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Monday, March 5, 2007

Is it normal for my lab to be this mouthy? An article on biting / nipping / puppy mouthing.

Anyone who has done their research on the Labrador retriever will know that these are dogs that love to have things in their mouths. It’s what they were bred to do and most of them do it very well. However, it is important that we as humans teach our Labs what is appropriate to put their mouths on and what isn’t. This includes humans and their body parts.

Puppies of all breeds need to nip, mouth, and chew. It is part of their normal development. If you have ever had the chance to watch puppies play together, you see that they use their mouths a lot. Puppies explore their world with their mouths. It is how they learn many of their lessons on how to get along in the world. A puppy’s littermates are some of her best teachers for learning what is appropriate puppy mouthing and what is not. Since humans have domesticated the dog and as a result, separate our puppies from the litter at about eight weeks of age, much of this teaching falls on us.

There is a very good reason why most good breeders and rescue organizations would never allow a puppy to leave the litter before it is eight weeks old.

While the puppies are all weaned and physically capable of getting along on their own, they need those extra couple of weeks to learn socialization which is vitally important, especially since we plan on bringing these puppies into our homes and lives. Studies show that single puppy litters and puppies who leave the litter before they are eight weeks old often have problems dealing with other dogs and humans, especially when it comes to using their mouths appropriately

However, if you are reading this article chances are that you already have a dog and are trying to figure out how to get her to stop biting you at every turn. If you are reading this article as part of research for bringing a dog into your home, that is wonderful and there are extra points being counted for you somewhere. I wish that I had been as smart as you are before I brought my “walking mouth” home four years ago! My dog, brought home at the age of seven weeks, had a terrible, horrible puppy mouthing problem until he was almost fifteen months old. This is extreme, even in lab puppies. I think I tried everything under the sun to get this dog to stop using me as a chew toy, which gives me the ability to share my successes and failures with others.

The first thing that everyone is told to do when their puppy bites them too hard is to yipe like a puppy in pain. This is a specific sound, pulled quickly and loudly from the diaphragm. It is sharp and high pitched. (Adults should yipe for children, since children tend to sound more like wounded prey to a puppy than another puppy.) All play stops when you are forced to yipe and can resume when the puppy wishes to engage in correct play, either with you or a chew toy that you offer. At first you would only yipe for the hardest 10% of the bites. The next week you yipe for the hardest 20%, then the hardest 30% and so on and so forth until your puppy only puts her teeth on you in a very soft and playful way.

The above technique works for many dogs, especially dogs that are softer and more sensitive. Many labs do not fit in the “softer and more sensitive” category. I received all sorts of advice for how to teach my puppy, who had the sensitivity of a rock, how to stop mouthing me. I was desperate for advice since he would mouth me in play hard enough to draw blood several times a week.

Many people, from the breeder, to the trainer, to well-meaning people at the dog park, had advice for me and I tried it all. I attempted to catch my puppy’s lip between his tooth and my arm so he’d bite himself instead of me. I shoved my hand down his throat when he bit me and also tried to hold his mouth shut while scolding him. Those techniques were not effective in the least, nor were popping him under the chin, grabbing him by the scruff of the neck and shaking him, or putting him on his back in an alpha roll. In fact, it seemed that the more I tried these things, the harder the puppy would come back at me. Fighting this dog physically was not only ineffective, but it got him more excited. The suggestions I was getting became more and more violent and I simply was not prepared or willing to carry out that kind of “training”.

Finally I read a book called The Dog Whisperer by Paul Owens. In this book he describes what he calls “the magnet game”. You tether the dog to an immovable object and play with her as you normally would. The instant the teeth make contact with you, you stand up and walk out of the puppy’s reach, turning your back on her. Completely ignore her attempts to re-engage you in play (unless she’s doing something unsafe) until she settles down. Once she is settled, resume playing with her. If her teeth come out again, you walk away again. Her good behavior is like a magnet, drawing you into her space. Her bad behavior repels you away from her. Puppy mouthing is a normal part of play and for attention, this game quickly teaches them that biting too hard will not get them what they want. Within a few weeks of doing this with my dog, he stopped mouthing me. It was wonderful. I actually enjoyed playing with my dog for the first time in a year!

There are a few other things that you can do in conjunction with the other methods I’ve recommended. First of all make sure that your puppy always has something appropriate to put in her mouth. (See the article on chew toys for ideas.) Also make sure that the puppy is getting enough exercise. Puppies with extra energy tend to use their mouths more. Another thing to try would be changing the dog’s food. There are dogs who have sensitivities to various chemicals used to process dog foods (my dog is one of them), and the dog foods you can buy in the grocery store contain these chemicals. True premium foods list named meat and whole grains as the first ten or so ingredients. You should easily be able to pronounce and hopefully identify where the rest of the ingredients on the label come from.

Above all, remember patience when working with a puppy that nips, mouths, or bites. This is one of the hardest things to do – I know, I’ve been there. Responding to the dog’s bites with your own aggression, no matter how well-meaning, can serve to make your dog reluctant to play with you (in the pup’s eyes you have become dangerous and unpredictable) and not teach her how to play properly at all. It can also be much more difficult to teach your dog to hunt, play fetch, or retrieve a dumbbell in obedience if she is reluctant to have anything in her mouth. If you cannot deal with your puppy being a puppy with all of her mouthiness, put her in a crate or puppy-safe room for 10-15 minutes or so, not as a punishment, but as a way for both of you to calm down. Try to keep in mind that this is a phase that shall pass, as long as you are willing to be kind, firm, and consistent.

Stopping Barking! How do I stop my dog from demand barking or "talking back"?

