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Hey guys,

After almost half a year of anticipation, my girlfriend and I got a puppy. We've now had him for three days. He's probably half rottweiler (or rott mix), half hound/beagle/terrier? About 17 lbs.

This guy was really sweet when we adopted him. He was fostered at a trainer's house where he got to befriend other dogs and a cat. He's really charming when he meets people on the street, if a bit overly friendly. He likes to say hello to most dogs he meets on the street. We've taught him to pee at a pee pad in our apt (we live in NYC) and he generally does it with only mild misses. :) He sleeps through the night in a crate in our bedroom. He is very responsive to food and is well on the way toward learning sit. He has a few toys he plays with - a kong, a cloth "bone", a tennis ball, and a little squeaky toy. He also likes ice cubes.

Unfortunately, he's picked up a nasty play biting habit that's gotten progressively worse over the past three days. At first he was just doing a little bit of nipping and grabbing at loose clothing and puppy pads. I guess he liked it because he started to hang on to items (socks, shorts, dresses, puppy pads) . His nipping has gotten worse as well and it hurts quite a bit - me and my girlfriend have bite marks all over our arms. It's gotten to the point where he tries to grab fingers or arms and pull. Occasionally he's even growled and barked.

We've tried several strategies. Ian Dunbar's suggestion of trying to say "ouch" whenever he bites too hard did not help. It's difficult to stop play because he just keeps nipping/biting. The one thing that semi-works is holding him under us in a sitting position with a hand holding his mouth shut, but I get the feeling that this is undermining our relationship with him and encouraging him to avoid us (except for food) rather than "play nice".

A professional trainer is coming to meet the pup tomorrow but I was wondering whether anyone has thoughts on how to deal with this situation. We would hate to give this little guy back but this situation is dispiriting.
 

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Puppies are often mouthy and learning how to explore the world with their mouths. How old is he? If he was removed from his mother too early, he probably hasn't achieved the bite inhibition that puppies who stay with their mothers longer have.

Instead of just saying "ouch", you need to squeal in a high pitched voice, to startle him out of biting or nipping.

Also, have a toy nearby, a stuffed animal or something similar. When he starts nipping at you, put the stuffed animal in his mouth. This will help him in realizing what is not acceptable to bite (your arms and hands) and what is (the toy).

When he starts playing way too rough, it's time for puppy time out! What command do you use when you want him to stop doing something? With my dogs, I say "leave it". So if one starts playing too rough, I say "leave it", then say it again if they don't listen. If they still don't listen, I remove them from the situation by putting them in another room or crating them for 10 minutes or so. This separation will give him time to settle down and get out of the "I need to bite things!" attitude. It also makes him realize that when he doesn't listen to you, he doesn't get to continue having fun.

I'm glad to hear you guys are seeing a professional trainer, hopefully they will give you some helpful advice too :)
 

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Yes I think the timeout works best. Not having his people is the biggest motivator... LOL I have a 70 lb dog that is still working on this --- oddly, she is better with my child that with me-- I am a big softie, my 8 yo daughter immediatley yells sit and puts her in her crate if she does not respond.
 

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I totally agree with dmickle1.
The secret of the "ouch" thing is to really yelp like a dog. My dog reacts much better when I do it than my boyfriend because (according to him) he cannot squeal that high.

And it goes without saying not to wrestle with him and curtail tug games for now as well.
 

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For Brady, I had to do more than yelp. I had to yelp, then really angrily stomp out of the room and SLAM the door all the while swearing...

of course I turned around 5 seconds later and resumed playing and loving on him. Brady, though, is not a "soft" dog. It didn't scare him. He just got the message. I wouldn't be so...uhm...loud around a "soft" dog if that makes sense. To this day, whenever I get P.O.ed and sorta loud, he will now run over plunk his head in my lap and be all like "i'm SOOORRY mommy I LOOOVE you mommy don't you want to PET and LOVE me mommy!" :p
 

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I totally agree with dmickle1.
The secret of the "ouch" thing is to really yelp like a dog. My dog reacts much better when I do it than my boyfriend because (according to him) he cannot squeal that high.

And it goes without saying not to wrestle with him and curtail tug games for now as well.
Dog's actually learn bite inhibition naturally through wrestling with other dogs. You can effectively do the same thing by wrestling around with your pup. By allowing your dog to mouth on you it gives you opportunities to reinforce bite inhibition. Wrestle around with your dog so he is having fun. When he bites too hard you yelp, say OUCH or whatever and walk away. The pup learns when it bites it loses its playmate.
 

