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Old 12-26-2009, 06:22 PM
racingfan racingfan is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2009
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Default Need puppy help

Hi, I'm new to the forum, and obviously in need of some puppy help. I apologize in advance if this ends up being a little long.

My husband and I got an English Springer Spaniel puppy about a month ago. Charlie is 13 weeks now, and we're having some issues with his training. He has no problem learning tricks, and he can be a very sweet, obedient dog. But he only cooperates about half the time. Other times, he is stubborn, completely ignores words like "no" and "sit," and he goes on biting sprees and even shown bits of aggressiveness. I know some of the nipping at our hands, feet, faces, etc. is meant to be playful, but he is relentless and has drawn blood. We want to break him of this behavior while he's still young and manageable, and nothing we've tried seems to work.

We've tried offering him toys as alternatives to our skin; he throws them down and lunges back for us. We've tried walking away and ignoring him; he follows us and chews our ankles. At that point we usually put him in "time-out" in our bathroom (not his crate, we save that for night time and when we need to leave the house). That calms him down, but rarely for long. Our vet suggested we grab him by the scruff of the neck and do the alpha roll. This was only a brief experiment and we quickly decided to quit using it when a) it didn't work and b) I read it can be harmful to his mental health. I was blasted in another forum for having used that technique, so please note that we are no longer using it. We've also tried grabbing his mouth when he bites, but that just makes him angrier. Tried the squirt bottle in the face technique, but this dog likes water and I just ended up with a drenched and disobedient puppy. And we tried putting coins in a soda can and rattling it when he started biting, but loud noises don't scare this dog.

In addition to these little playful -- but painful -- "attacks," I also have reason to believe he might be trying to dominate us. He likes to climb on our laps and stand over us, I suspect to assert his alpha status. He always tries to run out the door ahead of us, he "sasses" us when we correct him, and he sometimes growls when we put him in timeouts. He hasn't shown any food aggression, but he has with his toys, recently snapping at my father when he tried to take a bone from him. We always push him back so we can get out the door ahead of him, we stand over him and use low, firm voices to try to correct him, I make sure we eat before him, and we've made sure he's got plenty of toys to play with and we've started taking him on short walks. He does ok on his leash, but by the end of the walk, he starts biting the leash and trying to play tug of war -- which reminds me, we also never play rough and tumble games with him like tug of war or wrestling. Also, we recently started giving him a supplement that's supposed to have a calming effect on hyper dogs, but it doesn't seem to be working.

I feel like we've tried every training technique I've read about that we can try, and I'm looking for new ideas to stop the biting and the dominating behavior. And how do we get through to him when he keeps attacking and doesn't seem to hear us? I realize some of this is just part of owning a puppy, but our punishments and positive reinforcements (which include treats and/or praise, btw) aren't having any effect on his behavior. Also, we have four cats and even though they like to tease him until he chases them, so it's partly their fault, he chews on their heads when he does catch them and I'm afraid he might accidently hurt them. Our vet said not to worry, that the cats can take care of themselves, but I still wonder if this should be a concern. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!
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