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Old 08-01-2011, 04:57 AM
GwendalinGreen GwendalinGreen is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Minnesota
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Default Persistent Biting Issues

I know there are several threads that talk about this issue and I have read through several of them, but haven't found much that I haven't heard before so I thought I'd put my situation out there. I'm sorry if it's long, but I want to be thorough.

I'm new to having a dog and also new to training (recently hired on and trained as a trainer at one of those large chain pet stores.) Despite the advice of the trainers around me and numerous books, I'm still struggling with inappropriate biting at almost 8 months. Akali is my dog's name. She is a border collie/rottie/? mix that my boyfriend and I adopted from the humane society when she was just 8 weeks old. She was sent to MN from Ohio with her litter mates.

I know my dog is still young and some biting is to be expected, but I'm honestly at a loss. From the time we brought her home she's been extremely mouthy, to the point where she will mouth a blanket or anything nearby when we can get her to avoid our body parts. This hasn't changed even with her adult teeth having come in.

She always has a few toys around and from day one we've replaced anything she's bitten with toys. We also have tried saying "no bite" when she looks like she's going to go for us and then offered or tried to interest her in a toy instead. Often she has no interest in the toy and wants my arm or hand instead. If we stop playing because we sense the she's going to get mouthy, she usually starts in sooner than if we'd kept playing. We have never rough housed with her or used our hands like toys. When she does bite us we have always stopped playing and turned our backs on her for a few moments, but then she just bites our legs and usually much harder than the first bite. We tried yelping a couple times at first but stopped immediately because it seemed to excite her.

Time outs were recommended, but that requires catching her. To prevent playing chase she started dragging her leash with her around the house. As we would walk her to the time-out/crate she'd bite the whole way so we had to use the leash to keep her at arm's length. About a week after we started time-outs, she began getting vocal immediately after biting us in anticipation of the time out. We use her crate as the time out place because despite buying it, we never crate trained her and live in a smaller home. Two weeks into time-outs she started chewing through leashes which presented a new problem. She started dragging a metal leash, a necessary evil we were told by a trainer.

After about a month and a half of time-outs and ignoring her vocalizations I thought we'd made a major breakthrough. She started bringing us toys when she wanted attention instead of biting and would actually play with them after getting us to focus on her. Unfortunately, and this is primarily with me - not my boyfriend, she loses interest in the toy pretty quickly and wants to bite. I should mention that while I do not play tug, I know he still does some times. That's the only thing I can think of that might explain why she's worse about biting me than him. She does bite him too though, just not as often or as obsessively. Also if I play for a while and then offer her a Nylabone or chew so that I can go back to studying she will continue the inappropriate biting for attention. This hasn't gotten better after another month and a half of time-outs.

She also bites to "herd" and will leave bruises and scratches on legs. She really can't handle people coming and going around her. We've tried to practice this in the back yard to get her used to it but haven't had much success. I also haven't been able to give her time outs when outside, so I've been picking her up and putting her in a "restraining/calming" hold. That means I have one arm below her body holding her weight and then her head resting above the crook of my other elbow so I can keep her from biting me until she relaxes and then I put her down. It's sort of like a head lock, but more accurately I'm holding her head against my shoulder so she can't catch skin. I never put pressure along her neck. This just doesn't feel like it's been as effective as the crated time-outs, though eventually she will stop trying to bite when I set her down. It usually takes 10 minutes of back and forth before she quits trying to bite. I added this in the last two or three weeks because I used to leave the yard and leave her fenced in it whenever she bit, but not only would she bite me the entire time it took me to get out of the yard but she'd just resume biting as soon as I walked back into the yard.

I know this isn't aggressive behavior, so don't worry on that account. She's a very happy, loving, playful, and submissive puppy. She rolls over and shows everyone her belly. She has no resource guarding behavior and has been through two obedience training courses and is very smart and quick to learn 99% of things. I know that most of it is attention seeking behavior or the herding drive to control where we go, but I'm beginning to lose patience. We take her to the dog park daily, play fetch in the house and the yard, go for a walk, and practice tricks pretty much every day. We make sure she has time for attention, but when she doesn't think that's enough she becomes a terror. I have bruises and scrapes and have had to leave the house to get away from her because I was too mad to even try to keep training. Of course when I return, the biting generally resumes instantly because I left and came back. Even making her sit or lay down when we first get home so she can't be jumping and biting only delays the onslaught.

I've talked to several trainers for advice and generally I'm told to turn my back or try time outs. That's also all I can find in books. When I say those tactics aren't working, I've been told I haven't waited long enough and it will get better. I am just so frustrated after four months of consistent removal of attention, one way or another, I don't feel like I'm making any progress. I know all dogs learn at different paces, but I see my students' puppies figuring out bite inhibition with a few weeks of consistency and can't help but wonder why my own advice isn't working. I'm also in school and need to be able to read books without worrying that my dog is going to attack me every few minutes because she wants attention. The Fall semester begins in a month and I'm afraid I'll have to start avoiding my house (my dog) in order to be able to study.

Thank you to anyone still reading this and anyone who can offer any advice.
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Old 08-01-2011, 02:08 PM
adojrts's Avatar
adojrts adojrts is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Ontario, Canada
Posts: 4,089

I don't have a bunch of time right now, so here is the short version.

It's Yer Choice (impulse control game)
Crate Games (more impulse control games)
Teach an alternate behaviour for the biting, like sit or down or licking for huge rewards.
Teach a proper tugging, with an absolute permission to take it, auto release.
Do free shaping exercises and use that pups mind instead of punishing with time outs.
Free shape placement/release training.
Train some fun tricks.

The list goes on and on. Instead of fighting the behaviors and increasing the dog frustration (and yours) with time outs, train towards them and engage that mind.
Time outs should be used only rarely.
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Old 08-02-2011, 10:58 AM
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Tazwell Tazwell is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 1,083

If you haven't already, you could try squirting her with a 'hidden' water bottle as a quick fix type of thing. I'm sure that it wouldn't be effective for long before she started figuring out where it's coming from, and enjoying it, but using some other techniques along with it could hep discourage the biting even more. It's more of a startling effect.

A Petsmart trainer once told me to try with a rescue dog, buying a small pocket sized bottle of breath spray. From a drug store or whatever. You have to be careful that it doesn't have xylitol in it. Anyway, if the dog barks or bites, you can squirt that in the corner of it's mouth or on it's tongue to discourage the behavior. I've never tried it because I would rather the dog I'm working with NOT get nervous when I put my hands near his mouth!

I like Adjort's suggestion better, it's always better to work WITH the dog and not try to fight with her! She's only getting more frustrated.

Fleetwood Mes Yeux Vigilant CGCA RE TDCH TDI and Shed Antler Dog!
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Old 08-02-2011, 02:49 PM
Cali Mae's Avatar
Cali Mae Cali Mae is offline
Little dog, big voice
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Canada
Posts: 896

Cali has the exact same problem, and it's especially bad for our older dog who has a torn acl that's recovering and she'll often latch onto that leg.. so these suggestions have also really helped me. Thanks for asking this!
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Old 08-04-2011, 01:01 AM
GwendalinGreen GwendalinGreen is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Minnesota
Posts: 2

Can you be more specific Adojrts?
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