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Nip Nipping In The Bud

    written by Carol Kufner, Winwood German Shepherds
    submitted by Judy Bohnert

    Most behavior problems in dogs stem from people treating dogs like people, thinking that they reason like people and thus by not making them be at the bottom of the pack, allowing them to rise to the top of the pack, thereby creating a problem dog. They are not furry children, they are animals . . .

    Wouldn’t you like to stop an ugly problem before it becomes a vicious habit? Some of these techniques will also work on older dogs that are already biting seriously. Remember this, however: an older dog who has bitten is likely to get more aggressive temporarily before he gives up and becomes the darling you’ve dreamed of. I always feel it’s worth a try to stop biting before giving up and putting a dog to sleep. But be prepared, at first. The rule of thumb is this: you must end up the winner – in each session. If he growls and you correct him, you must continue to correct him until he stops growling at you. If you don’t, he will know that you have backed down, and then, my friend, it’s all over. With an entrenched biting problem, it might be worth seeking the help of a professional trainer. Follow the twelve tips in this article, the problem should never arise in the first place.


    Nipping is the forerunner of biting, if it goes unchecked. Yes, your puppy is teething and needs to chew. But you don’t want him to get the idea that human flesh belongs in his mouth. Even if his nips are “loving” and gentle at first, he’s learning a bad lesson. As he rows older, bigger and more aggressive – a natural part of his growing up – his bites will become harder and harder. Play it safe and stop him now while he’s small. Try a firm “NO.” If he nips again, give him a slap under his chin and say “NO” as you do it. Moderate the force you use to his size. If he’s a Maltese, flick your finger under his chin. If your “puppy” is a full blown Doberman, slap upward with all your might. You’re in more danger of breaking than he is, so do it and break a bad habit before it is too late.


    The leash is your training equipment and should be respected as such by your dog. He should not chomp on it, play with it or drag it around the house. When training him (you are training him, of course!!!), he learns that when his leash is on, you can make corrections. If your little biter is no longer a puppy but still pint-sized, correct him for nipping or biting by tossing him to the left, the right, and back again, using a short least. Say “NO” as you do it. This will remind him of the shaking he got from his Mom when he was a bad puppy, and will convince him of the seriousness of his crime. It’s also safer for you, particularly with small dogs, than a slap under the chin.


    Read your Sunday paper and then toss it into the fireplace. Or save it for the Boy Scouts recycling drive. But whatever else you do, don’t use a rolled up newspaper to hit your dog. When agitating a dog for protection training, the trainer may use a stick or rag to provoke the dog. your rolled newspaper can have the same effect. If your dog needs a whack (he may, sometimes), use your hand. Your hand will praise him and it may correct him. But hold off on hitting as much as possible. It is an inappropriate correction for housebreaking and normal disobedience especially with a puppy. there are softer, better ways that work.


    Food is sometimes the inspiration for biting problems. In the wild, canine types snarl, growl and bite to defend their portions. But you supply all the chow your darling needs. He doesn’t need to defend his bowl and bone. Begin by telling him “OK” whenever he gets something to eat. After a week or so, hold out a dog biscuit and if he tries to take it, tell him “NO”. At the point where you get him to resist it and wait, tell him “OK” and let him have it. Furthermore, praise him for taking it at the right time. Teach him that he cannot have food until he hears the magic word “OK.” Practice with a biscuit or his food dish no more than once a week. Too much fooling with this good exercise can make him crazy. He’ll never know when he can have what he sees or keep what you give him. So an occasional “NO” is in order and a daily “OK” whenever he’s fed or gets a treat.


    This unusual and subtle command is a winner. “No” means what you are doing is wrong. Never do it again. “Enough” means that what you are doing was OK, but it no longer is. Too complicated for a dog? Not by a long shot. It can be used to stop wildness, excessive barking and roughhousing. It is an excellent tool in biting prevention. It will make your dog look classier than Lassie. Teach it primarily through the tone of your voice. If you need to, physically take hold of your dog and stop him from whatever he’s doing, saying “Enough.” Try it. You’ll love it.


