New Puppy and biting

kitcatclubJanuary 21, 2010

My husband and I recently purchased a beautiful pug puppy. No name yet - we're waiting to see what she's like. She's 12 weeks old and came from a pet store. Yes, I know, bad idea in general but there is a story behind it and suffice it to say, we're satisfied with our dog. One good thing about it is she's already crate trained and doesn't cry or whine when we crate her.

One thing we are not satisfied with is how much she bites. I understand that puppies bite and it's normal, but I would like to train her out of it as soon as possible. I've read that one good way is to yelp or yell "ouch!" when she grabs skin and then give her something else to chew on. Or to get up and walk away from her after the yelp. We've been trying that but then she chases after us and bites our feet. I find that if I stop moving and just stare down at her quietly, Cesar Milan style, she backs off. Can anyone offer any other advice?

Also, if she gets too excited, we crate her as a time out for her (and a rest for us). She goes outside as soon as she comes out and I think she's getting the idea that potty in the house is a no-no. Any comments on the time-out sessions?

Thanks for any info! Neither of us has had a puppy since we were kids and so far we're enjoying it a lot!


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First, biting is normal puppy behavior. You can use a toy for that kind of play. I suppose "OUCH!" might work, but I always used a gutteral EH sound to indicate displeasure.

Getting a dog excited and then crating is mistreatment, IMHO. Tapering off the excited play is better. Crating is not bad, just the reason/time can be detrimental. Taking her out at the end of an exciting play session is a much better idea, many dogs need activity to initiate bodily functions.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 5:19PM
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If the Cesar move works, why do you need more advice?

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 5:25PM
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You're doing it right. However, puppies teethe, just like human babies, so you are going to need to give her something to chew on. One of my favorites is to take an old washcloth, get it wet, twist it into a roll and pop it into the freezer overnight. Then let her use this as a teething rag. Keep a couple in the freezer at a time, so you always have one. When you see her start to gnaw on something she shouldn't, correct her with a "No", or whatever sound you decide to use, and give her one of these to chew.

Supervise her when she is chewing a rag, so she doesn't eat it.
You can also use hard rubber dog toys, like Kongs, to help with teething.

I personally don't believe in time outs for dogs. We simply stopped playing, similar to what Handymac is saying. When you are ready to end the play session, take her out for a walk around the yard and then just go back inside and go about your regular, human business. You don't want her to associate her crate with punishment, she should see her crate as a place of security.

Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 5:33PM
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She needs to learn bite inhibition from you, so you should yelp "OUCH" loudly whenever she bites, just like her siblings would. This will teach her not to bite.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 9:04PM
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I agree with cindyb about not associating the crate with punishment. Our dog is 18 months old, and she uses her crate on her own for daytime naps (safe from kids and flying objects). And we bring it with us when we travel, so it's helpful that she thinks of it as a good place to be.

About the biting, just continue Cesar's method if it causes her to back off. And give it some time - for us it took many, many corrections (months!) before our pup stopped play biting. It depends on your dog -seems like labs learn very quickly since they are so eager to please. I think terriers take a little longer to train - they can be somewhat stubborn. I've never had a pug, but for any dog a certain amount of repetition is necessary. Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 5:36AM
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Well, I tried the yelping when she bites last night and it worked wonders! I yelped so loud my husband jumped and the puppy stared at me wide-eyed! She was much more careful about biting me the next time, but I yelped again anyway - don't want her biting me at all. After that, she didn't bite. Well, not last night anyway.

I know she'll still need correction (she chewed on me again this morning), but at least it's a start.

Thank you for the insight on not getting her too excited and then crating her - I hadn't thought of that. We'll make sure to let her calm down more before putting her to bed. We are trying not using the crate as punishment. We always take her outside before crating her and try to make it a fun and pleasant thing, putting some toys or a treat inside and petting her.

Cindy, that's a great idea to use a frozen rag for her teething! We'll try that, too!

