I had a consultation with a lady yesterday that had a four-month-old mastiff puppy. Apparently the puppy is using her his own personal chew toy. I find this to be very common and puppies, especially high-energy. This case was especially troublesome because the puppy is already 54 pounds, and the owner is particularly “softhearted”. She expressed her dismay with her breeder and was referred to a behaviorist and a trainer. They all gave her the same advice. That she needed to let her dog know who was dominant. The problem is, she’s not dominant. She does not have a dominant personality. This is very old-school training. There are other ways to curb this kind of issue without beating your dog. That is after all, what letting your dog know who is dominant means. The kind of methods that require you to roll your dog on his back, and in this case bite the dog on the neck. LOL I couldn’t believe people were still prescribing these kinds of methods. As well, they told her to push down on her dogs tongue with her thumb, and roll his lips underneath his teeth. These are all very old school methods.
Let’s talk about why your dog exhibits this kind of behavior. First of all, your dog is most likely looking for entertainment. His basic needs are satisfied, so he is looking for higher rung needs. I’ll give you an example. Let’s flashback to when your puppy was back with his litter at about five weeks old. He and his brothers and sisters have eaten. He now goes in search of entertainment because he is bored. He goes to his sister and he bites on her head. She jumps up, rolls him over, and beats him up. He then leaves her and goes to his brother, and bites on his head. His brother rolls over, and allows him to have his way. The very next day he has eaten, and he’s bored again. He gets up looks at his sister, then goes to his brother and bites on his head. This is how your puppy operates. This is also why her trainer, behaviorist, and breeder all prescribe the same methods. They wanted her to treat her dog as a dominant dog would.
When you want to get rid of a behavior in your dog, any behavior, you need to do two things. First thing you need to do is make the behavior that you don’t like no longer pleasurable for the dog. To accomplish this, you need to look at what he’s getting out of the behavior and take that away. Secondly, when the dog chooses a new behavior, you need to reward the one that you like for that situation. A good way to achieve this with a play biting dog, is to put a leash on him. Let him run around with the leash on all the time. Be sure to not let him chew on your leash while he’s wearing it. A dog that likes to chew and bite on you, will definitely want to bite on the leash. Now, you need to make things clearly black and white for your puppy. You need to make a clear distinction between when he is wrong, and when he’s right. NO yanking on the leash. NO pulling the leash or your hand out of his mouth and making them prey. You want him to open his mouth and spit the leash or your hand, or feet, out of his mouth. When he is biting on either one, put steady firm tension on the line. As soon as he opens his mouth to spit it out of his mouth, you put slack on the line. When you start, he will immediately put his mouth back on the items most likely. You will then repeat the process. Until he goes away from the item for other means of entertainment or licks instead of biting. Then reward. This is a simple low impact way of curbing this behavior. Enjoy and keep training!
This is where we left off in part 1 of this entry.
“Let us say your dog is stray. He wanders into your yard and you put some food out for him. The next time he gets hungry he visits you. He doesn’t need to see that 100 times to learn. Your house is the restaurant. When he gets hungry, he goes to the restaurant. He associates the location as the source of food though. There lies a flaw.”
This creates conflict because we want the dog to pay attention to us. He now pays attention to the environment because in his eyes it feeds him. This is the same way your dog looks at the food bowl, especially if you free feed.(bowl of food out for the dog to graze all day) Now lets say your dog visits and instead of putting food out for him you give it to him by hand. The dog now directly associates you as the source of food. Not a big difference for us, but believe me, it makes a huge difference for the dog. This is why you hand feed a food aggressive dog.
Now, just for giggles, we start to train our example dog. He comes over for his food. We teach him to sit, down, and shake to get it. He does these things with no argument because it is all part of the hunt for him. Then your neighbor sees the dog and starts to leave food out for him, undermining your training. Dogs flow like water and electricity; the path of least resistance. Our faithful companion now starts to go to the neighbors house instead of ours. If he is a greedy dog or he wants us to rub his belly(secondary desires), he comes to see us afterwards. If not, he goes to the neighbors and rarely comes to visit us.
This is a glimpse into how your dog prioritises. The key is to make yourself the first choice in every situation. If you do this successfully, you wont have to worry about your dog, pulling on leash, running away, or being unresponsive. Good luck in training and enjoy.
Your dog, like most animals in the wild, learns from trial and error. He is constantly experimenting to find out what happens. Some of the things he likes the result and continues to do them. This is how all your dog’s bad habits form, and I do mean all of them. The biting, jumping, growling, barking, bolting, and pulling on leash all stem from this process. This is also how you form good habits.
When you watch a nature show, and they show a lioness out in the Serengeti stalking an antelope, she is completely focused. She gets herself within range. Then makes her run. Where she takes off, how patient she is, how quietly she stalks, the way she freezes when the antelope lifts it’s head, are all things learned from trial and error. She is so focused because if she makes a mistake in any area she and her pride go hungry. Enter your dog. Let us say your dog is stray. He wanders into your yard and you put some food out for him. The next time he get’s hungry he visits you. He doesn’t need to see that 100 times to learn. Your house is the restaurant. When he gets hungry, he goes to the restaurant. He associates the location as the source of food though. There lies a flaw. On the next entry, I will address that flaw.