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Hey everyone, so this is my first time posting and I'm very excited to be a part of this forum!
So I have a client that I've been working with who has a HIGHLY active 6 month old neutered male Pitbull who is sweet as can be. The issue is, he has a serious mouthing issue and just randomly does it throughout the day where he will walk up to someone in the house, and begin grabbing their ankles, arms, back, pretty much anything. Normally with mouthing, my go-to method is to ignore and reward for sitting or calmness. BUT, in this situation, his mouthing is so persistent and painful, that you simply cannot ignore it and need to act immediately, as he's left bruises all over the owner. She said sometimes these things work, other times he is uncontrollable. So, here are some of the tips I've given that have all somehow failed:
-Tether him to owner to catch him fast and work on appropriate behaviour throughout the day
-Keep a leash on him dragging and as soon as he mouths, put him in a time-out in a boring room
-Work on catching it before it even happens, re-directing onto something more appropriate (ex- ask for 'sit', then toss toy)
-I even taught him the cue 'find toy', so when he looks like he's about to get stimulated and mouthy, point/re-direct him to go find his toy instead
-Taught him a 'settle' cue and have had the owner practice settling in the home on command while working on longer periods of time in the home
-Providing structure, consistency, and a daily routine. Providing naps in crate throughout the day, providing enrichment and puzzle toys, training sessions throughout the day (short and sweet and he gets bored/frustrated very easily), going for jogs, impulse control activities.
-Switching up toys daily, presenting him with new toys to shift his focus onto something else
-Even tried saying a loud and firm 'UH UH' when he's about to do it, but this gets him more riled up.

The dog at one point was so stimulated in the home that he was humping the couch, cushions, and blankets. Luckily since coming up with a plan, this issue (amongst numerous others) has stopped, all EXCEPT this damn mouthing. Unfortunately the owner has been experiencing this for about a month now and is considering getting rid of the puppy, which I DO NOT want happening as they have already made great progress with him, and I know they love him dearly but are fed up.

Am I at that point now where I should start considering using no-reward markers, squirt bottles, etc to correct this? I'm a positive reinforcement trainer so I stay away from aversives and prong collars UNLESS it's a final resort and the dog isn't broken by it, though in this situation, I just don't know what to do.. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!
 

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Have you tried actually shoving a toy into his mouth when he starts mouthing? Carry around a soft toy and when he starts mouthing, literally stuff the toy into his mouth so he has no choice but to chew the toy instead of the humans.
 

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Have you instructed them to immediately get up and walk away/step over a baby gate/close a door and withdraw all attention for 10-15 minutes when the pup starts mouthing? Just ignoring isn't going to really help if the dog can still physically reach them. Completely removing oneself from the dog is the best option. It my take some strict management and strategic placement of baby gates, ex pens, and other physical barriers, but it can be done.

Have you explained to the owner that at around 6 months, teething is in full swing? They are far more likely to get mouthy. It's important to provide plenty of soothing toys, too, like frozen stuffed Kongs. This phase, of course, will pass.
 

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Have you tried actually shoving a toy into his mouth when he starts mouthing? Carry around a soft toy and when he starts mouthing, literally stuff the toy into his mouth so he has no choice but to chew the toy instead of the humans.
The only issue with this is I don't want him to start pairing mouthing with receiving a toy/attention, and start mouthing to get it. He's a very smart guy! But even with toys present, he will lose interest then go and start mouthing the owners again.. I've even tried switching up toys so it's always a new toy, but he still has his moments where he is super over-stimulated and impulsive.
 

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Have you instructed them to immediately get up and walk away/step over a baby gate/close a door and withdraw all attention for 10-15 minutes when the pup starts mouthing? Just ignoring isn't going to really help if the dog can still physically reach them. Completely removing oneself from the dog is the best option. It my take some strict management and strategic placement of baby gates, ex pens, and other physical barriers, but it can be done.

