shark attack by puppy
April 5, 2010 1:24 PM   Subscribe

My puppy is a shark - help?

So, I realize that it is completely normal and expected behavior for a puppy to want to bite everything that comes near it, including hands, noses, etc, and that there are a myriad of ways to deal with this.

The problem is that we have tried several (consistently, not switching between methods) and nothing seems to be helping. The problem is getting worse as puppy's teeth get sharper, and the biting has extended to small children.

We are now using the "yelp then ignore" method, and after three strikes puppy goes in his crate. We make sure all of his needs are met to ensure that that's not the cause of the biting.

He doesn't respond whatsoever to yelps, and walking away from him is difficult when he is attached to your skin. He settles down when put in his crate, but we don't want this to be a place for punishment.

What we have trouble with most is when we're out and about and people are fawning over puppy, and he bites children. There is no way to put him in his crate, or isolate him, and diffusing a group of admirers has proved difficult.

We're trying to work mostly with positive training. Puppy is 10 weeks old. It feels that he ends up spending much of his indoor time crated, as out of his crate he turns into a monster. THis is not for lack of exercise, play, or attention, as he gets plenty outside, and after just waking up, when he is usually moderately well behaved.

How can we effectively deal with this behaviour, and especially teach him that children are for being with gentle with?
posted by whalebreath to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
1. Find a local dog trainer who can help you work with your puppy.
2. Muzzle?
posted by Billegible at 1:31 PM on April 5, 2010

Here you go. This really, really works.
posted by bearwife at 1:34 PM on April 5, 2010

What we have trouble with most is when we're out and about and people are fawning over puppy, and he bites children. There is no way to put him in his crate, or isolate him, and diffusing a group of admirers has proved difficult.

I think that you should not bring this animal 'out and about', in the meantime. You are running a big risk - to your wallet, to the puppy, to the kids - by bringing an animal you know is a biter into these places, and allowing people to 'fawn' over him. Just don't do it, until the puppy is known to be safe for those people. My chihuahua is 10 years old and always was, always will be, a biter - the first time she nipped a small child cousin of mine I took myself as lucky it was a family member and never brought her around children again.

'Fawning' over an animal gets them excited, and excitement in a puppy seems often to lead to nipping. Prime your puppy for success by removing the fawning - it's not doing anyone any good. Take the puppy on walks, when people or their children try to approach firmly tell them not to, and walk away from them if you have to. Don't get involved in mouthy play - no tug of war, no tickling, etc. Personally, I think that yelping stuff is nonsense - when my dog does something wrong I firmly tell him "NO" so he knows I mean business, and then remove him from the situation. Also nonsense is this 'three strikes' rule. Your dog is not a child - you don't need to pretend to be hurt, and they don't need three chances to bite you. If the puppy nips, firmly say NO, put it in its crate in another room, and go get it after a minute or two. Every single time, not every third time.

But like I said, no amount of training has had any effect on the (rescued as an adult) chihuahua, so you just have to be responsible enough to keep a biting dog away from people - ESPECIALLY children.
posted by bunnycup at 1:36 PM on April 5, 2010 [8 favorites]

(To restate - if you punish the dog 1/3 of the time it bites you, you are teaching the dog that he has a greater chance of NOT being punished. More than 50% of the time, he can get away with biting you. Why on earth would the dog stop biting, with those odds? And you don't need to remove him from the situation for a long time post-biting, just a couple of minutes. I try for no more than 3 for my adult dog, they don't have long enough attention spans for long punishments or three-strike rules.)
posted by bunnycup at 1:39 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can't speak to the dog training, but I think you really need to work on avoiding and diffusing groups of admirers. If he's anything like the puppies I've known, groups are probably making the problem worse anyway.

Please don't allow your pup to have any contact with small children at all until you get this under control; it will be your responsibility if someone gets hurt (or even if someone just overreacts).

No crowded parks, more isolated walking paths, at less popular times of day, and the phrase, "Please do not pet my dog. We are still teaching him not to bite and I don't want you to get hurt."
posted by juliplease at 1:42 PM on April 5, 2010

Best answer: My husky was a biter when she was a pup, and, with those sharp puppy teeth I spent months with lacerated forearms and hands. This is her playing at 8 weeks, you can see how much she used her mouth to play, and every touch of a tooth was a cut!

Pups learn not to bite from their mothers and other pups in the litter, I believe that the root of the problem is that they are removed from the litter before learning where the limits are. Keep in mind the difference between aggressive biting and mouthing, they are two different behaviors.

Although the puppy loved to use her mouth (think of the mouth as a hand as opposed to a weapon, you'll understand more why the pup is grabbing you), I still took her out in public, in fact, she went to work with me every single day from the time she was 8 weeks old. Work being an alternative school.

