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We adopted Annie from the shelter ten days ago and she's coming along very well. She was picked up as a stray and she is somewhere under two years old because she still exhibits a lot of puppy behavior. She may only be a year or 18 months old, we can't be sure. Anyway, she's doing well with potty training, she understands our invisible fence (1.7 acre yard) perfectly, and has few bad habits. However, in her puppy playfulness she has a strong urge to nip and mouth with her teeth. It can hurt, and she even accidentally broke skin on my knuckle. What is the best way to teach her that teeth are not for human play? It's almost like the nipping you see in puppies, but at 54 pounds she's much too big for that kind of behavior now. Thanks for any suggestions. Holding her mouth closed and blowing on her nose worked for my previous dog, but she doesn't seem to get what that means.
 

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1. When the pup nips - probably in play - then yelp ! Try to make the high pitched sound that is similar to when you have stepped on her feet. When you yelp, she will startle... praise her for stopping. She will then nip you again, but just a hair more gently.... yelp again -- Praise. Most people get frustrated at this point, because the pup doesn't stop.

2. If she bites a third time, then yelp, and turn your back for 15 seconds. Praise her if she tries to lick you, or if she does a play bow... or if she yaps at you. She is trying to "apologize" for playing too roughly. And you have to accept her apology, while trying to communicate that you are more sensitive than her littermates, who could take a nip or two.

3. The first time you do this, she may not understand... so if she bites you a 4th time (it should be gentler), then yelp, and leave the area for two minutes. Try to leave her in an area with no entertainment, so that you achieve a brief timeout. But you must leave, don't put her into another area....

4. If you are consistent about this process, you'll see significant progress in about three days (dogs learn over the course of about 6 hours, so they may need to sleep on it, before they learn a lesson). And, in a week, nipping should be at a minimum. When they forget, keep up the lesson. And, everyone has to understand the process.


I used this method on my 80 pound dog, and he plays very roughly, growling and snarling. But he is careful that teeth don't touch skin. And, when he plays with smaller dogs, he doesn't bite them, but more slimes them... a lot.

- Hank Simon
 

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Thanks Hank, I think persistance will be the key :)

(With a baritone voice, it'll be a challenge to yelp in a high pitch, but I'll give it my best)
 

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(With a baritone voice, it'll be a challenge to yelp in a high pitch, but I'll give it my best)
This is the part I always love..seeing the "big guys" work on their yelp or their "happy voices"...lol.
It doesn't have to be really high pitched, just higher than normal and sharp enough to slightly startle the dog.

I just wanted you to be aware that at ten days in a new home your dog has NOT settled in fully. Don't assume she totally 'gets' the invisible fence or any of the rules of the house yet. It often takes up to three months for any odd or unwanted behaviours to occur so you both have to work on trust and not assume she is "getting" it all, yet, especially the fence..safety first.

Do you know anything about her history? Many dogs from rescue situations have issues (caused by lack of training..so blame the previous owners, not the dog) and be prepared that there may be more work to do. Even dogs raised from puppies go through stages of "dogginess" that can strain their owner's patience. Deal with each problem as it occurs and keep it positive and you'll have a great dog.

Patience. Persistence. Positive reinforcement.
 

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I know this will probably make me enemy of the state (again), but here's an effective solution: I've owned three GSD's, two males and one female. The first couple times they nip they almost ALWAYS cause pain (with those ultra-sharp puppy teeth). The way I taught mine to "keep your teeth to youself" was to pop him/her on the top of the nose (not hard, just enough to get its attention) and say NO BITE, in a firm, not necessarily loud voice. This method will make the first or second "play-bite" the last. The 1st GSD I had was a full-grown white male, and he had a really bad habit of biting, or snapping. Once he drew blood, so I used this prescribed method, not out of anger, but as a preventative measure, and he never did it again. The two pups I've had since took a couple times to understand it, but they too got the point. Don't worry about traumatizing your dog. As long as you don't BEAT your dog or strike out of anger, they're quite forgiving.

AGAIN: before everybody writes a heap of "I can't beleive you strike your dog!" letters, this is absolutely not abuse (the police in my county train theirs this way) and it is very effective, and efficient, and causes no mental imbalance. I love my dogs and love having dogs that love me back! :D
 

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I can't say it's cruel, or abusive. I can say it doesn't teach bite inhibition...only not ever to use the teeth. That can be a risky proposal if the dog ever feels the need to protect himself, for a dog who hasn't learned to use the weapons at his disposal in proper intensity in relation to the percieved threat is a dog that does more damage than necessary.
 

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... "enemy of the state" :)

That WAS the method that we used in the 70s and 80s... And I used it initially on my (currently) 8 year old dog in 2001. I popped his butt, then popped his nose, because he thought I was playing. I even held him upside down (what can I say, I was uneducated), and he still wanted a piece of me. No anger, no thrashing, just playing.