    I can’t in good conscience tell you never to roughhouse with your dog. If it turns you on, do it, but not before he learns “Enough”, nor before you can sense when it’s time to stop. Rough play should not include your puppy biting your arm, pulling on your clothes, or any form of tug of war. It should never be done by children. Don’t let the kids tease your dog or swing their hands in front of his face. A little sane horseplay is great for dogs and masters. But don’t do it to the point where your dog gets carried away and loses his hairy head. That’s when biting can occur. When you play with your dog, play it smart.


    If you stayed home all the time, you’d be depressed, bored, and you’d probably go bananas. Your dog won’t show it the way you would, but believe me, he bored too. Worse than that, the lack of exposure to the world he lives in makes him afraid. Imagine if one day you went for a walk and everything you saw was strange to you…..funny things sped by in the street, strange animals of all sizes loomed up before you, you were plunked into the middle of a huge crowd. Some biting problems come from fear. Those that are genetic are another story, but some fear problems come from a lack of exposure. Take your dog for a stroll, out of the yard, off the block, around town. He’s a doll!!! Why not show him off!!! He’ll thank you in ways you can’t imagine. He’ll be more sure of himself, less fearful, more poised and confident. You’ll both look forward to these outings.


    Always encourage behavior you want repeated by praising your dog. He’s a simple soul and will respond marvellously to this simple device. Often people will try to “calm” an aggressive dog by petting and soft talk –this is inappropriate praise. The results are exactly opposite to what you want. Only praise your dog when you’re sure he’s doing what he should be doing. Use an obedience command such as the down-stay to calm him when he’s wild.


    Like you, most of us melt when a soft, furry creature gives us a soulful look with limpid, shining eyes. But, when your perfect angel pulls your pants, thumps you in the chest, drags you down the street or teethes non your hands, correct him. “No,” said firmly and seriously, works wonders with canines. So does an appropriate whack under the chin (an upper-cut) or a good shaking on the leash. If you don’t clearly and strongly correct bad behavior, it will continue. Problems don’t go away by themselves. They get corrected or they grow worse. Your dog’s nature as a pack animal ensures this. Either you’re the boss.
….or he is. So praise him when he’s good and correct him when he isn’t. Here is the key to a well behaved dog who will never become a biter.


    If you want the kind of dog who can go anywhere with you, will be trustworthy with children and who will never, never humiliate you by growling at a judge, teach him his limits when he’s young. The secret here is to end on a positive note whenever possible. It makes it easier on you and on your bones. No, you can’t relieve yourself indoors but yes, you can outdoors. No, you can’t nip my hand but yes, you can gnaw on your toys. Round it out, make it complete. Replace a No No with a resounding Yes, Yes. It’s a happier, saner way to teach limits than by saying nothing but NO all day long.


    Surprised? This command is a lifesaver, a gold mine, a dog’s best friend. Many “well trained” dogs are cleverly humoring their proud owners. That’s why some dogs who know all the basic commands still become bullies and biters. Their thinking goes like this: “OK, now he wants me to lie down. That was long enough. Now I think I’ll go play with the cat.” Many owners are so thrilled with the one minute sit-stay and the three minute down that they never get beyond it. Or they are so proud of a down with no distractions that they never work for a down at the National Cat Show. ha, ha To my mind, a dog that won’t stay put where you want him to, when you want him to , and for as long as you want him to is not a trained dog. Build the down-stay so that your dog will do it for one hour. Cruel? I’d love someone to put me on a long down-stay after a hard day’s work!!! If he’s bored, he can go to sleep. He probably will. The long down-stay will convince your dog that you are in control. It is a gentle way of getting an important point across. It will serve you well when your dog goes visiting with you, has a long wait at the dog show or is stuck waiting at the vet’s on a busy Saturday. It can be the instrument to firm up all the rest of his training. It’s the easy dark horse winner of this whole list.


    No surprise here. You could write this paragraph yourself because while you’re saying, “He’s too cute,” or “She’s too small,” you know better. Don’t wait until you have to call in the Marines. Do what is necessary now. Formal obedience work shouldn’t begin until your puppy is four months old, six for group training. But sane play, teaching house manners, showing limits and stopping nipping should take place much earlier. A good, clear, loving but unsentimental look at your puppy will tell you what he can absorb and what he can’t. Dogs aren’t born bad. Given half a chance, your puppy can grow up to be the solid, gentle, trustworthy and reliable dog you want. And he’ll love you all the more for educating him.