Bitey Puppies
  • TrzcinaTrzcina
    Posts: 331
    Not my problem, unfortunately :P Also not really Nihon Ken related, but it's definitely training related so I'm putting it here.

    A good friend of mine has a six month old Welsh Springer Spaniel puppy. She lives in another state so I haven't met Riff, but she's working on training her in hopes of eventually showing her and playing with rally, agility, etc., along with being a pet. Everything seems to be working out very well and chose a good breeder for her needs, who picked a good puppy for her. Still, she's very novice with dog training and this is her first dog as an adult.

    She's having trouble with teaching bite inhibition, though. She's not been as consistent with it since she got Riff as maybe she should have been, and by the sounds of it, she's been on the bitier end of normal puppy behavior. At six months she's much improved, but still happens a lot if she's even mildly excited. She mouths/bites as part of her greetings, but specifically toward her--she doesn't do it to many other people she knows, even if she knows them well. Gets excited, but doesn't start biting/mouthing.

    She says "I have tried - putting her in her pen repetetively, walking away from her, thwacking her nose, holding her down until she submits, firm voice, and telling her no and putting something else in her mouth - the last works but… I'd prefer she not -start-. and I'm running out of ideas…
    And she doesn't really bite to wound but.. it still kinda hurts. It's still teeth lol"

    I've been advocating for more positive methods, especially with an easily trainable and easily motivated spaniel. She is talking to her breeder, which is a good thing--but mostly has been told that the litter turned out with more intense and excitable temperaments than the breeder would have preferred, with the tips she's already tried.

    Any suggestions for me to pass along? Whether things to try or, probably even better, books to suggest?

    I gave her a list of some of the more general training books before she brought Riff home, but I'm not sure what all she bought/has read and it won't hurt to re-suggest them.
  • It sounds like Riff is a pretty typical puppy, despite your friend's frustrations. Here are a couple things I would recommend she try:

    1) When your friend gets home, she should stand silently/calmly by the door, expecting Riff to come over and start mouthing/biting her. The moment Riff starts to do so, your friend should go back out of the door. She shouldn't say a word or even give eye contact because very excited/happy dogs can get reinforced by one or the other (or both).
    While Riff actually means "Mom, you're home I'm so excited and love you so much!!!", your friend should pretend that Riff actually means "When I bite/mouth you, that means I want you to go away."
    She could practice that a couple of times, so that when she gets home Riff understands that she should be calm about it. She can still be a waggly, happy puppy, but if she starts to mouth Mom, then Mom goes away.
    Eventually after the mouthing behavior goes away, your friend could start asking for sits or downs.

    2) Practice some Puppy Zen. Suki was fairly mouthy towards my hands as a puppy, but by doing some Puppy Zen, she came to realize that my hands were the things that gave her treats. It also teaches some self-control with is always a good thing.
    This thread has a ton of really helpful positive reinforcement tips/techniques she can read up on. (The top post has the steps for Puppy Zen)
    http://www.dogforums.com/dog-training-forum/40425-training-tactics.html

    Edited for clarity :)
    Post edited by sukiandluna at 2014-10-29 01:12:43
  • CrimsonO2CrimsonO2
    Posts: 2206
    First off, tell your friend to never EVER do this: "thwacking her nose, holding her down until she submits". Any dog with any iota of drive will resist, and likely fight back.

    You didn't mention if your friend has tried any of the following:
    Make a loud hurtful shriek as soon as the dog makes contact and immediately ignore for 10 seconds (no eye contact, turn head up and away, physically shift so that you are partially turned or turn your back on the dog).

    This is a puppy-to-puppy behavior that signals to the dog that the play or mouthing was too much.

    Afterwards, immediately return to playing and intentionally getting the dog excited. The game here is to show the dog that excitement and play is not equal to mouthing the human. Once the human is mouthed/bit, the playing abruptly stops.

    Jesse
    Jesse Pelayo

  • TrzcinaTrzcina
    Posts: 331
    First off, tell your friend to never EVER do this: "thwacking her nose, holding her down until she submits". Any dog with any iota of drive will resist, and likely fight back.

    You didn't mention if your friend has tried any of the following:
    Make a loud hurtful shriek as soon as the dog makes contact and immediately ignore for 10 seconds (no eye contact, turn head up and away, physically shift so that you are partially turned or turn your back on the dog).

    This is a puppy-to-puppy behavior that signals to the dog that the play or mouthing was too much.

