When a dog is overly playful or demanding of attention, he will try to do whatever he can to have you pay attention. Nipping at you gets your attention. You stop doing what you were doing (walking down the hall, for example) and turn to address his “request”. You have now responded to your dog’s demand for attention.
You cannot yell, hit, or scream in response to your dog’s nip. These actions will often escalate the situation to where your dog will start to jump, bark, or even bite. You must de-escalate the situation, address the issue before it actually occurs and teach your puppy the correct behavior.
If your dog nips at your heals, here is what you should do to correct the situation:
- As you approach your dog in preparation of passing him, stop, face him, and in a low tone say “No”.
- Begin to slowly pass him, facing him, so you can catch him if he moves towards you. This means that you will probably be walking backwards. Do not practice this near a stoop or stairs. If your dog starts to move towards you, stop, continue to face him, and say in a low tone “No”.
- Once you are about ten feet away from him and he has not approached you, turn around and continue walking. Now you will be walking with your back to your dog.
- Just to be on the safe side, glance back to make sure that he isn’t making his move to nip. If he is, correct him again while facing him. Back away from him while you are facing him until you are another ten feet away. Repeat this process, as needed.
If your dog nips/bites at your hands during playtime, this is what you should do to teach him the correct behavior:
- Freeze your hand movement and in a low tone say “NO.” When he stops using his teeth and starts to lick your hand, give him plenty of praise.
- Never play hand games with your dog.
- Spray Bitter Apple on your hands before you handle your dog to deter him from biting. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
- First, spray your hands thoroughly with Bitter Apple and allow your dog to lick your hands to get the taste onto his tongue.
- Then, pet and play with him around his head and mouth—be careful not to get the Bitter Apple into his eyes. If he starts to mouth your hand or nip, hold your hand still and say NO in a low tone.
- When he lets go, praise immediately.
- After the exercise, wash your hands thoroughly to remove the Bitter Apple. Conduct this scene daily—more often if he mouths or nips children.
If you practice these exercises repeatedly every day for a few weeks you will notice that the behaviors will vanish. Every family member that is experiencing the issue should perform this exercise.
Jeri Wagner is a canine behavioral therapist and master trainer. Jeri uses a natural training system leveraging the same communication methods – body language and voice control – that dogs follow as part of their instinctive pack mentality. Training takes place in the home where the problems generally occur. Jeri trains in western Montgomery County, northern Chester County and eastern Berks County. For more information, call 1-877-500 BARK (2275) or visit www.barkbusters.com.
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