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Let's talk about mouthing.


chene
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So Aed is 18 weeks old now. According to the "Ian Dunbar timeline" and all who follow it, he should have learned whatever he is going to learn about bite inhibition by now. My question is, has he?

 

This is where I really struggle as a new dog owner. All the research in the world can't teach me to read context and dog mentality into his actions. What I mean is, when he bites, I have no idea why. Am I doing something that he doesn't like? Is he trying to tell me that, or just trying to get rid of my hand, like swatting a fly? Is he over-excited? Or over-tired? Or does he just genuinely not understand that it hurts us? I just don't know. I need some help here.

I know all the strategies, the yelping or gentle corrections, holding him by the scruff or dangling him by the armpits, for lack of a better description. I know about stopping the play, about using "that's enough" and giving him a brief timeout if he doesn't stop. I know about redirecting to toys and predicting the crazy hours before thy happen. I feel as if I have tried everything. Sometimes he just gets more excited (most often when trying the yelping). Sometimes he doesn't respond at all and keeps biting. Sometimes he takes the correction/time out/etc. but goes right back to biting afterwards, regardless of how many times we do it (admittedly I've never tried more than three or so before giving it up). But nothing seems to have any long term effect. He still nips, and nips hard sometimes. He mouths, too, sometimes so gently you can't even feel it, and then I'm always certain he's starting to get the hang of it. But in the end he always goes back to biting like he would another puppy. That's just the thing - I'm certain he's learned great bite inhibition when it comes to other dogs. He just can't transfer that it's different with humans.

Help?

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Puppies haven't read the book - they don't know when the experts say they're supposed to be done with the mouthing and know all there is to know about bite inhibition (or when to have a fear period, or when to be done growing, or when to stop being socialized). Great general guidelines but meaningless when you realize it's an average that includes outliers on both sides, and even more so when you realize it includes all breeds.

 

Molly's only mouthing problem is that she wants to 'head' me when I run - which isn't to say I'm calling it herding but if I run she wants to jump in front of me and make a grab for my shirt, my FACE, or my arms. That's a recent problem and we're working on it.


My GSD mix stopped mouthing entirely at some point over a year old, in spite of all the consistency in the world and several methods including some less than nice ones. He's a mouthy dog. He's STILL mouthy, at 2, but he keeps his teeth off skin. My little mutt never mouthed at all in play -ever - in spite of being away from her litter at 4 weeks old and living with a dog who never corrected her.


Just stick with it. You'll get there.

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Oh, my gosh, never mind the books! Puppies don't read, and whoever tried to put a calendar to puppy behavior has never owned a border collie. :P

At 18 weeks, he's still a baby. If he mouths or bites things, it's normal. He's having fun, he's excited, he's over-tired, he's wound up because the wind is blowing or there are guests in the house or he just had supper or who knows what! He's being a normal puppy. I have never met a 5 or 6 month old pup with perfect bite inhibition. Never.

Don't over-think it. :) A puppy is just a furry kid. It really doesn't matter why he's being a pill. You just have to pick a correction or reaction and stick with it. You've named a dozen of them - which do you use? If every time he bites, you try something else, he's probably a little confused. He should get the same reaction, or one of a couple reactions, every time. Be clear, be consistent, be firm.

If he's running around like a Tasamanian devil, maybe it's time for time out. Scoop him up, stick him in his crate or x-pen with a toy, boom, the fun is over. If he's playing too hard, then again, time for the fun to end. There's nothing wrong with a big NO if he really bites down - and again, the fun ends.

The reason he's probably better with other dogs is that they've convinced him Something Bad might happen if he doesn't watch it. But you're his mom, you love him, and sure, you scold or reprimand him sometimes, but remember - he has a puppy brain. :rolleyes: If 3 repetitions of NO don't work, go for 4. Be consistent. Be firm. Don't try this and that and the other in desperation. Pick a couple things and make them work. If they don't, try a couple more. But be clear. He's a furry kid who is still learning the rules and limitations. Take heart! We've all been there at one point or another.