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I feel your pain. My puppy is just getting over this phase. My 28 lb. 3.5 month old would attack my legs biting and growling and barking and would bite me all the way to the back door when we were outside. The backs of my legs were bruised and cut terribly. I was depressed and at my wit's end. It seemed that no one really understood how bad it was until I showed them my legs and they would say "oh, wow. That's really bad." I was so incredibly frustrated. Just know you aren't alone, and this is not uncommon. I have found that the underlying cause is frustration. He's upset that you don't want to play and he doesn't know how bad he is hurting you. You are his play toy. He may also not be getting enough exercise.

Anyway here is a list of what I tried that DID NOT work (please keep in mind that I am not disregarding these methods as they are proven, but they just did not work for me)
1. Yelping - and I mean really loud; my puppy took this as an invitation to keep playing.
2. Saying NO
3. Ignoring (only because my issues were outside)
4. Being a tree - I couldn't be a tree because it hurt so bad

What has started working for me:
1. Ignoring when in the house and I can separate him from myself, either with a baby gate (this way he can actually see you ignoring him).
2. Keeping him leashed outside when we are playing. If he starts the behavior, I simply hold him out from me very calmly until the behavior subsides. If I am inside the house and he continues the behavior, I then tether him to a doorknob (in my sight) and give him a time out.
3. Not getting upset. The worst thing I did was keep turing around and telling him know. I would get frantic (I know it's hard not to), but I have learned to try my best to be calm.
4. Having plenty of yummy chew toys for him to play with.
5. Lots and lots of training - your dog may be bored, so get a book and train him to keep his brain busy.
6. SOCIALIZE SOCIALIZE SOCIALIZE - I saw an immediate difference in the strength of the bites when my puppy played with other dogs. He may be lacking bite inhibition which is very hard for humans to impart. The best way is for him to learn from other well behaved dogs. Find a local puppy social class (something monitored) and enroll in some training.
7. Keep the rough housing to a minimum.
8. Spray bottle with water - before you hate, please read my disclaimer. Use this as a last resort.
***Disclaimer
I am not a trainer, but I am in puppy classes and working with a positive reinforcement trainer to fix these problems. SHE DID NOT SUGGEST THE WATER BOTTLE. These are just things that I have come up with from seeking advice. Many people will be angry at me for suggesting this, but I am just saying what works for me. This was a last resort and has only been used 2 times in three weeks but seems to get his attention. If I am playing with him and he gets out of hand, I get the water bottle and continue playing. If he gets out of hand again the second he bites or nips too hard, I spray and calmly say "no bite." I would then walk away and he would not follow. What it did was startle him enough to make him stop so I could really and truly ignore him. DO NOT USE THIS AS A CRUTCH FOR DISCIPLINE. THIS IS NOT A TOOL TO BE USED ALL THE TIME. In fact, it should rarely be used. The best thing you can do? Enroll in a puppy class!! They are fun and extremely helpful.

On a final word, it's great that you are getting professional help because they most likely can assess if this is aggression or just over-the-top puppy play. Hope this helps. Feel free to send me a personal message, as I truly, TRULY feel your pain and frustration. :)
 

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Actually you're only using Dunbars firt step (saying ouch), but you need to YELP it and get away from him, back turned (put a barrier between you if needed) The object is the let him know he injured you and you don't want anything to do with him (for a few seconds at least) so you withdraw attention.
 

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I'd also say that if you've only had the puppy for three days so far you can't really say the training isn't working, it takes time.
 

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I'd also say that if you've only had the puppy for three days so far you can't really say the training isn't working, it takes time.
Exactly. Time, patience and consistency is the key. When I brought Molly home, she was really bad with biting and nipping especially when we were playing. I would yelp, turn and ignore her when she did it but she would just keep biting at my legs from the back. It was so bad I cried more than once over it but I just kept at it. Fortunately she loves to play, so when she bit me I would stop the game right there and leave. She definitely didn't like that! I think it took several months, but now she's got the softest mouth you could hope for. Just hang in there and your dog will get the message!
 

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Jubel was about 2 years old when I brought him home and he was VERY mouthy, he was inhibiting his bite but not enough for my likeing. It took months for me to train him that just coming up to me and mouthing my hands/feet was not acceptable and mouthing when we play was to be much softer than he was doing.

