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Hey everyone!

I'm posting here to ask for some advice regarding my 4 month old golden retriever puppy, Beatrice. I got her at seven weeks old, and she came from a loving home and a very reputable breeder. She is the alpha of her litter, and she is a stubborn little puppy with TONS of personality. She's smart and learned the basic commands pretty quickly (sit, lie down, come), and I always shower her with treats and affection when she responds positively. She is very sweet and affectionate when she wants to be.

But, she's been biting since day one. Not the "I'm-teething-and-I-desperately-need-to-chew" kind of biting. She has a wide variety of toys to keep her busy with teething. I know puppies play bite, so I quickly got on top of training it out of her. I've watched multiple videos and read several articles on bite inhibition training, and I've tried tons of things from redirection, substituting toys, walking away and ending play time, yelping when she bites me, etc. NOTHING seems to be working. In fact, all the above only make her pause momentarily before resuming biting. She is just determined to chomp down on human skin. She LOVES playing tug of war with a towel, but if the towel is three ft long, she will only go for the tiny bit nearest my hand and always ends up ditching the towel to chomp down on me. If I give her a toy, she will shove the toy in the back of her mouth and bite me with her front teeth. If I try to give her a toy to distract her, she will discard the toy within seconds and resume biting me or the nearest person. As I write this, she is chewing on my feet!! Even belly rubs and sweet little moments always end with her chewing on me.

It used to just be a nuisance when she was little, but she is getting bigger and stronger every day, and her worn down, once sharp teeth no longer puncture. They grab and crush skin, and it HURTS!! I am covered in large bruises, and I can't seem to get through to her. I have tried bopping her nose and saying "down", and pushing her away from me. Doing this only causes her to attack me 10x more aggressively than before! And guys, she bites HARD.

I have tried to be patient with her because I know it is a phase, but the last straw for me was when she bit my five year old nephew. He was sitting on the couch watching a movie, and she jumped up totally unprovoked and bit him on the face just centimeters away from his eye and drew blood. I know she was only trying to play, but it terrified him and me, and I don't want her to hurt anyone. She has never growled at me, and her body language doesn't usually indicate aggression. But I am losing patience with her, and she has developed the reputation of being a holy terror. All of my fellow puppy/dog parents have told me they have never seen the likes of my dog in terms of stubbornness and defiance. I have raised pups before, but not like this one. I love her to death, but I want to help her outgrow this phase as gently and quickly as possible.

Is this normal puppy growing pains? Or is this a potential behavioral problem? Any tips or advice would be awesome!! Thanks so much!
 

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Time outs. Make it so that she physically can't reach you the moment after she nips. Use a gate, crate, tether, exercise pen, whatever... It won't go away overnight but it will help. And the time outs are at least 15 minutes long. Waiting a few seconds or even a couple of minutes is not enough.

When playing tug, hold it out in front of you like a rolling pin instead of letting it dangle.

Train and play, and then teach her to leave you alone. I do this by putting puppy in a pen in the same room as me so that it is part of the room and situation, but unable to interrupt what I'm doing or make any mistakes. Basically, all time is structured time or settling time. People who have puppies who can easily 'hang out' with them loose in a room are lucky :D
 

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People who have puppies who can easily 'hang out' with them loose in a room are lucky :D
Pft, no we're not. We're just interrupted every 30 seconds for weeks to months on end to redirect (or offer alternative cues, or show the puppy what we want) because having the puppy be able to do that/more limited crate time are things we prioritize. Really stubborn and really patient, maybe. Basically as in anything else 'easily' comes from work first, in almost all cases.

But yeah, basically you're going to have to do a lot of time outs where the puppy can't reach you for the biting, OP. And it's going to take a while - but it will work.
 

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Goldens are known for being incredibly mouthy, and for not growing out of that mouthiness until well into adolescence. Also, reputable breeders generally do not allow puppies to leave their litters before 8 weeks of age. There's no hard scientific proof of this, but it's pretty commonly accepted that puppies who leave their litters too early have not developed their bite inhibition through social interaction with their littermates as well, which could be a contributing factor to your puppy's behaviors.