Then, I learned about yelping, calming signals, and positive methods.. and I was enlightened - with a dog that can count, and even read. However, even though he is intelligent and well-trained.... that doesn't mean he is obedient :)
 

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Right, well I'm only familiar with GSD's, so I won't speak for other breeds, but in the name of defending himself, the 2nd male GSD I had was in a situation ONCE in his life (at least while I was around) that he had to use his teeth. I was in my back yard and a neighbor's doberman broke loose and came charging through the brush. I knew the doberman and he wasn't dangerous, but as soon as he came charging into the yard my male GSD jumped between me and him, snarled, and charged the doberman. The doberman took a pretty good beating until I yanked my dog off. At that point the doberman eased back into his own yard and licked his wounds.

Again, I don't know how this works with other breeds, but the GSD's know the difference in biting their master vs. biting other critters in self defense. Whichever method you shoose, I hope you train it soo, those teeth can cause some serious damage! :D
 

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And if you hadn't been there to pull him off the dobie? What then? Here in Ontario if your dog does damage to anything or anyone, pretty much regardless of situation makes you legally responsible for all damage incurred. And can mean a muzzle order or worse.

I work with GSD's too..and yes they can be land sharks...I still believe bite inhibition in a dog who MAY decide to feel threatened by a visitor, a child, the veterinarian trying to work on him or a the man on the street with an umbrella is a safer dog all round. This means the dog's safety as well.
 

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Personally I prefer Jacobs method because it is simple and direct. I agree with him its not abusive. Lastly, I think it re-enforces that the dog must respect you. I never feel right about the advice to yelp and walk away. A more dominant dog would not yelp and walk away from another dog, he answers physically.

Having said all that, if Jacobs method wasn't working, I'd have no hesitation to try HankSimon's method. Do what works.

Cracker, when you say bite inhibition, do you mean total inhibition (ie teaching him to just mouth with no teeth on skin) or bite control (teaching him to control how hard he bites?) I'm not so sure I see how HS teaches bite control; as I understand it he is yelping etc whenever teeth hit skin, not when the mouth closes too hard.
 

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I know this will probably make me enemy of the state (again), but here's an effective solution: I've owned three GSD's, two males and one female. The first couple times they nip they almost ALWAYS cause pain (with those ultra-sharp puppy teeth). The way I taught mine to "keep your teeth to youself" was to pop him/her on the top of the nose (not hard, just enough to get its attention) and say NO BITE, in a firm, not necessarily loud voice. This method will make the first or second "play-bite" the last. The 1st GSD I had was a full-grown white male, and he had a really bad habit of biting, or snapping. Once he drew blood, so I used this prescribed method, not out of anger, but as a preventative measure, and he never did it again. The two pups I've had since took a couple times to understand it, but they too got the point. Don't worry about traumatizing your dog. As long as you don't BEAT your dog or strike out of anger, they're quite forgiving.

AGAIN: before everybody writes a heap of "I can't beleive you strike your dog!" letters, this is absolutely not abuse (the police in my county train theirs this way) and it is very effective, and efficient, and causes no mental imbalance. I love my dogs and love having dogs that love me back! :D

My husband tried this with our girl Isis.....it just made her think he was playing and bite harder LOL........he learned really quick to just get up and stop all interaction with her
 

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Cracker, when you say bite inhibition, do you mean total inhibition (ie teaching him to just mouth with no teeth on skin) or bite control (teaching him to control how hard he bites?) I'm not so sure I see how HS teaches bite control; as I understand it he is yelping etc whenever teeth hit skin, not when the mouth closes too hard.

Bite inhibition is learning how HARD to bite. How to use pressure and to how to use their mouths. When teaching a puppy BI I tell the owners to allow teeth on skin but to yelp and ignore on PRESSURE from the teeth..so they learn that on HUMANS with delicate skin how much is too much. This teaches the dog control of the bite pressure. The problems inherent in punishing mouthing can be many: the inability to judge when they may need to use their teeth in self defense, some dogs will develop a fear of hands/handling, some dogs who are PRONE to biting (fear or excessive confidence) can turn into HARD biters and in a dog that is going to do bitework you can take all the "fun" out of the work.

Pups littermates help to teach bite inhibition as well, which is why getting a puppy later (9-10 weeks) rather than earlier is handy as it makes teaching the human side of it easier..they already have the basics down.

