Biting and Bite Thresholds
The objective of BITE INHIBITION is to teach your dog to have a gentle bite that does not hurt, if he ever makes mouth contact with you or any other person.
Punishing the dog for biting and teaching “No Bite” just suppresses behavior, while teaching bite inhibition teaches what we want. Suppressed behaviors often return in a violent manner.
No matter how much training you do and how gentle your dog is, under certain circumstances any dog can be provoked to bite. Biting is an act of defense for a dog; it is a very instinctual response. There are a variety of reasons that a dog may bite and contrary to popular belief, few bites are committed by “aggressive” dogs. Humans have really done a great disservice to dogs by expecting them to like absolutely everyone and every other dog they encounter in their lifetime. We also require that our dogs be the embodiment of peace and never get angry, afraid or aggress for either reason. How many of us can truly say that we have never disliked someone or responded to a situation with anger or fear?
All dogs have what is referred to as a bite threshold. A bite threshold can be either low, high or anywhere in between and is individual for every dog. The best way to think of this threshold is to equate it to the “snapping point” in people. Some individuals are more tense and quicker to react in a situation than others. Virtually everything going on in the world around them will contribute to where a dog is at that given moment in time in relation to their bite threshold.
Hypothetically, a dog with a very high threshold (less reactive) who is well socialized, well fed, well rested and just kicking back around the house playing a bit and being petted will typically be unlikely to bite the mailman, unless the simple presence of the mailman puts this dog over threshold. The same dog, that is hungry, tired from all of the company that has been visiting, whose routine has been completely thrown out of whack and who has a headache, would be more likely to bite that same mailman. All of these factors play into where the individual dog is at on the continuum. As humans, this should be pretty easy to understand; if we have had a bad day and have a headache, we tend to be grumpier than usual. With this in mind, we believe that it is important to first help a dog learn to inhibit their bites before we work on teaching them to not bite at all. The ultimate goal is that if your dog is ever put in a situation where he/she feels a need to defend itself, it will inflict only a minimal amount of damage.
Many of the old-fashioned traditional methods used to teach puppies not to bite, ones that we discourage you from using, include scruff shakes, cuffing the puppy under the chin, pinching their lips against their teeth and even the infamous “alpha wolf rollover.” Often people find that when using these methods the puppy either bites harder or becomes fearful of handling and hands around its face and mouth. Either way, aggression on our part results in more aggression from the puppy. The method described below works very differently. With this method you can minimize biting and any damage if your dog should ever be placed in a situation where it feels it has no choice but to bite.
Your puppy, even at its young age, has strong jaws and sharp teeth. As your puppy matures, its jaws will only become more powerful. An adult dog has jaws and teeth that are fully capable of ripping apart a carcass and cracking bones. Dogs developed such well-built apparatus because they needed them to survive in the wild.
Dogs are very social animals and because their jaws are such an incredible and potentially dangerous weapon, they have created a ritualized form of aggression to prevent serious injury to one another during altercations. Every puppy is born knowing how to bite; yet they do not automatically know how to bite softly. They can however learn to bite softly through their interactions with other puppies, dogs and us.
When we see a litter of puppies playing, we see them exploring one another with their paws and their mouths. This play is fun for the puppies, but it is also an important part of learning. Much of their play looks as though they are fighting and biting at one another. This play is part of how they acquire the skills necessary for ritualized aggression.
While puppies are playing with one another, they are also learning bite inhibition - how to control the strength of their bite. When two puppies are wrestling and one bites the other too hard, the puppy that has been bitten will yelp and move away from the biting puppy, stopping play. The puppy that did the biting has just learned that if he bites too hard, his littermate stops playing with him. Eventually the one that was bitten too hard will return to play and the biting puppy will have learned to have a softer mouth. When we take a puppy away from its litter, we also are removing it from a school where it learns much about bite inhibition. If taken into a home without other dogs, and if its new people do not allow play biting, the puppy will no longer have opportunities to learn how to inhibit its bite. This is a huge issue for puppies that are taken from mom and the litter prior to reaching eight weeks of age.
Unfortunately, many dog-training books actively discourage play biting. They infer that if the dog is allowed to play bite it will think of you as a littermate and will try to dominate you. This is nonsense. Play biting is an important part of your puppy’s development and something that should be allowed and encouraged if you want your puppy to develop a soft mouth. Our goal is to teach the puppy to inhibit this natural canine behavior before they are adults and can cause serious injury.