Thank you all for such good advice!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 10:53AM
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Sounds like you are doing a great job....

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 8:40PM
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kitcat, I'm very late in responding to this post, but you are absolutely on the right track.

I've been teased about my "method" for a long time (years), for curing this. But it worked. An earlier poster indicated that pups learn to "pull their bite" from litter-mates and their mother, and that is absolutely true.

At 3 months old, Mocha was already pushing 30 lbs. He's a big dog now. His playful "nipping" HURT. He was a bit relentless about it during playtime with me as well.

Finally, I decided it's much easier to speak a dog's language than it is to teach a dog MY language - especially a young pup.

The next time he bit me in play, I did just what his littermate or mother would have done - I BIT HIM BACK. Yes, I admit it, I really did that. I yelled out "OW!!!", and then I grabbed him up, and bit down on the tip of his little cute floppy ear - just hard enough to make him yelp. His suprised expression was priceless.

My husband still laughs about that to this day. But Mocha NEVER bit me again. I do caution anyone who attempts this to be careful. Remember, you are very close to a dog's face when this happens and their teeth are sharp. However, frankly it worked. He got the point. The next time we were playing, I could see it in his face. He *almost* nipped, and then decided it wasn't a good idea because human's bite back.

Do be careful, but its an immediate understandable (to the dog) technique.

(If I ever meet you on a street, I will deny I ever bit my dog. But let's face it, everyone on this forum kisses their dog at some time or another :) lol)

    Bookmark   January 28, 2010 at 3:03AM
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Thanks, Mazer - we're trying!

Cindy, I wondered if that would work - nipping her back. I might try it because yelping isn't working as well as the first time I tried it. In her excitement, she's nipped both me and hubby in the face once or twice already so that wouldn't be a huge surprise. I know I'll be really glad when her teeth are finally all in!

Getting up and leaving has also worked fairly well, until she gets all hyped up again. Once she's excited, nothing really works except walking away and leaving her for a little while.

Thanks again for the advice!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2010 at 3:58PM
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I got an 8-week-old bouvier a while back and i did not discourage biting at all due to the fact that i wanted to use her for "bitework". So my hands were pretty ripped up.

But eventually, when she would bite my injured hands, it would hurt a lot and so i couldn't help but get angry and yell at her - which i did maybe a couple of times.

Anyway, maybe it was the anger or maybe she just grew out of it but she does not bite my hands anymore - instead she bites one of the other dogs!!! Lucky him!!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2010 at 4:31PM
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Dogs do not learn everything quickly. Sometimes weeks/months of repitition are necessary.

Does biting back work? Sure, for some dogs. I raised a malamute(wound up weighing over 100 pounds) and faced his puppy aggression problem when he was about 6 months. I researched the breed and the pack behavior. Turns out the signal for STOP BITING, given by an older dog is to growl and bite the transgressor across the muzzle.

My wife, who had no ideas of training looked out the window to see me dump the pup, growl and bite his face. I admit I felt a bit silly, but there was INSTANT surrender.

For that dog, two more such corrections, and the sound I made was sufficient for cooperation.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2010 at 5:38PM
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LOL, handymac! My puppy is a pug and doesn't have much of a muzzle. It would probably look like I was trying to give her mouth-to-mouth if I tried that!

    Bookmark   January 29, 2010 at 9:05AM
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That was a breed specific correction method. And the only dog on which I even thought of using it on.

My current rescued(before being seized by local authorities) GSD mix needed just several months of wat I call Body Language corrections. No touching at all(one reason is because at first, had I touched him in correction, he would have attacked), just moving him back into his kennel(always left with door open, since before it was a punishment to be in the kennel) and standing until he relaxed. Then I simply turned and left. Soon, just posturing with a grunt was sufficient. Then just the grunt. Now, a raised finger or wave is all I need.

Point is that almost every dog that has issues to be corrected needs individual treatment. General methods work, with individual tweaking to fit the specific dog.

