Most pups will bite in certain contexts or situations. Despite popular opinion ignoring won’t help much! If you ignore it the puppy will just create a strong reinforcement history with biting.
Don’t be tempted to scold, shout at or even physically correct your puppy for nipping, this rarely teaches them anything other than the human is scary and you should avoid them! A lot of puppies nip because they are teething, so be sure to give them items to chew on frequently.
Here are a few tips to help with your nippy puppy.
-Redirect your puppy onto a fun toy rather than you. Teach your puppy what you DO want them to bite.
-Only fuss your puppy when they’re calm if they’re sharky.
-Practice “touch” hand targetting frequently
-Teach your puppy handling is good if they’re nipping from frustration when handled
-Ensure your puppy is getting sufficient mental and physical exercise. Snuffle mats are a great way to slow down a manic puppy.
-Ensure your training sessions are short, so as not to build frustration
-Remove yourself or the puppy from the situation
-If it’s the same situation every time, be prepared and prevent! Prevention is far easier! If your puppy has mad zoomies with sharkiness at 5pm every day, at 4.50pm get your puppy a kong/chew (bully sticks, chicken feet, duck necks), snuffle mat or a puzzle toy. Or be prepared depending on the situation with lots of treats to reward what you like and a line on the puppy to remove them from the situation if they do get bitey.
-Fleece toys are great for pups and fluffy tuggy toys to nibble on.
-If nipping during play with a person, the game is over when teeth touch skin, next time lower excitement level of the game, the puppy nipping is information, he is too excited. Lower excitement and reward for nice play.
-If nipping other dogs remove them from the situation, again this is information, next time keep an eye on play getting too exciting and remove before your puppy gets too nippy.
-Be consistent. If you’re not then your puppy will chance nipping and biting.
As soon as Arthur was brought home I was determined he would be crate trained. There are so many benefits to this including the potential for him to come to training sessions with me when he matured. I had various kongs and chews at the ready. A massive spanner was put in the works though, as I have previously mentioned, Arthur would not eat from Kong’s, he would not eat chews, and he really didn’t entertain food for the first few weeks. So how did crate training go?
It didn’t. Arthur had a crate at his breeder’s so I assumed he would have been ok, I attempted training in the daytime. This just didn’t happen, food wasn’t very interesting. I tried placing his meals in there, he ate and left promptly. I tried popping him in his crate with the door open when he was in a deep puppy sleep, he scooted straight out. He slept with his crate directly next to my bed at night with minimal interruptions but with random whimperings throughout the night once his bladder could manage it he joined me on the bed. I assume because he was used to spending every moment he could with his littermates and minimal input from the humans in his household at the breeders it was all a lot to take in, he was 12 weeks old which was a month older than the age i had wanted to bring a puppy home at.
Arthur bonded fast with everyone, in his own fashion. To the point not being in the room with us caused hysterics. I do not believe in ignoring a distressed dog. There is science to suggest this does much harm and knocks a puppies self-confidence, particularly at a young age. This meant he spent most of his time with us, and I had to watch his every waking move to interrupt him dive bombing on my oldest whippet, or chewing up the skirting boards. Toys were not very interesting either. Plastic Bottles were at least of some interest, so many of those were given to him for entertainment.
A month or so into Arthur joining us, Marley (one of my older whippets) had to go on 6 weeks of complete rest- including no play with Arthur. Including no Arthur attaching himself to his neck. So we had to put up a gate to separate them unless sleeping. Arthur did not appreciate this, neither did Marley. Arthur’s anxiety about being separated increased. There was much frustration, crying and an Arthur thinking he could chew up a metal gate (he probably could!) This was managed by increasing Arthur’s exercise and mental stimulation (sit for the plastic bottle went down well, odd little dog!)
The last 6 months have been a busy blur! But at some point, Arthur began to enjoy food and chews! I had begun leaving him with a dental stick which occupied him while I left. This helped stop him crying when I left. However, going upstairs was against the rules (Arthur’s rules!), walking the others were against the rules too. He didn’t spend time harassing me for attention, he got plenty of that so would happily settle when I was around, but he lacked any independence.
So Arthur is now almost 9 months old. Arthur will go in his crate when presented with the opportunity, but will not remain in it for long without food! Arthur cannot be left if I go in the back garden with one of the others for training. So where do we go from here? Well ignoring the issue isn’t an option, we have managed it until this point but unless we address it, it will always be managed not dealt with.