The kids loved her, and wanted to pet her. My job was to, on one hand let her get socialized, on the other keep her from biting and drawing blood with those little razor teeth.

I would hold her firmly whenever someone was around, I always warned people that she was prone to using her mouth, I think that there was only once or twice where she managed to grab some flesh while playing.

I was persistent in not letting her get close to people (especially children) when she was into a mouthing mood, but let her get all the attention she wanted when she wasn't mouthing people, or trying. She was literally on a four foot leash 90% of the time while she was awake, even in the house. Behaviors were corrected every single time.

I also kept an appropriate chew toy at hand while at home (nylite bones are best), when her mouth went around my arm, I replaced it with a toy bone.

It took time, lots and lots of time!

This is her a year or so later, playing in the gym at work with a bunch of kids... not a single bite.

The trick to raising, and training a puppy is persistence and love. I don't have a perfect pup, but the time and energy has paid off.

And, take her to obedience classes as soon as she's had her shots....!

Good luck... you'll survive!
posted by HuronBob at 1:59 PM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

1) At only ten weeks of age, he should be spending most of his time in his crate, simply because he should be spending most of his time sleeping. If he's not spending most of his time (16-18 hrs/day) sleeping, then sleep deprivation may be contributing to the problem. Out-of-control biteyness is often a sign that it's naptime. Evidence that this may be at work in your case: You note that he is usually moderately well-behaved just after waking up.

2) In my limited experience, this age is the absolute worst time for biteyness because the dog is getting bigger and stronger and more energetic, the teeth are still needle sharp, and impulse control is still zero. Never fear--just when you are on the brink of despair, the problem will begin to resolve itself.

3) I don't think you're going to be able to teach a 10-week-old that "children are for being gentle with." It's too much to expect at this age. It's very good for him to get exposure to children while he's so young, if it can be done safely, so I think the key is going to be managing the interaction. You need to set him up for success. That might mean carefully choosing older, calmer children for him to interact with, and instructing them beforehand on moving slowly and calmly and what to do if he bites. It might also mean telling the parents of random kids out in the world that their kids can't pet him right now because he's learning not to be so bitey.
posted by HotToddy at 2:08 PM on April 5, 2010 [5 favorites]

Puppies bite and young puppies in homes often bite more because they're not around their mother and siblings to teach them bite inhibition. Our puppy was a total bitey bastard until he was socialized. We did a lot of the things you did (although we didn't crate him for biting) but it wasn't until he had his shots and we could safely socialize him that problem resolved itself. Now he has an incredibly soft mouth when it comes to people. I was in dispair that he would never stop, but he did it just took some time. In the meantime we just didn't take him around kids all that often.

Other dogs are the best at teaching a dog what is an appropriate level of force so you may have to wait it out for another few weeks until he has all his shots and then start taking him to the dog park or to day care.
posted by Kimberly at 2:19 PM on April 5, 2010

Our puppy nipped until we got our dog a dog, and they taught each other what getting nipped actually felt like. So Nthing exposure to other dogs.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:23 PM on April 5, 2010

What we have trouble with most is when we're out and about and people are fawning over puppy, and he bites children. There is no way to put him in his crate, or isolate him, and diffusing a group of admirers has proved difficult.

First of all, avoid the situation. "Please don't pet him, we have to move on." "We're training him, please don't pet him." Sometimes a white lie works when nothing else will: "The puppy is sick, please don't pet him" etc etc. Do whatever you need to avoid giving him the chance to practice bad behavior.

Puppy is always on a leash. A short leash. 4-6 feet, no retractable leashes. If he bites, if he gets out of control, grab the leash and walk away. No explanation, no pausing for politeness. Puppy misbehaves and gets IMMEDIATE response from you in the form of stopping the behavior. Your priority as as a trainer is to the dog, not to be polite to a stranger. Behave like a parent with a child holding a box of matches or a jug of bleach. In any situation with other people, your attention is with the dog first and foremost, not answering questions about the puppy's name or hold old he is or any number of other questions people ask while they're petting strange dogs. If he bites, you walk away. 100% of the time.

