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    1. #1
      Senior Dog
      Halcyon's Avatar
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      May 2014
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      Puppy Biting (Sticky maybe?)

      Here's a reupload of the article I posted before the board was wiped. I don't remember exactly what I wrote and reckon that the first edition was much better composed but hopefully, this will do. Please note that I am not a professional dog trainer, breeder or a medical professional. I am just an average dog owner. Actually, Bobby is my first! This is a collection of my personal experience through the puppy biting phase and what I have gathered from the board over time. If you spot any mistakes or have anything to add, please tell me and I will try to edit it as soon as possible.

      PUPPY BITING

      For all of us who have or have raised Labrador puppies, we know that looks can be deceiving. They look so darn cute and cuddly whilst you fawn over them over photos, television commercials, film and when you bring them home. You are so excited to welcome this new family member, this new bundle of joy home. However, after pup settles in, you quickly realise that you may have gotten in way over your head when that precious ball of fluff starts utilising those razor, sharp teeth.

      Growling as pup pulls on your pant legs. Lunging as pup tries to maul your face off and hump your leg at the same time. Pup pierces those cursed teeth into your skin and draws blood. With brown eyes full of determination and persistence, you know your pup is relentless in trying to brutally murder you. You are convinced that you have brought home the Spawn of Satan.
      You scream and you cry. You want that menace out of your home. You question why anyone would every own a Labrador or why in the world, did you get the only one that bites? How and why were you graced with such, such adorable evilness?!

      Guess what? It is completely normal.

      We’ve all been there. And guess what, we (maybe most) survived!

      Labradors are a mouthy breed. They were bred to retrieve fallen game in hunts and to retrieve fishing nets. They adore having something in their mouths. At the moment, it is you! Pup just wants to play and have fun! If you ever observe a litter of Lab pups, they look vicious and aggressive. They growl, nip, lunge and bite.

      Sound familiar?

      You are correct if you have realised the connection: pup thinks you are a littermate!

      For all the following suggestions, it is vital that you stay calm. Everyone in the household must be consistent with how you address this behaviour. If pup receives instructions/corrections from you to not bite but other members are saying that it is okay or are not handling the situation in the same manner (screaming, running around, etc.), pup can be very confused as to what you want him/her to do. Safety is of the utmost importance. Do not leave children unsupervised. Ever

      Here are a few suggestions you can try:

      1. IGNORE
      I know, I know. Pup lunging at your face, ripping holes in your clothes and biting your skin can be painful! Try wearing boots and long pants (jeans might be preferable) during this horrid phase. You can also try rubbing Vicks Vaporub to deter pup from biting. With this rub, do not apply to pup. Personally, I have never tried this myself, but our previous trainer recommended it.

      Be a tree. Stand still. Arms crossed. Stare at the sky. Ignore pup.

      When pup is calm and no longer biting, you can resume.

      2. OVERTIRED
      Ever raised kids? Remember how horrible they were when they were too tired and were too stubborn to go to sleep? Pups and kids are not so different. Some pups are great and fall asleep whenever they are tired. Others, not so much. Bobby was in the latter and he would not fall asleep on his own accord.

      We had to crate him to force him to nap. When he woke up, he was a million times better behaved. Remember at this age, puppies are still babies and need their sleep. They are going through a rapid growth phase and need energy to feel revitalised. They need to sleep.

      3. REDIRECT
      When pup lunges or starts biting you, shove a toy in pup’s mouth. Most likely, pup will spit the toy out and come charging back. The aim of this method is to show what pup can chew on. Rinse and repeat.

      Personally, what I did, was distract with a high value, smelly treat. I would wave it under his nose and he would stop. I commanded a “watch me” and he would obey and I would give him a simple command. This was usually a sit and paw. I rewarded for this and afterwards, offered a toy to him when he was in a calmer state of mind. If he took it, I praised, praised and praised.

      Yep, I sounded like a hooligan.

      4. LIP CURL
      This is a popular method I see recommended often. Basically, when pup bites, you fold their lip over their teeth until they whine whilst saying a stern “no bite.” The aim of this is to tell pup that when pup bites you, you bite back.
      Bobby came back with a vengeance when I tried this and I wasn’t a fan. I found it difficult to fold his lip over his teeth when he was being a maniac. It can give you quick results if you time it and do it correctly. I believe that when pup comes back for more, you just rinse and repeat until s/he learns that every time s/he bites, you bite back.

      5. REWARD FOR WHAT YOU WANT
      When pup is chewing on his own toys, reward for the behaviour! I would randomly drop a treat when Bobby chewed on his own toys and he soon reached the point where he would carry toys around. If I didn’t have treats, I would enthusiastically praise.

      Over time, he was rewarded so often for this behaviour that he would deliberately go and find a toy to carry before coming over to greet me.

      6. LET PUP MOUTH
      I know, it sounds very strange but this is what worked for me. I would first teach the “gentle” command by holding a treat between two fingers. He was welcome to mouth, nip, lick and nudge but if he bit painfully, I would withdraw my hand and offer it again. If he bit, hand and treat was withdrawn. He only got it when he was licking, being gentle with his teeth and taking it nicely.

      This teaches pup that licking = treats!

      I would then put this to the test by letting Bobby mouth my hand and arm. If he bit down painfully, I would say a stern “no bite” and he would resort to licking. If he did, I rewarded. Initially, I allowed teeth on skin as long as he did not hurt me. Eventually, I phased it away to no teeth on skin ever.

      Nowadays, when I offer my hand or arm, he licks or leaves it alone.

      7. TEACH PUP TO BE CALM
      At the start, it was hard to distract Bobby without a high value treat and even then, he would ignore me and go psycho. I started working on teaching him calm behaviours, anticipated when he was going to go into crazy mode and acted before he did.

