use the bathroom. I totally get why your kids are a bit freaked out!

I think you have some great advice above, but to address your kids' concerns specifically: when the puppy can't be directly supervised, make a safe, confined space for him in a pen or crate that's out of the major traffic areas of your household. This way he won't have access to your kids as they move around the house unless someone's actively supervising him, and then the person supervising can work with asking him to sit to greet the child calmly instead of the over-the-top rude charging and biting.
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Thanks for the tips everyone! There is definitely some useful things for us to try.
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