Need advice re:puppy nipping

MayasMom

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#1
My parents brought a German Shepherd mix home from an animal shelter 3 weeks ago. He was listed as a Keeshond mix and having just lost their 13 year old Keeshond in December, my Mom decided to bring him home. As soon as I saw him, I knew he was primarily Shepherd. My mom was attacked by a Shepherd when she was a kid and is extremely frightened of them. (If I had known this, I would have told her I thought he was mostly Shepherd as soon as I saw his picture online). She almost rehomed him the first week. She decided to give it a try and he is definitely growing on her.
He is now 11 weeks old and has a big problem with nipping. He's constantly going after hands, feet, pant legs, etc. I recommended yelping and ignoring him which is what worked for my dog. My mom said it worked for her for a day, but doesn't seem to be working anymore. The vet recommended they hold his mouth shut, point his nose to the ground and firmly say no. This is not working and I think my dad is holding him like this too long. I'm afraid this is going to cause him to be aggressive, where right now he is just nipping because he is excited. My mom is at the point where she says if it doesn't stop she is going to have to rehome him. She is afraid of him growing up to be aggressive. (He's going to probably be about 90 pounds full grown, so we have to fix this issue while he is young.) They are now combining the holding his mouth shut and saying no with giving him time outs away from them when he is getting too overexcited. I think he would benefit from spending time with my dogs to get correction from them, but he is sick and they vet doesn't want him around other dogs right now.
Their last dog was very easy to train. The trainer they used with him used positive reinforcement. She is no longer training dogs. If anyone knows of a good trainer near Charlotte NC, I would appreciate a reference.
I've always gotten good advice here in the past and would love some input on how to fix this. My mom has been looking online, but I'm afraid of her finding bad info. This morning she was talking about reading something about alpha rolling him, which I personally don't agree with. She always comes to me for advice, but when it doesn't work for her right away it typically turns into, well that just won't work for my dog. Maya was never this bad about nipping as a puppy, so this isn't something I've had a lot of experience with. Thanks in advance for any advice you can give me. He's had a rough start to life and I hate to see him have to go to a new home.
 

Zoom

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#2
I would continue with the yelping, but add in walking away to a place he can't follow, to get the idea through his head that biting = no more fun. As an 11 week old shepherd, he's going to be rather mouthy and nippy and now is the time to break that. Alpha rolling won't do much aside of probably get him more worked up, or teach him to hate being on his back, which is not a good thing!

Also, when he does start going after pant legs, have your parents calmly detach him and then redirect to something he CAN chew on, a Kong or something like that. Remember, this is how puppies play. They pounce, they nip, they chase each others tails, etc. But we're a lot more fragile than puppies and he has to be taught this in such a way that HE makes the choice to not nip and when he wants to lay his teeth into something, he grabs a toy. I had to do this with my Aussie, who would get too worked up and nip dogs at the dog park, so I started popping a Kong or tennis ball in his mouth each time he started to get worked up. Now he automatically grabs a toy and runs around with it the whole time...though this has slightly backfired in that we can't play fetch very well now because he doesn't want to give the ball back. :p
 

Maxy24

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#3
The problem with confrontational methods like mouth grabbing and alpha rolling is that A) the dog thinks your playing back or B) the dog feels threatened and tries to defend himself. People at the shelter often hold mouths shut and as soon as they let go the dog usually tries to snap at the hand as it is moving away, they think it's a game.

The yelping may have stopped working because it didn't mean anything. The yelp surprises the dog so he stops but it must be followed by something else, usually a time out and then redirection (offer a toy that he WANTS to hold) so that the dog doesn't dismiss the yelp as just weird noises you make when he plays with you.

It needs to be known that pups nip, so long as the dog doesn't learn it's okay to do as a pup he should grow out of it. Rotate toys to keep them interesting.

Make sure they make themselves uninteresting when he goes for pant legs and stuff. Stop moving, be still so you don't act like a toy.

During time outs you can put the dog in a time out room, leave the room or tie the pup's leash to an object so he is isolated. Length of time out is not important, 1 or 2 minutes is fine. After time outs the dog should always be enticed to use a toy since he still wants to play with something like he did before the time out.
 

Doberluv

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Good advice given. The problem is that people get puppies and expect them to be well mannered and adult-like in a matter of a very short time. Besides proper handling and training techniques, puppies need to mature. Your parents wouldn't expect a toddler to act like a 20 yr old would they? It takes both good husbandry and maturity for a puppy to grow into a civilized, well mannered adult. I don't mean that the nipping won't be curtailed before the dog is full grown. Of course not. It won't take that long. But some patience is needed when you have puppies.

You're absolutely right that the vet's advice was rotten. These are the kinds of things people do to dogs and then later on, the dog becomes aggressive. Removing attention when the nipping is too rough and doing it immediately and consistently is important. Replacing that with an alternative is imperative. Short time outs....30 seconds of ignoring and then try again. Gentle, soft mouthing should be tolerated for now. It teaches the dog how to regulate his bite pressure. But any hint of ouchiness, attention stops. Humans leave the room for 1/2 a minute or so. Then back for another try. The more tries he gets in a short period of time, the more quickly he'll learn. So make those ignoring times short because to a pup, it's a long time.

A few of my favorite links...hope they'll help. There are some great books written too. My favorite is Culture Clash for understanding dogs and some really good training tips.