Get a trainer. A good one. Go to classes, work on general discipline. Learn to be consistent and fair. Give him an alternate behavior and reward it. Most pet stores carry bait bags which are sort of like fanny packs for treats. Carry one and fill it with his kibble for the day. Food gets earned based on good behavior. See a new person? Sit! Good boy. Treat. He sniffs a new person, you call him to you and give him a treat, let him go back to say hello. His primary attention is on you, and he stays in control and learns to check in with you. If you see the situation about to get out of hand, he's getting too excited, but haven't bitten someone yet, walk away now before something happens. Be proactive, not reactive. Worst case scenario with a 10 week pup, pick him up, carry him out. There is always a way to isolate him, rudeness is never a barrier to safety.
posted by hindmost at 2:29 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

also, he's probably teething...big second on having the right chew toys...though i think doggies generally prefer rawhide to anything synthetic...get a variety...small sticks for quick treats, a big bone for keeping him busy for a while...
posted by sexyrobot at 2:51 PM on April 5, 2010

"i think doggies generally prefer rawhide to anything synthetic." ....true...but... rawhide can be bitten off in chunks big enough to cause a bowel blockage...big time surgery if that happens... nylabones come in a range of softness... I've got one the pup has been chewing on for six months and has barely dented it...she still loves to chew it..
posted by HuronBob at 3:10 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Pups learn not to bite from their mothers and other pups in the litter, I believe that the root of the problem is that they are removed from the litter before learning where the limits are.

I'm a big believer in this. We got two puppies at about the same time. We got the first one a little too young, I think, at 7 weeks. He was a constant frantic nipper/biter. About a month after we got him (so he would have been ~11 weeks) we got the second puppy. And his nipping/biting stopped instantly and never returned.

I don't know how that helps you, though, unless there's a way you could give him chunks of time with other puppies.
posted by madmethods at 3:30 PM on April 5, 2010

Puppy is 10 weeks old. Puppy is very much still a baby, and acting appropriately for a very young dog. Lots and lots of chew toys, rope, and other mouth-y toys. Every bite, substitute a chew toy or rope toy. If people hover and coo, explain that puppy is in the bite-y, nipping stage, and because puppy is in training, may not play with them. This will take some time and patience. You posted a puppy question w/out adorable pictures?
posted by theora55 at 3:53 PM on April 5, 2010

Babies bite. Some babies really really really want to bite. My neighbor's large-breed pup is desperate to greet me by biting and yanking on my sleeve, my hand, and sometimes will outflank me (literally) and bite me on the ass.

I do not welcome this attention.

I tried many things, but here is what finally worked: whenever I went outside, I carried a cup of water. (Just plain water, and not a ton of it. But enough to be kind of a shock when it gets dashed in your face.)

When she ran up I would remind her to be good by saying "Easy..." What happened next was up to her. Bite my sleeve? Cup of water doused in the face. Bite my butt? Cup of water. Sit and grin? Much petting and cooing and love.

It took 15-20 times for her to figure it out, but she did finally wrap her head around the idea that greeting nicely results in a pleasant experience, while greeting roughly results in a startling splash to the face.

(I imagine a squirt gun would work fine for a puppy < 80-110lbs.)
posted by ErikaB at 4:06 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I only recently have convinced my springer spaniel pup to stop biting.

We tried all the suggested things. Yelping and ignoring. Redirecting with chew toys. All of those encouraged the biting, since he interpreted all of it as play.

What finally worked was simply cramming my fingers down his throat when he bites me. I continue wiggling my fingers in his throat until he removes his mouth from my hand. It took, maybe, three or four days of this before he realized that biting was not an acceptable way of communicating to a human.

Similarly, when he chooses to lick me instead of bite me, I both praise him, and discontinue whatever it is that's annoying him (if it isn't necessary). He can tell me that he doesn't want to be petted right now; he just has to do it gently.

Mind you, he does still bite when we're wrestling. But, I bring that on myself. He's not allowed to initiate roughhousing with a human.

(Also, any sort of three-strikes-and-you're-out rule is totally pointless. A dog doesn't understand punishment. He doesn't understand that he screwed up three times and so now is receiving punishment. All he sees is that two out of three times, there are no consequences. It looks inconsistent to a dog, not lenient. Corrections (like fingers in the throat) come simultaneously to the undesirable behavior; they're communication, not punishment.)
posted by Netzapper at 4:32 PM on April 5, 2010

My dog was super-bitey when she was a puppy. After exhausting the yelping and quiet time options, our trainer suggested that she just didn't get how painful it is to be bitten. We began curling her lips up over her teeth when she started biting, so that she was biting her own lips. We'd hold them there just long enough for her to stop and whine a moment, then release.

It took a few weeks of this, but she stopped biting. She was (and is) still a little mouthy, but she just doesn't bite for real anymore.
posted by workerant at 8:58 AM on April 6, 2010

diffusing a group of admirers has proved difficult

Learn to control how people approach your dog. Saying "sorry, he bites" is perfectly appropriate and creates a more controlled environment. Parents will appreciate this. Say it confidently, while reminding yourself that you don't really have to apologize for your awesome shark puppy. Behavior change take time; you'll work it out together.
posted by eddydamascene at 12:24 AM on April 7, 2010

« Older Handwriting in Japanese?   |   What regular service is necessary for a 2008 Honda... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.