How to stop puppy from biting older dog?
March 17, 2009 9:59 AM   Subscribe

Hey hive mind! So a friend of mine has an old dog with hip dysplasia and bad back legs. My friend needed a running partner and a new friend for said older dog, so she went out an got herself a pup (about a year old I think) Now younger dog is nipping back legs of older dog, basically tormenting her. What should my (very upset about this) friend do?
posted by HPag to Pets & Animals (6 answers total)
Train the puppy. There are many methods that work to discourage undesirable behavior if used consistently when the puppy is exhibiting the bad behavior: shake can full of coins, throw a can full of coins (at the floor near the puppy), squirt bottle at the puppy -- all of these in conjunction with a firm "OFF!" or "NO!"
posted by pmbuko at 10:18 AM on March 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

She needs to give the pup something else to chew. Have her fill a Kong with peanut butter (or other acceptable-to-her treat) and freeze it. Before the puppy has a chance to chew on the dog, the friend gives the frozen Kong. Give the puppy other things to chew on; this might take some trial and error with different toys, but clearly the puppy hasn't outgrown the chewing stage yet and needs an outlet.

She might also want to keep the puppy on a leash so she can immediately correct/remove the puppy from the situation at all times, at least until the puppy grows out of the chewing stage.

Also, a tired dog is a good dog. Your friend needs to wear that puppy out with lots of play and exercise.
posted by cooker girl at 10:20 AM on March 17, 2009

Essentially the answer is that your friend needs to find a training method that they're happy and comfortable with and use that to stop the undesirable behaviour.

There are a number of systems that she can use, I'm personally inclined towards positive reinforcement and clickers but that's just me. I got there by reading a great book called Don't Shoot the Dog, by Karen Pryor which has a convenient list of the 8 ways to stop an undesirable behaviour (the most negative of which is "shoot the dog", essentially).

For a quick fix, though, cooker girl is definitely right: get the puppy exercised, keep it distracted and, sometimes, keep it away from the older dog. It would be great if she could identify the moment just before the puppy starts this behaviour and choose that moment as the time to distract the puppy.

Anyway, good luck, it's not that easy.

posted by gwpcasey at 10:58 AM on March 17, 2009

My puppy used to do this when he was around my parents' 15 year old dog. What I did was step in IMMEDIATELY whenever the young dog messed with the older dog and made it clear that any amount of playing that might be ok with dogs that are closer to the puppy's age just wasn't ok with the old dog. I also always gave the old dog food and treats first and made the young dog wait (we had a treat stealing problem, young dog is just so much quicker!) None of these things were the perfect solution, but during the week I had my parents' dog, their issues calmed down a lot.
posted by mjcon at 11:22 AM on March 17, 2009

The above posters are all correct. I also recommend keeping the puppy on a leash (not a retractable one) inside the house or any time it's around the older dog so that the owner has an additional "handle" with which to control the puppy. It's the owner's responsibility to teach the puppy manners; the older dog is properly deferring to the owner. (The alternative, which is likely to develop if the owner lets the puppy continue to nipping at the heels of the older dog, is that the older dog will get increasingly aggressive with the younger dog as IT gets frustrated.)

Another point to consider as others have mentioned is that the puppy is probably bored and is acting out towards the older dog because it wants to play and the older dog will not.

Two things that your friend should specifically NOT do:
1) Yell "NO!" in a loud voice, especially a high pitched one, and in general she needs to avoid getting excited or angry at the younger dog. Her mood needs to remain calm and level.
2) Become aggressive with the younger dog in any way, including hitting/scruffing/etc. the younger dog. If she shows any emotion towards the young dog when correcting it, she should display disgusted disappointment or "bruised feelings" towards the dogs.

... her attitude will dictate how both dogs feel about it, and if she gets aggressive or overly excited it's a sign to the dogs that excitement or aggression is permissible.
posted by SpecialK at 11:50 AM on March 17, 2009

Remember the puppy is just doing what young dogs do: Trying to establish its place in the pack in relation to the older dog (and your friend) through play. I would recommend repetitive behaviours to reinforce the puppy's submissive position in the herd hierarchy. I've found feeding a submissive dog after feeding yourself and the dominant dog does wonders. Good luck.
posted by docgonzo at 3:54 PM on March 17, 2009

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