That being said, nipping and biting is absolutely normal. I get the feeling, when you say things like 'the last straw', and 'as quickly as possible', it strikes me that your expectations are set a bit too high. This is an excellent article that I believe will help shed some light on the situation: https://denisefenzipetdogs.com/2015/08/30/its-a-puppy-not-a-problem/

A quick quote that I feel is particularly relevant here:

In the past, I trained pet dogs. The first session would almost always go something like this:

Student would pull a list of problem behaviors out of their pocket. Meanwhile, their four month old puppy chewed on the leash and pulled various directions, causing the student to express obvious irritation. The student would then lay out all of the problems that they wanted to fix.

“We’re having problems with barking, wanting to play all the time, running through the house with dirty feet, jumping on people, chewing stuff up, excessive interest in human food, constant pulling on the leash to get to things, and digging holes in the garden. Oh yeah – could you teach a reliable recall, off leash, so that when I’m ready to leave the park we can go without me having to chase my dog?”

In short, could I make their young puppy behave like a grown up dog?

I’m curious about something. Since many of my clients also had human children (that the dog may have been nipping when the kids ran and screamed and behaved like children), did they take a similar list of problems behaviors to the pediatrician?

“Doctor, my toddler has a lot of problems that I want to stop. He talks really loud, wants me to play all the time, runs through the house with dirty feet, jumps on people, puts stuff in his mouth that he finds on the ground, shows an excessive interest in sweets, and is constantly pulling on my hand to get to things when we go places. And also, can you make him listen to me when it’s time to leave the park, so I don’t have to go and get him when I want to go?”

In short, could the doctor make the young child behave like an adult?

[SNIP]

The vast majority of parents simply accept the fact that they’ll have to hold their children’s hands when they walk on busy streets. They accept that their meals won’t be too peaceful for awhile because they’ll have to chase their children down just as they try to sit down and eat. They accept that children need to use the bathroom at inconvenient times and that they’ll get sick and disrupt their lives. There will be messes, noise, and disruption. And while parents often experience frustration and look forward to the coming stages when life is a little easier, they won’t refer to this phase as the “toddler problem,” and they won’t ask the pediatrician to fix these annoyances. It’s just the nature of small children. They aren’t adults yet.

When you bring home a puppy, get used to the fact that you’ll have to keep them on leash to keep them safe for awhile. You won’t be able to have peaceful conversations because they’ll want your attention too. They’ll need to use the bathroom at inconvenient times. They’ll get sick and disrupt your life. There will be messes, noise, and disruption. There is no “problem,” there’s simply a puppy who still has to grow into an adult dog. These behaviors will not resolve in days or weeks; it takes many months before you’ll see glimmers of the adult dog that your puppy will mature into.
 

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I just want you to know I read the link that you posted and it was TREMENDOUSLY helpful and an eye opener! I've been so worried about my pup doing the "wrong" things and had so many people tell me to 'nip' a certain behavior before it gets out of control.... when he is just being a puppy! Everything is a toy, he doesn't understand that shoes are shoes but just a different shaped toy.
 

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I just want you to know I read the link that you posted and it was TREMENDOUSLY helpful and an eye opener! I've been so worried about my pup doing the "wrong" things and had so many people tell me to 'nip' a certain behavior before it gets out of control.... when he is just being a puppy! Everything is a toy, he doesn't understand that shoes are shoes but just a different shaped toy.
I *love* that article, and I'm glad you enjoyed it too. I post it everywhere I can. I found it tremendously helpful when I got Titan, and I think every new puppy owner should read it. It really helps put things into perspective and also helps remove the very high expectations we sometimes set for our puppies!
 

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My bully breed mix was an extremely bitey puppy. It was always play biting, but it was still really difficult to manage. The thing that ended up working is giving her daily play time with other puppies/dogs. I think they helped teach her bite inhibition in a way that I could not, and also gave her an outlet. Good luck!
 
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