In some ways dogs can act very much like children. The child that whines and pitches a fit in the candy aisle of the grocery store often gets the candy that he wants, just so he’ll stop making a racket and embarrassing his parent. The dog that barks and acts obnoxious when you stop throwing the tennis ball often gets the ball thrown again, just so he’ll stop being such a pest. In both cases, being bad gets the desired result, so it is something that will be tried again and again, usually with great success.

In dogs, this is called demand barking or nuisance barking and it is simply rude, pushy behavior. The dog may bark when he thinks it’s time to eat, if he wants you to throw his toy, if you’re not petting him, if he wants to come in the house, get out of his crate, or any other time when the dog isn’t getting his way. It is not at all acceptable behavior and taking a zero tolerance stand will make it go away.

The key to getting your dog to stop demand barking is to completely ignore him (provided the dog is in a safe situation). No matter what he does, don't give in. Unfortunately all creatures going through what's called an extinction burst. That means that your dog will try just a little harder, doing what always worked in other situations, before giving up. It's like a human with a remote control. You aim it at the TV and nothing happens. Instead of just getting up to change the channel right away, you point the remote more definitely and press the button several more times, each time more determined than before. Finally you give up and try something else to change the channel. The next time you may try the remote again, go through the same routine but remember what happened so it doesn't go on as long. Basically when you ignore your dog, he will start to bark and get more and more obnoxious, but then he'll just give up. The key is that you don't give in before the dog does. At first this will take awhile. You'll have to out-stubborn your dog, which can be a challenge if you're dealing with a lab. Just remember if you give in when he's at his worst, that's the point he'll start at the next time you work with him.

I tend to get very dramatic when I encounter a demand barker. I turn my back on the dog, cross my arms, and turn my head away and up. In dog language this signals that you are unwilling to interact with the dog. I may also say, "I don't play with RUDE dogs!!" This is more for my benefit from the dogs since it makes me feel better. As soon as the dog stops barking, even if it's just to catch a breath, I give him what he wants. You want your dog to learn that barking gets him nothing, but being quiet just might get him what his little heart desires.

If you find your dog is barking when you end play, you can work on teaching your dog "last one" or "all done". Decide when you're done playing and just before the last toss say your command and stick with it. If you told your dog that this was the last one, then do NOT throw the ball again. Completely ignore any attempt from your dog to get you to play again. You'll want to teach this after you've had repeated success at getting your dog to stop barking, since the reward for his silence in that case is to throw the ball again.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

How to Stop Your Dog From Chewing The Family Furniture?

Pet Services Industry Are A Multi-Billion-Dollar Industry. It is little wonder really considering the fact that we live in such a fast paced life that we become displaced and readily embrace the affection of our family pets as solace from the world we have created. The fact that there are millions of families out there who have added a family pet to the status of a member of the family is a great thought until the prized pet becomes a menace. This needn't mean the end of the world.

While pet obedience is often overlooked until something negative occurs there are many great dog obedience programs out there that can bring your favored companion back to becoming a well behaved member of the family that brings joy and companionship to you and your loved ones. It is admittedly not easy to instill obedience in pets because as with most things it is going to require your time and commitment.

There are many reasons why dogs chew your socks, curtains and furniture. First, it is afraid. Second, it is their nature to bite into things with their mouth just the same way we have a need to touch, it is just there sensory curiosity. It is even necessary for your pet to chew on things as it is a way to keep their teeth free of plaque and buildup. Thus, a lesson on edible things must be included in your dog obedience agenda so your favored pet can differentiate what you would like it to chew and what is not acceptable for it to chew.

As an owner, you will need to start dog obedience training to save you from the constant headache and pain of seeing your prized possessions destroyed. You will not end up losing your rugs, shoes, wires and so many things in the house the sooner you realize the value in spending just some of your time and possible a small investment in dog obedience.
Familiarizing a dog to a household is the initial step in a dog obedience regimen. When you get a new dog, try to keep them in a small part of the house first, rather than letting it roam freely around the house. By confining it first to a small area you can acclimatize your dog to a part of the house and slowly increasing this area will give your dog a chance to create familiarity and become comfortable to its new home. It will be able to adapt to a new environment and eventually accept it as its new habitat without being fearful or overwhelmed.

It does not matter whether your dog is small or big to qualify it into this important step in the dog obedience syllabus. It has to be confined in one area as part of the dog obedience program. It will then learn to listen to your commands and feel comfortable with its territory.

Get it a chewing toy to accompany it where ever you have in any confined space. This chewing toy will then become its favorite toy and can help it to lower the stress level in a new place. By giving a chewing toy to the dog, you will be seen as a loving owner. Conducting dog obedience program will be a piece of cake.

Writing a list of chewable things in the house to your dog is not possible in dog obedience. What you can do is play with it for a couple of hours per day. Ropes, toys and balls are good tools in dog obedience. By using these tools, you are actually training it to memorize the things that it can play with.

The next part of the dog obedience program is where the favorite toy plays a vital role. Let us just say you come home and see the dog on your cushion, chewing the cover. Do not yell at it. Instead, hand its favorite toy over. This can distract the dog and it will release anything inside its mouth. Give clear instruction that it is not right to chew on cushion covers. Punishing the dog severely is not part of the dog obedience agenda; something you must bear in mind.

The most important thing in dog obedience training is never to lose your temper. Raising your voice or threatening the dog will not contribute to any success. It will actually drive the dog away from you. You will be seen as a cruel two-legged monster which is hardly productive for either your dog or yourself.

Terence Young - For more dog obedience and training tips and ideas visit: http://www.obediencedoggytraining.com