The GR puppy I walk that was attacked in the park was a victim of a dog with no bite inhibition. A dog that had been taught proper BI would have given her a correction for being near his owner/toy that would have been scary but not have torn her gums open like he did. He then proceeded to bite her backend and all four paws...all hard, deep punctures. Dog fights, in dogs that have been taught BI do little or no damage and are more ritualistic in nature...a few pulled tufts of fur and a lot of saliva and noise. This dog went from 0-10 on his bite level. Guess how he was taught not to bite humans?

It's like giving someone a gun for self defense and never teaching them how to safely use it.

Oh, and a truly dominant dog would very likely not bite at all unless someone bit him first. They very rarely are bothered to correct in that manner and ARE more likely to walk away. Rarely get in fights...it's the middle men that fight, the submissive ones don't and the truly confident don't either.
 

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Thanks Cracker, and everyone. I'm convinced that what it takes is communicating with the dog in what ever way the dog can understand. I don't hit, but a two-finger bop in the top of the nose is not "hitting". I was doing that in a reactionary way, but it was not helping. This seems to be a deeply engrained behavior, so patience and a combination of actions that communicate "no" to her are going to eventually work.

And thanks for the advice on patience. Yes, I've worked a lot with dogs on the invisible fence so I'm aware of its limitations. This dog gained an understanding of what was going on earlier than any of the four I've worked with on the fence, that's all I meant.

No history on the dog other than she was picked up as a stray, and after two weeks no owner called the shelter and they had no way to find them. It's a real shame because she had been spayed and already knew all the basic puppy commands. They estimated 1 1/2 to 2 years old, but I'm thinking no more than a year from her behavior. She's very young in any case, but she's already a joy to have around. But when she wants to play she's quite assertive about it, and that's when the play nipping starts. That's the slowest thing to make progress.
 

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Well.....how does the turning away method teach bite control if he is turning away each time there is teeth on skin (regardless of how hard)?

To be honest, I find it a bit of a stretch to believe that dogs have to be taught bite control by their owners; that it does not come naturally and thru interaction with littermates. My dog has amazing bite control certainly not taught by me, but that is just an anecdote like yours, and I'm not sure how to prove anything. I'm not trying to be argumentative but is there a study of this or anything? I have no evidence but it seems to me that the world is full of dogs with reasonable bite control but not so many people 'teaching it'.
 

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Cracker Re: Play biting

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And if you hadn't been there to pull him off the dobie?
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Then there would have been a lot of carnage, at both dogs' expense. Keep in mind though, I didn't teach the GSD this behavior, nor did I cut the dobie loose and invite him into my backyard. If I had, my GSD would have reacted differently, but since he came to my defense when a lean, mean, hard-charging dobie came blasting through the thicket, I was pleased that my dog had a natural instinct to protect his master. We had countless kids and other animals come into our yard with my same dog, untied, and never had an incident of uncontrolled aggression toward any of them.

So here's the summarization: as a result of a few light pops and correcting commands, he knew never to bite the hand that feeds him, and he learned to have respect for his master, even while playing around. He knows NOT to bite me, and knows to act as a guardian when needed, a perfect combination to me. :D
 

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Peppy, yes puppies learn a LOT of bite inhibition from their littermates..but even appropriate bite inhibition at another dog is likely to do damage to human skin (especially if it is fragile skin, like in a child or the elderly) so yes a certain amount of teaching of the pup that human biting needs to be even softer is important. Some dogs come by it naturally, most do not. I will see if I can find some studies for you in the next couple of days.

Jacobs, I hear you. It IS impressive that your dog protected you on instinct. The fact that he respects you is awesome..but what of other folks? If he felt a threat (which is his opinion..the "threat" may or may not be real) can you be confident he wouldnt' take the mailman's hand off or badly bite a visitor in your home? It's a "what if"..but I think it's worth thinking about. Dogs don't generalize well..so he may not EVER bite you..but you are not the issue..it's the rest of the world out there.

And yes, anecdotal evidence can still be accurate...it's where research STARTS.
 

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Jacobs, I hear you. It IS impressive that your dog protected you on instinct. The fact that he respects you is awesome..but what of other folks? If he felt a threat (which is his opinion..the "threat" may or may not be real) can you be confident he wouldnt' take the mailman's hand off or badly bite a visitor in your home? It's a "what if"..but I think it's worth thinking about. Dogs don't generalize well..so he may not EVER bite you..but you are not the issue..it's the rest of the world out there.

The mailman is healing up just fine since the last attack TYVM :D No, the way to keep the dog from acting unpredictable and keep him from becoming a liability is to socialize him/her with as many people and other critters as possible. As I said earlier, I have my dog around all kinds of other people, including kids, a black UPS man, a few other dogs, and a few cats to give it a well-rounded social life. No funky behavior. Again, this is GSD behavior, other breeds may be more unpredictable and require more training to get these excellent results. God Bless you all, fellow DOGAHOLICS! :D
 
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