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Old 12-26-2009, 05:22 PM
racingfan racingfan is offline
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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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Old 12-26-2009, 05:28 PM
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BoxMeIn21 BoxMeIn21 is offline
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Welcome to puppyhood. The biting has nothing to do with "dominating behavior". Sounds like a very normal puppy. The fact that he's only 13 weeks old tells me that you haven't really had the time for any type of training to be effective. Teaching a puppy how to properly use it's mouth takes consistency, time and patience. It doesn't happen overnight, so you need to stick with one thing and give it a chance to work itself into his little puppy brain.

Here are a few good training articles on teaching bite inhibition.

ClickerSolutions Training Articles --

Good luck.
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Old 12-26-2009, 06:27 PM
racingfan racingfan is offline
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Originally Posted by BoxMeIn21 View Post
Welcome to puppyhood. The biting has nothing to do with "dominating behavior". Sounds like a very normal puppy. The fact that he's only 13 weeks old tells me that you haven't really had the time for any type of training to be effective. Teaching a puppy how to properly use it's mouth takes consistency, time and patience. It doesn't happen overnight, so you need to stick with one thing and give it a chance to work itself into his little puppy brain.

Here are a few good training articles on teaching bite inhibition.

ClickerSolutions Training Articles --

Good luck.
Maybe I wasn't clear in my last post. I do not consider biting "dominating behavior." As I said, it's the bolting through doors, the standing on top of us, the growling when we discipline him and take his toys to be dominant behavior. I had read that article before, but re-reading it was helpful. I can say with certainty that our dog falls into that 10 percent of puppies that don't react if you try "yelping" when they bite you. It just makes him more excited.

It's been 20 years since I last had a puppy (I was 10 at that time), so maybe I'm forgetting how long the "no-bite" training took. But I was able to teach him four tricks in a couple of days and we're now working on leave it and drop it. Of course, I used positive reinforcement when I taught those tricks (treats, praise, pettings). We have used "time-out" mostly consistently, but somehow the negative consequences of biting (being secluded in the bathroom) aren't sinking in. Does anyone know of a way to teach a dog how to stop biting using positive reinforcement? That seems to sink in better...
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Old 12-26-2009, 06:33 PM
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You don't want to teach no bite.. you want to teach bite inhibition. Its much safer and more reliable (as ANY dog will bite if pushed enough)

I don't see any of those things as 'dominant' behaviour, just as unacceptable behaviour. Bolting through doors has nothing to do with dominance and everything to do with getting loose outside being very fun and rewarding. Um standing over you on your lap? That just sounds like a normal puppy behaviour trying to get your attn. What are you correcting him for (and how since you seem to be looking for positive training)? The whole idea of puppies trying to dominate humans is pretty much a fallacy.

It is possible your pup finds being put in the bathroom exciting (the process,, ie if you pick him up) Try letting him drag a light leash and hook it over the nearest door knob etc and move out of reach when he gets too bitey.
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Old 12-26-2009, 06:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by racingfan View Post

It's been 20 years since I last had a puppy (I was 10 at that time), so maybe I'm forgetting how long the "no-bite" training took. But I was able to teach him four tricks in a couple of days and we're now working on leave it and drop it. Of course, I used positive reinforcement when I taught those tricks (treats, praise, pettings). We have used "time-out" mostly consistently, but somehow the negative consequences of biting (being secluded in the bathroom) aren't sinking in. Does anyone know of a way to teach a dog how to stop biting using positive reinforcement? That seems to sink in better...
Stick with the bite inhibition article. Keep redirecting and ignoring when he gets too rambunctious. It just takes time.

Quote:
Maybe I wasn't clear in my last post. I do not consider biting "dominating behavior." As I said, it's the bolting through doors, the standing on top of us, the growling when we discipline him and take his toys to be dominant behavior.
That has nothing to do with dominance. Your dog is puppy and he's not trying to overthrow the household. All that "dominance" nonsense has more holes in it than swiss cheese, so put it firmly in the trash where it belongs.

Simple training to wait at doorways and redirecting behavior will work for your young pup.
What do you mean by growling when you discipline him?

Have you heard of NILIF?

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Old 12-26-2009, 06:54 PM
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Dogs very rarely have world domination on their minds. More often, they just want to go have fun and resent being told otherwise. Do you think a 2 year old child, throwing a tantrum, is trying to dominate his family? No, he's being a brat because he's not getting his way.

Bolting through the door means that he can go on an adventure, exploring, or it results in a fun game of "chase the puppy". Growling when you take his food/toys can be problematic, but is easily solved by teaching him how to trade. There are a couple of threads here on how to teach that. Mainly, find something better than what he has and throw a huge happy party when he gives up what you're after.

Standing on you...if he does it, he loses the lap. I don't know if it's a "dominating' thing, but I do know that as he gets bigger, it's going to be more painful and annoying, so it's best to stop it now.

Sassing when being corrected, ignore it. My boyfriend's dog, who is 4 years old, does this to his roommate all the time and she did it to me when I first showed up (usually when she was getting shooed out of the kitchen for being underfoot). Ignore the sassing, insist on compliance and then give a good reward for doing so. Vegas would get a bit of whatever I was fixing once she went to her spot and quit sassing me, so she learned pretty quickly to just listen and be quiet. But she'll still sass the roommate, LOL!

Puppies in general can be challenging and sporting group pups seem to rank right up there for being some of the biggest PITA's.