I had the added challenge that my brother isn't exactly on the same page as me with what is too much. As a result Jubel has learned to be softer with me and rougher with my brother. At times my brother will see Jubel playing with me and comment how much nicer he is with me and I tell him it's all about what you allow them to get away with. If he had listened to me and stopped all play when Jubel got to rough he wouldn't feel as beat up as he does.

It is possible for dogs to learn different levels of inhibition with different people but it does slow down the overall training.
 

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Hmmm, I actually have a question about bite inhibition. I have a 13 week old puppy who's been with me for 3 weeks. I started the bite inhibition, with him, but he was never all that mouthy to begin with. So instead of softening his bite as required by step 1 of the process, he basically jumped to not mouthing all together. When I try to trick him into mouthing me when hand feeding him, he will look at it and turn away until I flatten all of my fingers so he can lick up the treats. But the thing is, some times when I'm leash training him and feeding him treats while we walk, he chomps a little hard and I can feel slight pain in my fingers. Do you think that's just the puppy sharp teeth or is it too much jaw strength being used? If it is actually biting too hard, anyone has an idea for how to get him to mouth me??? He avoids it like the plague.
 

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Hmmm, I actually have a question about bite inhibition. I have a 13 week old puppy who's been with me for 3 weeks. I started the bite inhibition, with him, but he was never all that mouthy to begin with. So instead of softening his bite as required by step 1 of the process, he basically jumped to not mouthing all together. When I try to trick him into mouthing me when hand feeding him, he will look at it and turn away until I flatten all of my fingers so he can lick up the treats. But the thing is, some times when I'm leash training him and feeding him treats while we walk, he chomps a little hard and I can feel slight pain in my fingers. Do you think that's just the puppy sharp teeth or is it too much jaw strength being used? If it is actually biting too hard, anyone has an idea for how to get him to mouth me??? He avoids it like the plague.
Prime time for bite inhibition is 4-8 weeks according to things I have read, and the puppies learn this from their mother and other siblings. It looks like you got your puppy at 10 weeks. Was he with his mother or other litter mates? If so, you don't need to teach it to him because it seems it has already been imprinted. IMO I think it's great that your puppy doesn't want to bite you. Don't trick him into doing it! Only teach if this situation comes up. That is puppy sharp teeth probably. It's hard at this time to always differentiate, but it can't hurt that if she/he touches your skin, yelp to let her know that her teeth should not meet your skin (however, when treating, this is difficult).
 

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As mentioned before, look at the Sticky: The Bite Stops Here.

BTW, be careful about wrestling with a Rottie. There is absolutely no problem with doing that, if you know what you're in for, and put it under control, so that you can stop when desired. They love to tussle, but a 100 lb dog may be too much. Personally, I have no problem with Tug and wrestling, which is why I like big dogs....

Tweaks to The Bite Stops Here:
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... [Accepting the apology is important]
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.

Pups 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 signficant 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.

Try this for 3 days, and let us know on Monday what happened.
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
OK, here's an update on the trainer(s) and the dog.

EDIT: I apologize for attributing item B - the doorknob-leash thing - to trainer #1 - that was actually the foster mother's suggestion. Also, at trainer #1's request, I am glad to add her perspective on training the dog [in blue brackets].