    Afterwards, immediately return to playing and intentionally getting the dog excited. The game here is to show the dog that excitement and play is not equal to mouthing the human. Once the human is mouthed/bit, the playing abruptly stops.

    Jesse


    I have told her that--repeatedly. The problem comes in that she lives with her 70+ year old father who has his own opinions on dog training, I think (this is the first dog their family has had that was not essentially an outdoor lawn ornament, and that was apparently its own battle--I don't know, I'm not there, but I was pretty shocked that her dad still thought it was a-okay to let dogs roam until she put her foot down that this is not his dog even if she's living in his house). She has done the shrieking and says it seems to excite her more, though I'm not sure she's added the deliberately exciting her further. I'll re-suggest it, for sure!

    One thing is that because I haven't seen her work with her, I don't really know objectively what has been happening--just what I'm being told. I should probably ask her to film her interactions so that I get a better idea of what's actually going on and what she's actually doing in response.

    @sukiandluna Thanks for the link! My understanding is that it's not just a coming home thing, it's a any time she wants to play or any time she's left the room and come back in. Which is ultimately a variation on the same behavior pattern.

    She was a very bitey puppy when she was small (according to her breeder, compared to other pups from the litter/other litters and the breeder's four dogs), but I think she really is much improved from then--she was getting worried because at six months, she's getting closer to adult-sized and her puppy pass is starting to fade.

    Thanks guys!
  • mdokicmdokic
    Posts: 1020
    Kona was a shark as a puppy, whether we were coming home or not. I mean ANKLE biter (she can still get really mouthy if she gets way too excited)... i did both the behaving calm when you get home (my mom is probably the WORST at feeding her excitement though when she comes in the house and hasn't seen kona in a while haha), and I did the shriek. With the shriek and ignore she got really confused and more often than not backed off...as she got older though she got much better. So, with some conscientious effort and with age I think your friend's dog should be great :)
    Michelle, with Kai girls Kona and Kimber
    DSC_6037_NEW_banner
  • She has done the shrieking and says it seems to excite her more, though I'm not sure she's added the deliberately exciting her further.


    There are some excitable puppies/dogs out there that see ANY sort of human interaction as a positive thing, regardless of if the human is saying "Yes good dog!" or screaming "No bad dog!". So if this is the case with Riff, then even shrieking, yelping, or saying "Ouch!" will be interpreted by her as a positive response because the human is interacting with her. The most important thing for both humans to do, is respond silently and let their actions do all of the talking for them. Being silent is perhaps the hardest part about the whole thing because humans are inherently vocal creatures, and we pretty heavily rely on our words to communicate with others.

    My understanding is that it's not just a coming home thing, it's a any time she wants to play or any time she's left the room and come back in. Which is ultimately a variation on the same behavior pattern.


    Absolutely correct.
    Coming home: If Riff starts to mouth Mom, Mom should *silently* go back out the door, wait somewhere between 10-30 seconds for Riff to calm down, then try again. Wash, rinse and repeat if she continues to mouth even after Mom has left and come back inside
    Playing: When Riff starts to mouth Mom, Mom should *silently* go into another room, close the door, wait 10-30 seconds, etc.

    Essentially Riff's excitement is about Mom, whether that's Mom coming home, or Mom playing, etc. so in order to help the mouthing behavior, the stimulus of Riff's excitement (Mom), needs to be removed. Up until this point, Mom has responded to Riff's excitement with either physical touch or verbal communication.

    Right now Riff's thought process might look like this:
    Mom is around >> Riff gets excited >> Riff starts to mouth >>Mom says No!/Mom touches her nose/Mom puts a toy in mouth

    But we want to remove Mom (the excitement stimulus), so that Riff doesn't get to interact with the source of her excitement if she goes past her excitement threshold and starts to mouth.

    So we hopefully want it to look like this instead:
    Stimulus (Mom) is around >> Riff gets excited >> Riff starts to mouth >> Stimulus (Mom) goes away

    The hardest part will be for Mom to silently remove herself from the room.
  • CrimsonO2CrimsonO2
    Posts: 2206
    It's not just the shrieking, it's the loud yelp/shriek immediately followed by the ignore and body language that signifies, "I'm not playing. I'm not doing anything to remotely acknowledge you but be silent and I'm going to ignore you because that hurt".

    My Shikoku female was an INCREDIBLY mouthy puppy and we had to endure 3+ months of her mouthinesss until she finally "got it". Once thing we noticed though was that we couldn't remove ourselves fast enough away from her when she did it.