You can see above some vague, wittering notes. These are to keep me motivated, I am very busy lately day to day. If a plan is not made, something does not get done. Having a plan prior to the session means we can see what works and what does not. Currently, we are building independence. This is NOT achieved by ignoring Arthur, this is NOT achieved by reducing exercise. This is achieved by allowing Arthur to feel that GOOD things happen when he is separate. Planning ahead I have several kongs in the fridge, a moderate level of difficulty. To keep him occupied and to challenge him enough to take his mind from me. Too easy? He does it and whines, too difficult? He quickly gives up. It must be full of high value treats, or he loses interest.
I put the toy down, on his mat that he enjoys settling on anyway, set the timer. And I leave the room, closing the gate behind me. I do nothing exciting, usually typing something up. I am out of sight, but the door is not closed, that is too much of a challenge currently. I have tended to work on this in an evening, when he is naturally more tired and likely to settle, setting him up to succeed. We are moving to morning times too. I will continue to increase time and then begin to start doing more with the others. If he begins to react, i have pushed him too far. Behaviour is always information! I hate to see it when trainers describe anxious dogs as bossy, Arthur is unhappy being alone. So he must learn it is a positive thing. Keep an eye on his blog to see how he progresses on this one! I have a feeling it’s going to be a bumpy ride!
Those of you that know me well, know that as well as Arthur I have 3 other dogs. Of these 3, 2 are reactive to other dogs, and one also reactive to people. One of the bigger priorities I have with Arthur is simple, in theory, allow him to become a confident puppy who can handle whatever life throws at him! Essentially, socialise, socialise, socialise!
So what is socialisation? The term has become muddied with people seeming to take extremes in approaches. Either frustrating the dog and taking every experience incredibly slowly or pushing a dog into every situation regardless of how they feel. For me socialisation is simple, Arthur should remain confident about whatever the situation was following it. If it challenges him slightly, this is less of a concern while he is a young puppy. Puppies tend to bounce back from situations and if we handle it appropriately we can turn small signs of uncertainty into ones of confidence and joy.
So from the very get go Arthur went out in so many different places. Not driving and not wanting to over walk him I either carried him or popped him in a specialised puppy backpack and then popped him on the floor the places where I wanted him to potter. Arthur was quite a bit barky from the moment he had his first walk, this was a worry but not something worth making a massive deal about for me. He was barking from joy and excitement. Not ideal but with every person and dog he saw he got less interested. Walks were about socialising, seeing sights, hearing new sounds and watching the world go by. Less about walking time more about quality time.
Loose lead walking and focus wasn’t of huge importance to me, he was only a baby- it is crazy to expect him to have the self-control of an adult dog. Arthur, being the strange little creature he is, was much more fond of the hustle and bustle of the city than walking down boring roads. His tail wagged furiously when taken to Castle Square in Lincoln. A busy day there was so much to take in, the only thing that caused a slight degree of anxiety was a horse and carriage, but a laugh from me and dropping down with him and he was fine (and has been since!) He settled by my feet often and just because content with everything to see. On more than one occasion he would happily sleep in the middle of the busy City! Always happy to greet new people and dogs, never once attempting to jump up people I ensured I reinforced this behaviour by treating him and this is something that was never an issue.
We didn’t just visit the City though, it was important to go different places every day. So he got used to new roads, dogs, people, sounds and environments. Places that were empty, supermarket car parks, Pets at Home, fun dog shows, large open fields, small playing fields everywhere you can think of! He took a while to adjust to traffic, so we went on walks specifically to address this, finding a busy road with a large path and empty car park and field nearby we went there regularly to play with toys, sometimes even just to chew on a chew or kong. Now traffic is not a concern of his. I didn’t stand and make him look at traffic or reward him for staring at it. Instead, traffic was the background noise to fun things, games with toys and excitement. It wasn’t something to be forced to be near, the sound just became background noise to him.
Sleeping around such busy settings and also regularly checking in with me was exactly what I was looking for, and he achieved it so easily. He loved every moment of this and the only quirk he had on walks was a refusal to walk in certain places. Something he no longer does at 7 months (I will write on this in a later blog!) He is now beginning his teenage phase, things are a touch different now, he is more excited about people but he rarely barks at dogs now. He will focus more and perform behaviours on walks as well as enjoying walks with one of his best friends Django! Socialisation is certainly not over yet though- not even slightly!