Then never allow a rule to be broken.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2010 at 1:29PM
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Totally agree it is not for every dog at all. And size sure is a factor. Mocha was still small enough for me to handle,but for some folks, a 30 lb pup is bigger than their grown dogs.

Bear in mind, I got him at the shelter at 8 wks old, and he'd already been there for a 2 weeks. Most of his smaller littermates had been adopted already (by the owner, not by the shelter,they never let them go before 8 wks old).

So all that being said, he just was never taught by other pups to pull his bite. In otherwords, he just hadn't learned from another pup that biting can hurt - its not always fun (fun for HIM maybe). I chose the tip of his floppy ear because it was convenient and I could guard my face from his teeth with my other hand. Plus it is soft enough to evoke some pain (thus his yelp of suprise).

Now of course my husband made fun of me and swore I drew blood (eye roll). I swear I did not -- honest. But it was super effective for us given his youth.

Again, I super caution using that method, but for a young pup it worked great.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2010 at 5:46PM
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Omigosh, I LOVE the frozen washrag idea.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2010 at 7:19PM
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I've always established myself as alpha with my dogs early on. Puppies always seem to go through a stage where they challenge which is natural. I haven't bitten back but have put them on their back and held them firmly while giving a clear no until the biting stops. If they are still trying to bite while on there back hold their mouth shut. I guess the idea is to let them know that if you don't want them to bite you and you say no then they had better stop or else you have the power to make them stop and take control. Do this with 15 minutes of down/stay every evening where the you pick a spot for the puppy to stay for 15 minutes. The dog will challenge you but you firmly put them back in place until you can back off across the room and the dog still stays. Finally in a couple weeks you will be able to keep the dog in it's place releasing it with praise.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2010 at 9:58AM
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viridis i've done that with very big dogs and i'm sure handymac has too. you are right. The "submission roll" can be very effective in certain circumstances.

I think what most people have to understand is "you better be able to back it up". Meaning you better be able to control the situation given whatever size of dog it is.

I just think many times we try to make the new dog (whatever age) understand american english -- when in fact it would be sooooo much easier just to speak the dog's language. Be it an ear nip, a submission roll, or a grab of the chin and a sharp "pssssssst" said out loud.

I just wish more people would think*. It's a dog. It's not a human. They don't always know what we want. So its waaaaay easier to get down to their level than it is to expect them to come up to ours in a day or a week.

I could no more learn chinese in a week than my dog could learn human english in a week. It's a constant compromise.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2010 at 2:18AM
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I was watching a show on T.V. about puppies and they suggested putting something like peanut butter on your hands so the puppy learns to lick the hands instead of biting. I've not tried it. I have a four month old puppy and I just hold her mouth shut and say no biting when she nips at me. It's working. I think you have to be careful not to let them get too excited when you're playing with them

    Bookmark   January 31, 2010 at 7:05PM
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a firm "NO BITE" command immediately followed by a redirection such as "where's your ball" or placing the ball/chew toy in their mouth is usally sufficient and a safe way to train a pup to bite something other than your hand.
Also never use a crate for sets the wrong message to what's supposed to be a safe haven.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2010 at 11:28PM
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I'm beginning to think my little pup is more bulldog than pug. She's very stubborn! The "leave it" command and redirection simply doesn't work - she just keeps going after my hands, ignoring whatever toy I offer her, and then starts yapping like we're playing a game. I'm not giving her a wimpy little command either - I glare at her and speak sternly.

A good smack on the bottom doesn't phase her a bit and anything stronger feels like abuse to me. I tried holding her mouth shut but it seems to wind her up even more.

Viridis, I like your description of the down/stay but she doesn't do "down" yet. She's very good at sit but come and down are not sinking in (or she just has selective learning LOL!). I've also tried the submission roll and it does slow her down briefly.

BTW, I'm reading a wonderful book on training called "How to be Your Dog's Best Friend" - it's by monks (!) in Cambridge, NY. They have a lot of experience raising German shepherds and their techniques seem sound to me. I wish I'd read it BEFORE I got Gracie - now I'm playing catch-up with their lessons!