    "The hardest part will be for Mom to silently remove herself from the room."

    In this scenario, it would have to be done relatively calmly and quickly so as to let the dog know that the disappearance of the stimulus was directly related to the offending bite/mouthing incident. Also, if Riff isn't tethered, removing yourself from the room could also signal for the dog to follow.
    Jesse Pelayo

    Post edited by CrimsonO2 at 2014-10-29 22:30:33
  • Yes, it does have to be done quickly. But if you're happily playing with a dog, then you suddenly get quiet and leave, that's a difference in human behavior/body language that is likely going to be noticed (eventually).

    Anyways, I'm not saying that the way I suggested is going to be a magic fix, but I have trained excited dogs to manage their excitement levels in a similar way at work (a positive-reinforcement training facility), so I'm just giving some input that might help.

    For instance, when dogs get excited in group classes and start barking, I put them in a spot that's closest to a door/gate and once they start barking, they step outside of the gate until they are calm. Usually the dog will immediately start barking once they get back inside, but if the owner consistently removes their dog from the stimulus (the exciting class where all of the dogs/people are), there is usually an increase in the amount of time the dog will be able to stay in class without barking within the first class.

    And if Riff and her humans have to only have playtime next to a door so that the humans can remove themselves from the room if Riff gets too excited, then that might be a good idea initially.

    Disclaimer: Nothing I ever suggest will work for every dog ever.
  • CrimsonO2CrimsonO2
    Posts: 2206
    Yup, not meaning to discredit the human removal method. Just the challenges in getting the timing right and the nuances of conveying your message correctly such that it's not diluted by things like having the dog easily follow you as you try to leave.

    Jesse
    Jesse Pelayo

  • No problem! I unintentionally downplayed the difficulty of such precise timing because I used the same techniques when Suki was a pup and continue to practice such techniques on a pretty regular basis with client. It's definitely not something that comes naturally, and does require a lot of practice, but hopefully some technique out there will work for little Riff :)
  • TrzcinaTrzcina
    Posts: 331
    I'm glad that I've at least been on the right track in what I've suggested. I mean, I know what worked for me with my dog--but it's been fourteen years since she was a puppy and nearly two since she's been gone, and I don't always remember what I did or didn't do. And she really wasn't a very bitey puppy (she'd nip from excitement if I deliberately amped her up during a training session, but otherwise, most of her mouthiness was spent on her brother when they had play dates--as his owner lived about a mile from me).

    I really like the breakdown that you used, @sukiandluna. This is essentially what I've been trying to explain to her, but I never outlined it like that--which I guess is partly because for whatever reason, it appeared self-evident to me. And when I think about it, it probably really isn't for someone who hasn't actually tried to train a dog before or seen many trainers work with them.

    Part of why I'm thinking I should ask for a video is because I also just realized that she may not have an intuitive grasp of what dog-sensible body language even is; based on what I have seen of her with dogs, I don't think she has a clear understanding of things like... dogs don't generally like being hovered over, don't naturally understand that a hug is affection and not unwanted restraint, etc. I have zero spaniel experience (and really, no interest in having one to give myself some), but most of that stuff is true for all dogs.

    The more I think about it, the more I wonder how much of a breakdown in communication there is between person and dog in this case. I may have been giving her too much benefit of the doubt in assuming she already knew how to read her dog, but admittedly... I was surprised when she said she'd been using the "manhandling" methods, as I thought everyone she'd talked to (me, the obedience instructor she took puppy classes with, the breeder, the very questionable vet student who believes Purina is the pinnacle of nutritional quality) had discouraged that pretty clearly.

    Which brings in @CrimsonO2's point about timing. If she's failing to read her dog, she's also probably failing to read the appropriate timing FOR the dog...
  • Here are two pretty good videos. I personally like the first one more than the second one, but they both use different techniques so it might be helpful for your friend to try one or both if the first technique chosen doesn't work.

  • TrzcinaTrzcina
    Posts: 331
    They do appear to be good videos! Sorry I wasn't clear, I wasn't so much asking you guys for videos (as I can find them easily enough), but remarking that I should probably see if she'd send me a video of her pup so I can see what was actually happening.

    That said, she hasn't mentioned it again since I passed on the suggestions, so I think Riff must be getting slowly past the bitey stage.

    Thanks everyone!

Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

In this Discussion