Yesterday a professional trainer from this place came over and watched my girlfriend interact with the puppy. She said he definitely has the potential to be an aggressive dog [He was described as friendly but quite pushy, with terrible bite inhibition; I did mention that he has the potential to develop dog-dog issues, as he is stiff and uncomfortable with hackles up during on-leash greetings] - when held in a sitting position with a hand on his mouth, he calms down but doesn't display the submissive behavior a dog normally would. She thinks he has the potential to be a fun older dog, but will need serious behavioral training [We recommended basic, formal obedience training to give you a clear way to communicate with him and help him develop self-control and better frustration tolerance]. She recommended accelerating the socialization process, and said she can begin her intense behavioral problem and bring a "helper dog" that will correct our puppy when he misplays [The helper dog session was recommended to help build your pup's confidence and get him more comfortable around other dogs, while also getting appropriate feedback - continued play or fair correction - from puppy-savvy adult dogs about his play etiquette]. In the meanwhile, she recommends (A) keeping him on a leash at all times (B) putting the leash on a doorknob and ignoring him when he bites [THIS WAS NOT RECOMMENDED OR EVEN MENTIONED/BROUGHT UP] (C) giving a sharp tug when he bites [This is not normal puppy advice - generally yelping, time-outs and gentle restraint while gently holding the muzzle closed are very successful ways to stop puppy mouthing. Small leash corrections were given as an alternative for Quincy, with the clear stipulation that if you didn't see marked improvement in 24 hours, to stop the leash pops altogether and move on to formal obedience training, as that meant he simply needed a more structured approach to address the issue] and (D) if he's being really bad, lock him in the bathroom with the lights off [A brief time-out in the bathroom can be an effective negative consequence for socially-motivated pups - you lead him in calmly and deliberately without saying a word, close the door, then let him out ~60 seconds later]. She does not believe in food motivation [We regularly use food with puppies - a LOT with puppies! - and adult dogs to help aid socialization and behavior modification. We generally do not use food only for formal basic obedience training], though she was impressed by his ability to sit.

We also spoke to the trainer who fostered him before we adopted him. She was somewhat flabbergasted by the first trainer's suggestions, though she did agree that keeping a leash on him at all times was a good idea. She said he never exhibited these aggressive tendencies when he was at her place. She mentioned a few interesting facts. First, he, his mom and his brother played very roughly. Second, the fact that his pregnant mom was emaciated when she was rescued may be part of the reason he is aggressive.

We've tried putting his leash on the doorknob after he has a biting session - which certainly makes him much more manageable. But it's not clear that it's really working.

These are my conclusions after trying to play with him tonight: His behavior is pretty to very good in certain settings - he's not a bad walker for a puppy, he's very responsive to food, he likes to be stroked sometimes (and in these situations, he does mouth without biting). He's usually calm in the kitchen (he knows that's where food seems to come from). In the morning when he's taken out of the crate to pee he can be held and he's quite friendly (lots of licking). However, play sessions rapidly descent into aggressive (and somewhat scary - he growls) biting sessions - I have bloody cuts on my arm and knee. It's pretty much impossible to play with him.


Anyway, the foster trainer will come to check him out on Monday. We'll make a decision on his future after she meets him and sees his behavior.
 

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Yeah, NOT a group I'd trust to evaluate a puppy that is exhibiting PUPPY behaviors as the training seems to be dominance based. I'd go here to find a trainer to evaluate the behavior http://iaabc.org/consultants and you should also find a good puppy-K to take him through.
 

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We would hate to give this little guy back but this situation is dispiriting.
You've had this pup for only a few days and you're already thinking about giving him up? Please take the great advice of everyone above when it comes to teaching him bite inhibition and acceptable behaviour. He may be difficult and extremely stressful, but remember that he's just a pup.

You will probably encounter more difficult situations throughout his puppyhood, and it takes consistent dedication and a positive attitude to get through it all. Keep your head up! It's amazingly worth it in the end.
 

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OK, here's an update on the trainer(s) and the dog.

However, play sessions rapidly descent into aggressive (and somewhat scary - he growls) biting sessions - I have bloody cuts on my arm and knee. It's pretty much impossible to play with him.
He sounds EXACTLY like mine. As I said earlier, a 30 lb. 3.5 month old puppy who has left permanent scars on my legs. Read my above post to see what I did. To be honest, he sounds like a perfectly normal puppy who is lacking only bite inhibition. As for playing with him, sometimes, any sort of play or excitement must be toned down. It takes time, and I understand how that is hard to think about when he is biting now and hurting and breaking skin. I have a three inch long slice on the back of my leg from mine. The bruising is just now going away and he is 4 months now. I'm not trying to show you up, I'm just trying to help you understand that this is a manageable situation (although it seems terrifying and hopeless). But it takes time. SOCIALIZE HIM. Get him around other dogs, enroll in classes, keep his brain busy.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
We are taking him to puppy playgroup today at the local petco. Hopefully it will be a positive experience. (Until he gets his full vaccinations in 9 days, we can't take him to the local dog run.)

Unfortunately he seems to be spending most of his non-crate, non-walk time in time out with the leash on the doorknob. We've tried changing our high-pitched "ouch"s to "yips" and he seemed initially started but once he got used to it, it again got him more excited.

Will keep you guys updated. Thanks for all the advice.
 
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