For his biting, keep getting up and walking away. If he follows you, he goes to timeout. It will start to sink in soon! Did his breeder say anything about him being the rambunctious puppy in the litter or how he interacted with his littermates?
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Old 12-26-2009, 07:39 PM
racingfan racingfan is offline
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All I know is what I've read about dominance in different articles. I know there's a lot of debate on that topic and I'm not really concerned with debating it. My main objective is to make life easier with this puppy and to redirect his behaviors before it gets out of hand when he grows up and to save our body parts from those little teeth. He goes from being a very sweet dog to Cujo in seconds, biting any body parts he can reach. We've been hoping being put in solitairy confinement would be a decent negative consequence for his attacks.

I have heard of NILIF, and I always make him sit before I feed him, before I open the door so we can go out on potty breaks (always on the leash), etc.

Oh, and to answer the question about growling, he let's out an angry growl and sometimes snapping when someone takes something he wants (of course we take it anyway with a firm "No!" when he does that), when someone carries him to time-out, and once when he had an accident in front of us and my mother-in-law tried to take him outside. That worries us. My dad is visiting me and my husband this week and all three of us are sore and covered in scars and a little puncture wounds (he drew blood on my dad). I know he may be trying to play but it's gotten to the point that we can barely play with him because he won't give up his toys when we try to initiate a game of fetch and petting him is like petting a time bomb -- you never know when the he's going to become Cujo again and start chewing on us lol.
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Old 12-26-2009, 07:47 PM
Criosphynx Criosphynx is offline
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Quote:
All I know is what I've read about dominance in different articles.
quit reading them, they are worthless...the second I see "dominant dog" mentioned in an article, I click the little red X

If you need article recomendations...the forum members have tons.

Quote:
I know there's a lot of debate on that topic and I'm not really concerned with debating it.
the problem is, to understand our advice, you need to be on the same page as us...if you read our advice but deep inside still feel your dog is dominating you, our advice wont work.

Quote:
We've been hoping being put in solitairy confinement would be a decent negative consequence for his attacks.
have you actively taught him what IS appropriate? Removal, to me, alot of the time is simply managing the behavior...you also need to actively install NEW wanted behaviors.
Quote:
I have heard of NILIF, and I always make him sit before I feed him, before I open the door so we can go out on potty breaks (always on the leash), etc.
good good good

Quote:
Oh, and to answer the question about growling, he let's out an angry growl and sometimes snapping when someone takes something he wants (of course we take it anyway with a firm "No!" when he does that),

Trade
him objects. Always. You are teaching him to resource guard otherwise. Don't scold or "no" at him..you will simply correct the growling...not the intent...so when the growling goes away, he will try another tactic...usually BITING. Never never never correct growling...this is why so many kids and people get bit and the dog gave "no warning"

Quote:
when someone carries him to time-out, and once when he had an accident in front of us and my mother-in-law tried to take him outside. That worries us. My dad is visiting me and my husband this week and all three of us are sore and covered in scars and a little puncture wounds (he drew blood on my dad).
why are we carrying him? Let him walk.
Quote:
I know he may be trying to play but it's gotten to the point that we can barely play with him because he won't give up his toys
thats because you take them away and say "no" to him...would you give up your stuff if som'one did that to you?

Quote:
when we try to initiate a game of fetch and petting him is like petting a time bomb -- you never know when the he's going to become Cujo again and start chewing on us
perhaps you need to teach structure to play for now (drop, fetch, give) Iam sure many people here can teach you how to teach those things if you need help


sounds like a puppy tho...LOL
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Old 12-26-2009, 07:48 PM
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Well if you look at it as dominance instead of normal cause and effect you are going to have greater problems fixing your issues.

I raise JRTs.. a breed known to be 'dominant'. I have never had the issues others have, because I don't assume my dog is trying to take over. Occam's razor, the simplist explanation is usually the right one. Dogs do what works. They aren't trying to dominate people, they are just trying to get food, get attn, and have a good time. If you look at your problems with your pup in that light it is simple to fix. As soon as you add 'dominance' to the mix you muddy the waters and actually get in the way of solving your problems.

Oh and you are teaching him humans are mean and nasty and steal things from him, and when he protests you aggress. If he is an assertive dog I predict he will get worse vs shut down. (you could teach him to trade and not yell at him and teach him that people taking things from him is a WONDERFUL experience). If you do manage to teach him that big nasty humans have the right to take 'his' things what happens when a child trys to take something back?
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Old 12-26-2009, 07:53 PM
racingfan racingfan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zoom View Post
Did his breeder say anything about him being the rambunctious puppy in the litter or how he interacted with his littermates?
Sorry, I missed your question. Actually, our breeder's advice was to hit him -- hard -- when he bites and that was about it. She's been pretty useless. I have a feeling I didn't buy from the best breeder -- it was one of those cases where we drove an hour and a half to see the puppies and hubby said after all that, we were leaving with a dog, no matter what. I had a bad feeling when I met them, and now I know we probably should have run the other way. I think she may have been more along the lines of a backyard breeder in hindsight (no flaming please, I already feel bad enough). I wanted to rescue an adult dog, but we were told puppies were better for cats (the idea that, if they're raised with them, they'll do better with them later in life). And I wanted a springer spaniel, and I'd read these were eager-to-please, easily trainable dogs who did well with other pets -- so here we are!
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