Solving Nipping Problems

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As a puppy owner, you quickly realize that your very cute fluffy ball of wonderfulness also has very sharp teeth that can easily draw blood, bruise, and scratch. Owners have called me in tears because of puppy nipping problems. This isn’t an easy issue for any pet owner and for those of you experiencing this issue; you are not alone.

A Soft Bite
Years ago we taught puppies to not bite at all by punishing them every time their teeth came into contact with skin. However, research shows that if a dog was never allowed to put his teeth on skin, he missed the opportunity to learn that human’s skin is very tender. Because of this knowledge, we now teach puppies a soft bite, or also known as “bite inhibition.”

Exercise for Soft Bite: This exercise should be implemented when, and only when you are okay with the puppy interacting with you. Also, it goes without saying that this exercise is for adults only. When you are okay with the puppy interacting with you, allow the puppy to “nibble” on your hand. Anytime a bite is harder than what you think is okay (even if it doesn’t necessarily hurt you) then squeal with a very high pitch, “Ouch!” Make sure that the “ouch” is very dramatic. Usually puppies will back up and look at their owner. As soon as the puppy looks at you say, “Good” and continue interacting with him.

If you said the high pitch, “Ouch!” and he didn’t stop nipping, give him a time out by crossing your arms in front of you and do not look or talk to him. The moment he backs up away from you, continue interacting with him.

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Use Toys to Redirect (Larger Toys Are Better Than Smaller Toys)
As a puppy, Morgan my Golden retriever mix needed something to chew almost constantly.  I always had something for her to chew on, no matter where we went. Every time she would try to chew on me, I would immediately redirect her to the Nylabone or her bully stick.

Petting
When petting a puppy, our hands can sometimes become a game. The exercises below will help him learn that hands are not toys.

Training Exercises For Petting:

1. Place ten treats in the opposite hand that you will use to pet your puppy. Sit in a chair. Now reach over and pet your puppy one time. Before the puppy begins to nip present the baited hand and food lure him away from the hand you are petting him with. As the puppy is turning his head away from the hand petting him say, “Good” and treat. Your puppy will learn to look to the other hand when petting and you can soon replace the food reward with toy or a treat.

2. Place five treats in opposite hand that you will use to pet your puppy. Sit in a chair. Now present baited hand closed. Place directly in front of the puppy’s nose. If he sniffs or nuzzles the hand say, “Good” and treat. If the puppy puts his mouth on your hand, use your correctional sound “eh eh” and stand up, cross your arms, and do not look at puppy (form of a time out). Ignore him until sits or stands and then repeat.

3. Present baited hand to the puppy. If the puppy sniffs, then pet by stroking his head and neck one time. Say, “Good” and treat. Gradually increase the number of times you pet your puppy before you say, “Good” and treat.

Of course, with all treatment plans you must be consistent. If you don’t allow nipping, but someone else in your family does, this will cause confusion for the puppy and not produce the desired results.

If you are not consistent with the treatment plan you can’t expect a consistent response!

Other Nipping Tips:
• Avoid getting the puppy overly excited.
• Keep play time manageable. For example, you know at seven minutes of play he’ll be too excited, so only play for four minutes.
• Exercise, exercise, exercise. This includes an outdoor walk involving mental stimulation.

What to Do When Puppy Nips:
If your puppy starts to nip, quickly fold your arms in front of you and ignore him. After two seconds of no nipping, calmly start interacting again with the puppy. If the puppy starts to nip, repeat the process. If you’ve done this twice and the puppy is still nipping, get up and leave the room for a few seconds (sometimes I shut the door behind me which seems to get my point across).

Blog written by: Michelle Huntting

Puppy Socialization

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What is socialization?

When someone talks about socializing a dog or puppy, most people start thinking about take a pup to the dog local park.  While many dogs may enjoy trips to the park, there is actually much more involved in properly socializing a puppy than just turning them loose with other dogs.  A properly socialized puppy will have been exposed not only to other dogs, but a wide variety of people, other animals, sounds, obstacles, and environments.

Why is socialization at an early age so important?

Puppies learn most of their social skills during the first twelve weeks of their lives.  This is also the time during which a bad experience may cause a life-long fear.  A lack of proper socialization during this time period can lead to fearful, nervous, or even aggressive tendencies that are very difficult to modify later in the dog’s life.  While it is important to continue socializing your puppy even after the twelve week mark, the experiences your puppy has before turning twelve weeks old are crucial to their development.

So, how do you make sure your dog gains this experience?

It may sound like a huge undertaking, but socializing your pup can be worked into your everyday life fairly easily.  Here are some ideas on how to expose your puppy to a variety of things:

  • Take your puppy out and about with you!  As simple as it may sound, a daily walk through your neighborhood can expose your puppy to a variety of things.  Cars going by, other pedestrians out walking, the odd sounds of the city garbage truck making its rounds, just to name a few.  Visiting downtown areas or around schools can also expose them to larger crowds of people and children.

Please note that If your puppy has not yet received their vaccinations, it is best to carry them when you are out and about.  This will limit their exposure to potential diseases, but still allow them to take in all the activity going on around them.  Check with your vet to make sure your puppy is receiving the vaccines he or she needs, and at the appropriate times.

  • Find a local trainer.  Most trainers will offer classes specifically for puppies of this age, giving your puppy a great chance to be around other puppies and people.  When looking for a trainer, always make sure you find someone who uses positive reinforcement ONLY!
  • Enlist the help of your friends and family.  Ask friends or family who have friendly, vaccinated dogs (or even cats!) to come visit your house.  It’s also a good idea to visit them so your puppy can meet them in different environments.  Even if some of your friends don’t have pets, they can still help!  It’s important for your puppy to meet lots of people, including men, women, and children. 
  • Practice grooming.  Even if your puppy isn’t a breed that requires a lot of maintenance, it’s still important to teach them that basic things such as brushing, bathing, and having their paws and ears touched are no big deal.  Aside from being able to groom your pet, these things will come in handy when your dog has to be handled for other things, such as a veterinary exam.  If you aren’t comfortable doing these things yourself, seek the help of a qualified groomer. 
  • Introduce your dog to various sounds.  The vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, or a dropped pot or pan in the kitchen are all noises that you can expose your dog to.  Sudden sounds that are particularly loud or obnoxious should be introduced from a distance initially, then gradually bring them closer.

All of these are great ways to get your puppy’s socialization headed in the right direction, as long you take the time to do them safely and positively!  Here are a few things to remember when working with your pup.

1)  Avoid letting your puppy interact with dogs you are not familiar with.  At this young age, your pup is more prone to illness and disease.  Only let them interact with dogs you know are friendly, healthy, and properly vaccinated.

2) Take things at your puppy’s pace!  Don’t force them to confront too much at one time, especially if they seem nervous.  For example, if your puppy is nervous about approaching an object, take them back to the distance at which they are comfortable, and gradually work from there.

3) Keep in mind that dogs, especially young puppies, typically learn more from multiple short training sessions each day rather than one very long one.  All dogs are different, but a good starting point is about ten minutes at a time.  If you notice your dog acting distracted or frustrated, your session may be too long.

Remember to always keep a positive attitude when working with your dog!  Training and socializing should be fun for both of you, and create the foundation for a strong relationship.

Written by Kristen McCartney
Find out more at, www.missbelles.com