We'll keep working on it!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2010 at 2:03PM
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Smacking your dog is not going to work. Dogs "smack" each other when they play, they think it is fun and do not understand you are punishing them. And don't hold her mouth shut, she won't understand that either. In DogWorld, all those actions are games.

I think what you need to do is to find a toy that she is crazy about, because it sounds to me like the toy you are trying to distract her with is just, "meh".

You can also try the "ignore" tactic, which is when she bites at you, quickly end the play session and ignore her for a bit. She will learn that when she bites you, play time ends.

Each dog is different and you have to tweak the rules to suit your own dog. Don't get frustrated when good advice doesn't work, just figure out another course of action.

BTW, Cesar Millan has an episode on DW where he assists monks with one of their difficult cases, a GSD. I wonder if its the same order?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2010 at 4:42PM
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The monk books are fabulous. There is a puppy version -- I think it's called The Art of Raising a Puppy. Look on Amazon for the Monk's of New Skete and you'll find the puppy book. Also, one of the top trainers there left the monastery and became a very famous dog trainer -- Job Michael Evans. I have all his books. He is sound, humane and loves dogs. I was very priviliged to attend a seminar with him -- he was truly amazing. He took the leash in his hands and made eye contact and the dogs instantly respected him. He's passed on now but I re-read all his books whenever I get a new puppy.

For anyone with a dog with behavioral issues, he has a great book on that too. I can't remember the name of it (again, look up his name) but he has a very funny and completely workable section on set ups to get a sneaky dog to misbehave so you can correct him when you're prepared.

Other well respected trainers are the Volhards and Carol Lee Benjamin.

I find that correcting young puppies varies tremendously from puppy to puppy. Some are very sensitive and a little goes a long way. Too much can crush them. Others are stubborn and even very young need to be shown who is boss. Corgis tend to nip (that's how they herd) and young ones will eventually nip the owners heels to herd somewhere they want to go (food, leashes). It's terribly important that any corgi owner is ready for this moment and makes it crystal clear that nipping a human is never allowed. On mine, I round on them, lower my voice to a threatening growl and give them a very loud lecture on how terrible it is. On the tough puppies I also tap their muzzle with one finger at the same time. On the sensitive ones I don't do this. I lower my eyebrows and stare them down at the same time. They get it. Bad, bad mistake. They'll try a few more times and get the same treatment. They stop. They soon know they cannot use their teeth on a human. One other method that can work on really young puppies who are playing too rough (it won't work if the puppy is trying to be aggressive) is to squawk loudly in pain. The higher pitched and louder the OUCH squeal the better. When littermates play too rough they yelp in pain. This shows the littermate that they were too rough and they learn to moderate it. Mom would enforce this rule so by the time we get the puppies most have learned this from mom. However, if the puppy was removed from mom to early he would not have learned this and it wouldn't work.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2010 at 8:48PM
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I found something that seems to work to curb the biting last night, using the basic concept of ignoring her when she bites. I sit on the floor to play with her and she likes to sit in my lap and chew on my hands, rather than her stuffed hedgehog (it grunts when you squeeze). She kept chewing on me even though I was telling her no, so I plopped her down on the floor, crossed my arms and refused to even look at her.

She flipped out and went from biting to licking and squirming all over me! I couldn't beleive it - it was like she really needed me to "rub her nose" in the fact that I would ignore her if she bites. Of course, now that she understands licking is OK, any exposed skin gets licked to death.

I'm going to end up with a neurotic, licking dog, aren't I?



    Bookmark   February 3, 2010 at 10:16AM
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murraysmom Zone 6 OH

Beats being eating alive, doesn't it? :) What great information being shared here. This is certainly a wonderful forum. I guess it takes a village to raise puppies as well as children!

    Bookmark   February 3, 2010 at 11:09AM
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