Bite Inhibition Article

26. Zen

ClickerSolutions Training Articles Contents

Remember, training will not be effective when fundamental needs are not met. Be sure the dog is getting plenty of physical exercise, suitable for his breed and age. In other words, not too much repetitive exercise, nothing excessive, but walks and lots of romping outside in the yard with the family. Socializing with/exposure to new people, places and things every day is also vitally important.
 

Maura

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What is the dog eating? Right off, he needs to be on a good diet.

This puppy probably needs more exercise and mental stimulation than he is being given. My first thought is that your parents might do better with a Boston terrier at this point in their lives. Anyway, they need to give him exercise. If they can put a fetch on him, he will happily chase balls up and down the stairs while mom and dad watch tv (we do this). I'm sure they can teach him to sit before the toy is thrown.

I would also put his kibble into a treat dispensing toy. This not only keeps him busy but it is mentally stimulating for him. Yes, it makes noise.

I would give him raw bones to chew on. Bones satisfy chewing better than nonbones, and bones are the best thing for growing bones. Make sure the bones are being chewed down, eaten, or they are too hard. Throw out after three days.

A GSD needs a vitamin C supplement. Yeah, I know, dogs make their own vitamin C, but apparently GSDs don't know that, and they need a supplement for proper bone development.

If you want, I can add a page to my blog, listing what they should be doing and not doing (like alpha rolls and muzzle holding). Then it's some expert instead of just their DD.
 

MayasMom

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Thanks for the advice everyone. I think I'll print this and give it to my mom. Doberluv, socializing is an issue right now because he is sick. When my parents got him he had an upper respiratory infection, fleas, and worms. They have had him three weeks and he is still coughing. They ran some more tests, but all the results aren't back yet. They did say he has an elevated white blood cell count, so he still seems to have an infection. They do not want him around other dogs right now, so my parents can't really take him out to Petsmart, or the park, or to my house even to play with my dogs. I spent some time with him today, and he is way better than he was around my dad and I. I do think my mom has forgotten what puppies are like. I keep telling her that Maya did the same thing when she was a puppy, but she doesn't really listen. As a matter of fact if my boxer gets overexcited he still gently nips at my fingers. That's why he gets ignored for 5 to 10 minutes when I come home, and I tell everyone who visits to ignore him when they first come into the house.
The puppy is definitely better on the days he has had more exercise, so my dad is trying to give him more time running around the back yard. I'm really hoping we can make this work. They do seem to be having many more good days than bad. I think the bad days are just really hard on my mom. She took home a dog she thought was mostly the breed she wanted and found out he's mostly a breed she's terrified of. I think she questions her decision to bring him home whenever he has a bad day even though on good days she loves him. She even had me bring him to her work last week to meet her coworkers. He didn't nip anyone that day and she was so excited about having him there.
 

MayasMom

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If you want, I can add a page to my blog, listing what they should be doing and not doing (like alpha rolls and muzzle holding). Then it's some expert instead of just their DD.
That would be great! He is eating Purina, there is nothing I can do about getting them to change his food. I tried for 4 years with their last dog, who had terrible allergies. They fed him Beneful. My dad is trying to exercise him a lot more, so hopefully that will help. As soon as he is cleared to be around other dogs, I will bring him over here whenever I have a day off. My boxer will happily run around with him all day. He's very smart and is learning other things very well. He already asks to go out when he has to potty, and he sits for treats and for his breakfast and dinner. This is the only major issue. I don't live at home, so I'm not there all the time, but to me I don't see it as anything other than normal puppy behavior. Sometimes I think my mom is so scared of purebred shepherds she can only see this turning into aggression, rather than just being a puppy behavior that he can get over with training. I don't think she consciously realizes this, but I think this may be at the back of her mind. Ultimately if rehoming him becomes the best option, I will make sure he gets to a good home, or he will come live in mine until one can be found
 

Doberluv

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Romping and running around the yard is great. I don't recommend running up and down the stairs too many times with a larger boned puppy until his growth plates at the ends of the long bones close...around 18 months or a little later. The vet can better advise you on that. Repetitive, excessive exercise is something that needs to be avoided for a while because of the risk of bone and joint damage in big boned puppies, but at the same time, getting enough "free" play and zipping around the yard, using various gaits and stopping when he needs to etc is important.

I think using a treat dispensing toy is a fantastic way to keep him occupied and stimulated. They can play hide-the-treats too around the house and teach him to go seek them out and hide and seek with them. Some basic obedience is necessary and also great mental exercise, which tires them out a whole lot. But it must be made fun.

I hope soon, she gets over whatever it is that's making her unwell.

It sounds like she's already settling in a lot better. GSDs are very quick to learn and with patience, it won't take long to mold a very nice puppy. I have had a few and I think they're a terrific breed in general. They can be rambunctious puppies, but once they settle down and learn a few things, they smooth out very nicely, from my experience. My Doberman was hell on wheels as a pup, (made my GSDs look lethargic. lol) but by the time he was about 2-3 yrs old, he simmered down somewhat and became the best dog ever. He learned a lot in that time and that always helps tremendously.

Can they take her to a puppy class with a positive method trainer? (a reputable one)That and reading some books and training articles might be of help.

Purina or other grocery store brands are not very nutritious. If they go to Costco, their brand, Kirkland is quite good and it's reasonable. It may not look as cheap as Purina, but the fact is, that with more usable nutrition, the dog doesn't need to eat as much and there is less waste....fewer and firmer poops. So, hopefully, they'll look into that a little bit.

I hope things will work out well for your folks and their girl.
 

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