Good luck,

Gloria

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Thanks, both of you. That's good to hear. In puppy classes I've heard them mention that "deadline" several times, and when he got temperament tested to volunteer with the SPCA today the only thing that iffy was his mouthing. I just keep feeling like we're so behind, so it's nice to have someone say that it's alright that he's still like this. As far as corrections, for a long time we tried yelping combined with redirecting and time outs if needed, but eventually we gave up on that, and have been trying out a technique I read on here, I think Sue suggested it, about holding him by the scruff and supporting his chest with one hand. He still tries to bite as we do it though.

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Nothing wrong with him, just keep at it. Ialways compare it with having to tell kids a hundred times to wash their teeth, and sudenly when you're distracted you realize your kid is actually remembering to wash those teeth and couldn't do without it.

He'll get there, at his own rithm, as long as you keep making clear what behaviour you want. At 15 mo, tess will still jump at me and nip my clothes and mouth my arms IF I let her get too excited in play. She just gets so much fun out of it that she can´t help herself, although by now she understands clearly I don't want her to.

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Im probably not using a popular method, but this is what always worked for me.

 

Even when puppy isnt intending to nip, if teeth somehow come in contact with skin, I literally yell "NO", fling my hand away from puppy, stand straight up, and tower over puppy with the most exaggerated expression and body language you could manage. Dont forget to look like the angriest, scariest thing ever (seriously, just fake it!) Then leave the room out of puppy's sight... for a minute or two. Puppy learns that nipping is both shocking and leads to no fun. Even the most stubborn puppies quickly learn that this nipping thing is the biggest deal in the world, even more than laying poo eggs on carpet. LOL.

 

In addition, try to set the puppy up for success to begin with: when you see a possible nipping coming along, just stand up and walk away for a bit to let puppy calm down.

 

Probably silly-sounding... and a little overwhelming for puppy, but thats pretty much the gist of it. Dont feel let down over this though- like everyone said, there is no deadline. It is all the individual dog.

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Sometimes he takes the correction/time out/etc. but goes right back to biting afterwards, regardless of how many times we do it (admittedly I've never tried more than three or so before giving it up). But nothing seems to have any long term effect.

 

Great advice from Gloria, as usual.

 

If you're being consistent and it's not having the desired effect, then I suspect the length of the time out is too short. It sounds to me like you may be coming back and engaging in the kind of play that results in his biting too soon, so that he's not really understanding that when he bites the play and interaction with you really ends.

 

As Caykuu says, you have to leave him alone. Put him in his crate and walk away for a while, or put him in the bathroom, close the door and leave. He needs to learn that biting = no more Chene and that if he wants you to stick around, then he's got to behave appropriately.

 

If one minute isn't enough, try 2. If that's not enough, try 3, and so on until you've found what gets through to him.

 

I think he'll pick up pretty quickly that if one minute behaving badly with you turns into 5 minutes (or however long it takes) all by his lonely self over and over again, he's eventually going to figure out that he'd rather not be alone and how he can modify his behavior to meet that goal.

 

Another thing is to pay attention to what gets him started with the mouthing in the first place and see if you can eliminate that from your play with him. IOW, modify your own approach to playing so that you're not instigating him to bite or mouth. That way you're helping to set him up for successful interactions with you instead of the types that get him in trouble.

 

Best wishes figuring it out.

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^^ I'm not familiar with this portion of Dunbar's work, but I seriously doubt he expects all dogs will follow the progression at exactly the same time.

 

I expect it's more a representation of the order of various behavior milestones and the approximate ages when they can be expected on average in puppies. Similar to the way doctors expect infants and young children to be doing certain things by certain ages. But I'm sure we've all known kids who did begin talking or walking as young as they "should" have, but they ended up catching up and being perfectly normal kids.

 

Guidlines are one thing, but expecting certain developmental markers to occur at exactly 11:02 am on the 227th day is, I believe, taking out of the intended context.

