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Mutt Mail

Playbiting

June 29, 2017 | Tips and Training

Do you have a new puppy? Then it’s a good bet that you have ripped shirts and scars on your hands! While mouthy play is normal puppy behavior, we need our puppies to learn when and what to play bite (i. e. NOT US!) Some solutions: Prevention:  Puppies who are isolated or under-exercised tend to be more frustrated, and therefore have difficulty with inhibition. They may bite more, and respond to teaching less well. Make sure that you are meeting your puppy’s needs for company, exercise and stimulation. Your greatest need for management of playbiting is likely to be during the puppies “Windows of Terror” (AKA Activity Peaks) at dawn and dusk.  So, every morning and every afternoon ensure that the puppy gets physical, mental and cognitive exercise.

  • Physical exercise might be: walking, fetch, play with another puppy, etc.
  • Mental exercise: time to practice training!
  • Cognitive exercise: Puppy plays problem solving games:
    • Puppy eats breakfast from one or more stuffed Kongs and or the Buster Cube or Busy Buddy toy, rather than from his bowl.
    • Puppy plays Hide-n- Seek with owner or Find It with Toys.

Also, during the Activity Peak:

  • Do Not Touch the Puppy. Do interact lots! Talking, playing training, but no cuddling or patting in this time window. (When he is sleepy, at noon or at night you can safely cuddle- usually!)
  • Do Not Sit on the Floor. Lowered body postures invite play in dog body language. He will not be able to resist tackling you if you are on the floor!
  • As your puppy grows up and learns the People Rules you will be able to be more casual, but, for now, help him be the best puppy he can be!

Treatment: Do not scold, push, bop, pin or otherwise interact with the puppy when he is mouthy.

  • Playbiting is an attention-seeking behavior. The more you engage, the more you are rewarding him, and the worse he gets!

DO, immediately stand up and turn your back to the puppy, with your hands under your arms and your eyes to the sky.  He may persist in jumping at you for a few seconds.  He may even briefly intensify his response. Do not respond to the rowdy behavior.  Wait until he moves away from you and picks an acceptable behavior, then praise quietly and begin to play agin. If his biting is too uncomfortable to allow you to tolerate doing the above “Be A Tree” routine, modify the plan.  The puppy must still earn immediate ostracism for his biting, but you can effect that by putting yourself on the other side of a door, or, if he is wearing a tether-line, you can move him to a safe, boring “time-out” area for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Note:  The tether is a short length of leash that acts as a “grab-handle, making it easier for you to march the puppy to his time-out without interacting with him. Never leave a line attached to an unsupervised puppy.  When you get him from a time-out, whether you have left him, or made him leave you, require him to perform a “sit” before he is released from confinement. Especially with children and puppies, there may be some situations in which your puppy has a hard time with self-control. If the kids are going to be running and noisy, like playing ball, for example, some puppies will need to be removed from the area. Consider crating the puppy with a special toy rather than risking the overexcited puppy nipping at or tripping someone, or maybe getting hurt himself. Or, if the kids want to play on the floor, try tethering the puppy nearby, so he can be part of the group, and give him a yummy stuffed toy to keep him busy. Tethering the puppy this way also means that if he does playbite when some pats him it is easy to effect “ostracism” simply by stepping away from the tethered puppy. Wait ‘til he sits, then try patting again. Hang in there—it does get better! If you have questions, the Trainers at The Animal Keeper would be glad to help.

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