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!