 

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My 7 month old is still mouthy. She has improved greatly, but it is still an issue. It usually shows up at playtime and when she gets too excited at Puppy Dynamics, like after racing through the tunnel and chute (to her this is probably like play) or if she gets impatient. If I see it coming a sit command can head it off, but I don't always see it coming and then it is very unpleasant. The trainer does not think it is from being overly excited. Star will also exhibit this behavior sometimes when we have been playing nicely outside and I start to head inside and she wants to keep playing. It is frustrating. She does not break the skin anymore, but I have bruises on my arms.

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^^ I'm not familiar with this portion of Dunbar's work, but I seriously doubt he expects all dogs will follow the progression at exactly the same time.

 

I expect it's more a representation of the order of various behavior milestones and the approximate ages when they can be expected on average in puppies. Similar to the way doctors expect infants and young children to be doing certain things by certain ages. But I'm sure we've all known kids who did begin talking or walking as young as they "should" have, but they ended up catching up and being perfectly normal kids.

 

Guidlines are one thing, but expecting certain developmental markers to occur at exactly 11:02 am on the 227th day is, I believe, taking out of the intended context.

 

I don't know about that. The amount of times he emphasizes that your time is running out and that your dog needs to know these things by the deadlines is crazy. He specifically states that your dog should not ever be mouthing once it hits five months. I don't agree with the urgency he presents, but I was inclined to believe that his timeline was well accepted as I've heard it at all the puppy classes and socialization I've been at. Oh well. Thank you all for the input, I'll keep working at it and hopefully eventually he'll learn.

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... but I was inclined to believe that his timeline was well accepted as I've heard it at all the puppy classes and socialization I've been at. Oh well. Thank you all for the input, I'll keep working at it and hopefully eventually he'll learn.

'deadlines' ... 'schmedlines'. I know you want to believe in your trainers, but IMO one the most important things to remember is (as the others have said) every dog is different.

 

Some pups will learn one thing quickly, yet seem to struggle with other aspects that different pups seem to 'get' straight away.

 

Just because something takes time to learn, doesn't mean that there is an issue with your pup.. he's still a baby.

 

the others give very good advice of how to approach his on-going mouthing..and as you know, there are other threads that give additional tips that may help.

 

At the end of the day (like with most training).. it takes patience and consistency to show him in language he understands what is acceptable behaviour and what is not.

 

You and Aed seem to be developing a good bond, I'm sure you will get there.

 

Good luck

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I don't know about that. The amount of times he emphasizes that your time is running out and that your dog needs to know these things by the deadlines is crazy. He specifically states that your dog should not ever be mouthing once it hits five months. I don't agree with the urgency he presents, but I was inclined to believe that his timeline was well accepted as I've heard it at all the puppy classes and socialization I've been at. Oh well. Thank you all for the input, I'll keep working at it and hopefully eventually he'll learn.

 

I've never heard of that "deadline". Afaic the only rule is that you try to deal with an unwanted behaviour as soon as it presents itself rather than let it become ingrained and it takes as long as it takes.

 

Many people like rules because they are not confident in exercising their own discretion and they like things presented in black and white rather than in the shades of grey that are reality. I know plenty of trainers who tell their students "always" and "never" but who break their rules when it comes to their own dogs. It's not necessarily hypocrisy, just experience.

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Wow, our puppy trainer has never mentioned a deadline. She insists that our girl will keep learning new things her whole life. Our 6 month old is mouthy too, but she understands that the fun stops when she bites too hard. Her least favorite punishment is to be held like a baby on her back and elevated above the ground so it's too scary to wiggle way. (We're really careful to have a tight grasp on her when she's off the ground because she's getting stronger, heavier, and wigglier).

 

She often toes the line with what's too hard of a nibble, but it's like a kid waiting for Mom to count 1...2...and stopping the behavior before 3 and punishment happens. She knows she'll get a few "ouch!" yelps before it's forcible cuddle time.

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