      Play dead seems like just a cool, fun trick to teach your dog, right? I found that it has another useful application as well. When I “banged” him, he would fall on his side as trained. However, I would only release and reward him when he calmed. I observed his breathing and when it slowed to a calmer pace, I released him.

      Head down is another command to calm pup down. This involves getting pup into a “down” position and then getting pup to put his head onto the ground and only to move when released.

      Unless your pup has bulletproof obedience, this is a technique that has to be done before pup goes into psycho mode. If s/he is already in the zone, it’s next to nothing that it will work.

      8. YELP
      This method involves making a sudden, high pitched yelp when pup bites. The yelp imitates the cry that a littermate would make when the play gets too rough and the bite gets too hard. When done effectively, this stops play and the pup that cries will leave and take a break.

      I have seen this happen in a play session when Bobby was 5 months and his playmate was 9 months. Bobby bit too hard during play and the other pup made a loud, sudden, high pitched noise. It worked very effectively and play stopped immediately, afterwards, they were back at it again with no more yelping. Actually, neither dog wanted to leave even though they were exhausted.

      9. GAG/APPLY PRESSURE
      Both these methods are similar so I grouped them together. Gagging involves pushing a fist down pup’s throat with a stern, “no bite.” Applying pressure involves pressing a finger down onto pup’s tongue with a stern, “no bite.”

      Note: these methods are not intended to harm but to make pup feel uncomfortable.

      Do not overdo it.

      10. ASK FOR HELP
      Enrol you and your pup in puppy preschool. Most of the time, training is for you! If you find a good class and trainer, the trainer will teach you how to teach your puppy. If you got your pup from a reputable breeder, ask your breeder for help!

      Remember, they are dog owners too and have raised many pups over the years. They have experience and knowledge to guide you through this phase. With us, our breeder gave us lots of moral support and much needed encouragement and reassurance that we were doing things right and just needed to stick to it.

      Your vet may be able to help as well.

      11. GET OFF THE FLOOR
      It’s tempting to get down onto the floor to play and interact with your pup. However, you might find that this often riles them up. The solution? Get off the floor! Try crouching or sitting on a chair so you can easily stand up if pup gets too rowdy.

      When the biting is curbed, it’s alright to get back down. It is only temporary. Bobby is now a lap dog. A big lap dog but a lap dog nonetheless. However, as a young pup, he loved chewing me up when I was on the ground. Nowadays, he enjoys carrying a toy over to chew on. He is welcome to do so but must obey the “off” command. After all, he’s not exactly a cavalier!

      12. CHANGE YOUR MINDSET
      I know, I know. It is so hard to stop voicing or thinking, “I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!” whenever you see or feel as if you are forced to interact with your horrible pup. You have to realise that pup is still just a baby and does not know what you want from him or her.

      You may have to repeat it a hundred times or even ten thousand before you finally see that pup is just beginning to grasp the idea that biting is not okay. Consistency is the key! Don’t make the same mistake as I did and cycle through each method for day and get frustrated with him not knowing that I do not appreciate the biting.

      Afterwards, it might take another thousand until pup knows that biting people is not okay!

      Pick a method or two and stick to it! I cannot stress this enough. Over time, you will see improvement. Bobby was a dreadful, tear inducing biter for MONTHS. He was at his worst at 12-16 weeks. Absolutely horrible.

      If you feel stressed out and frustrated, put pup in crate and take a short break. Dogs are very in tune to our body language and you are doing no favours by expressing your frustration. Go and enjoy a slice of cake, an ice-cream, a coffee and listen to some calming music. Give pup a frozen Kong to occupy himself with. This should give you an hour of peace. When you feel ready, go back out and face the music! Remind yourself that this is commitment that you made. You might have your entertainment, your friends and your work but your puppy only has you.

      We managed to curb the biting at around 6 months and now at 8 months, he is becoming such a joy. Yes, he is still learning and can get mouthy at times but it is so much better. Yes, he does have training issues we are working through but he is becoming such a pleasure to have.

      As a young puppy, we were convinced we didn’t just have the “spawn of Satan” but we had the devil himself disguised as an adorable lab pup! He was a biting, chomping terror. More than once, he made us question whether we were really the right home for a Lab. More than once, we considered giving him back to the breeder and telling her that we were just not ready. Thank goodness that we did not!

      With a perpetually wide smile, a wiggling body and a wagging tail strong enough to tip a cruise ship with one whack, he has brought so much joy into our lives. I can actually picture growing old with him and relaxing at an outdoor café. At first, I thought that his head must have been filled with rocks because he just would not understand. However, it was me that was failing him! There are no words to express how clever this boy is. He catches on so quickly that sometimes I question whether I am a good enough owner for him. Give your pup a chance and another and another. Your Labrador Retriever or mix will not disappoint you!

      THINGS WILL GET BETTER! This too shall pass.

      No matter how it feels today, nothing lasts forever.

      Puppyhood can be a challenge but enjoy it as much as you can. They grow up so fast and you will find that time will race by and before you know it, you will be lounging with your greying Lab and wondering where the time has gone. When the time comes, you will give an arm and a leg to do this all over again.

      Remember, patience, consistency, love and time is the key to surviving puppyhood. You get back the amount of effort you put in. Come vent to us. We know.

      And with that, I will leave you with a quote from Marley and Me by John Grogan:

      “A dog has no use for fancy cars or big homes or designer clothes. Status symbols mean nothing to him. A waterlogged stick will do just fine. A dog judges others not by their colour or creed or class but by who they are inside. A dog doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his.

    2. The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to Halcyon For This Useful Post:

      emma_Dad (05-28-2014), Kelly524 (05-28-2014), petitesalmon (05-29-2014), ZRabbits (05-29-2014)

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