Have you explained to the owner that at around 6 months, teething is in full swing? They are far more likely to get mouthy. It's important to provide plenty of soothing toys, too, like frozen stuffed Kongs. This phase, of course, will pass.

Wouldn't this be the same as a time out though? This could be a great method! I would just be concerned that if I did leave the area, he would simply amuse himself with something else, as he finds his own amusement very easily. That's why, I thought an empty, boring room would really relay the message for a time out. The owner said it does work, but he still has moments of grabbing and I know they are getting frustrated. I've told them he's a pup and that this will pass, but that they need patience and consistency. I know the owner said she truthfully doesn't have as much time as she wish she could have for him, which may be contributing to this issue as well. The husband also doesn't follow through with things as much as he should either.

He loves his Kong, especially when it's put in the freezer. This boy could have TONS of different chewing items, but still likes the human skin lol!
 

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PVC pipe over the leash to totally prevent any chance of it happening.

I've worked with dogs like this (in home and in shelter). Mouthing is a very self reinforcing behavior for some dogs. The most extreme case I worked with was a bully from a cruelty case, and no matter how much they played tug (which amped him up more), and reinforced calm, the dog knew he could instigate SOME interaction by mouthing. It was almost compulsive (though I would not say it was actual CCD) and totally unstoppable by the owner except if the dog was pinned to the ground. He'd start mouthing immediately once he was let up. He didn't hurt anyone, but it was not appropriate at all.
So we used tug as a reward for appropriate behaviors, tons of management like pens for down time. And any time this dog was out he was on leash with a PVC pipe attached to it. The pipe is not a punishment tool. It is a management tool that moves inappropriate mouthing towards extinction. Literally the behavior does not work, so the dog does something else and is rewarded for it. The dog is doing great these days, too.

It doesn't matter how good your reinforcement plan is. If the dog can practice inappropriate mouthing AT ALL, it will still be reinforced and practiced. That's how ingrained of a behavior it can be for some dogs.
 

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PVC pipe over the leash to totally prevent any chance of it happening.

I've worked with dogs like this (in home and in shelter). Mouthing is a very self reinforcing behavior for some dogs. The most extreme case I worked with was a bully from a cruelty case, and no matter how much they played tug (which amped him up more), and reinforced calm, the dog knew he could instigate SOME interaction by mouthing. It was almost compulsive (though I would not say it was actual CCD) and totally unstoppable by the owner except if the dog was pinned to the ground. He'd start mouthing immediately once he was let up. He didn't hurt anyone, but it was not appropriate at all.
So we used tug as a reward for appropriate behaviors, tons of management like pens for down time. And any time this dog was out he was on leash with a PVC pipe attached to it. The pipe is not a punishment tool. It is a management tool that moves inappropriate mouthing towards extinction. Literally the behavior does not work, so the dog does something else and is rewarded for it. The dog is doing great these days, too.

It doesn't matter how good your reinforcement plan is. If the dog can practice inappropriate mouthing AT ALL, it will still be reinforced and practiced. That's how ingrained of a behavior it can be for some dogs.

That's an amazing idea! I've heard of using a PVC pipe a while before, but it didn't cross my mind for this. Assuming when he goes to grab, you just hold him away and he will grab the pipe instead. When he's out on leash, assuming the owner will always have to hold the leash and just put him away if needing to do something? I can't imagine it would be a good idea for the leash to be dragging with this on.
 

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Yep, I'd have the owner always holding the leash when interacting with the dog, at this stage. If they are just hanging out, no reason an exercise pen wouldn't work.
 

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Yep, I'd have the owner always holding the leash when interacting with the dog, at this stage. If they are just hanging out, no reason an exercise pen wouldn't work.
Appreciate the tip! Will keep this in mind for next time. Unfortunately the owner gave the dog away to her friend, which I'm pretty upset about. Can't help but have one of those 'failure' trainer feelings.. But I really appreciate everyones suggestions! Means a lot.
 
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