Teaching Bite Inhibition
When teaching bite inhibition, you want to initially target the hard bites. Setup a play area for yourself and the puppy. Make sure that there is absolutely nothing in this area that the puppy can play with other than you. No other people, dogs, toys or anything they can mouth. Play with your puppy allowing him to mouth your hands while monitoring the pressure of his bites.
- When the puppy bites too hard, say “yipe” or “ouch” as if he really hurt you. This word will become the conditioned stimulus which the puppy learns to mean “playtime ends.” Note: you want to use the same word every time, as does everyone else in the family. Some puppies may be overly stimulated by a "yelp" so you may need to tone down the volume or the frequency.
- Immediately stop play and get up and leave the room for 1 minute. You must completely ignore the puppy. Do NOT look at, touch or speak to the puppy, just walk away. Make sure the puppy has no toys or other people they can interact with. We are teaching the puppy that when they bite too hard their friends leave and ALL of the fun in the universe comes to a screeching halt.
- After 1 minute return and resume play. If the puppy eventually bites too hard again (and he most likely will), repeat steps 2 and 3.
The above cycle will need to be repeated several times for the puppy to learn. Every day or so you will reduce the amount of pressure you tolerate so that in time your puppy learns that you have very soft skin and he can only mouth you very gently. Think of this like the 1 to 10 pain scale used by doctors. On day one you yelp at 10, day two at 9, and so on. Be careful of moving to a soft pressure too quickly. If your criteria are too high, you are setting your puppy up to fail.
Some puppies will follow you and nip at your heels and clothes when you stop play. If this is the case, the bite inhibition exercises should be done with the puppy on a leash. The other end of the leash is secured around something so the puppy cannot follow you.
The amount of time it takes your dog to learn how much pressure is okay will vary from dog to dog. The retrieving breeds generally pick this up quite quickly as they have been bred to have very soft mouths. Who wants to have their duck brought back all full of holes. On the flip side, it may take a bit more time to help your terrier become soft-mouthed.
Children should not participate in the bite inhibition training. While children and dogs often become the best of friends, young children frequently send dogs all the wrong signals. They scream, flail their limbs, run and fall down. All of these behaviors trigger your dogs hard-wired prey drive as they are essentially the same thing wounded prey would do. If the puppy gets too revved up, a timeout is necessary for both the puppy and the kids.
NOTE: If bite inhibition training was not started when your dog was a puppy, it may not work as well as you would like. If this is the case, please talk with one of the instructors for other ideas on handling biting issues.
OBJECTIVE: To learn how to manage your dogs chewing behavior.
While a puppy may chew more during the teething stage, chewing is a very normal behavior for dogs of all ages. They do it out of pleasure; they do it to pass the time; they do it to relieve stress and they do it to exercise their jaws and teeth. We need to allow our puppies and dogs to have an outlet for natural behaviors such as chewing. It is our responsibility to provide them with things that they can chew on and to help them learn that they are only to chew on their specified chew toys.
Dogs have no way knowing the difference between a chew toy and a cell phone or favorite stuffed animal. While we can easily discriminate between chew toys and things not to be chewed, our dogs cannot. Dogs do not understand that a pair of shoes represents a $150 chew toy; they just know the shoes are available and are a pretty good chew. Consider all the items in your home that your dog is NOT allowed to chew in contrast to the number of things he is allowed to chew. Is it any wonder our dogs guess wrong some of the time?
Given the way a puppy works, we need to start training him early on as to what items he can chew. We need to get him addicted to his chew toys! The first step is to restrict your puppy’s access to anything but his chew toys,
The 3 key steps to chew training are:
1. Get your dog some suitable chew toys and get him to like them. There are four broad types of chew toys; natural chews like rawhide and bully sticks, man-made hard chews made to simulate a bone, man-made soft chews like rope toys and toys made of softer rubbers and plastics, and toys that dispense treats and in doing so provide your dog with some mental stimulation.
Our favorite in this category is the Bully Stick. It is an all natural chewing alternative made from a tendon from a steer. Unlike rawhide, your dog is unlikely to swallow too large a piece of the Bully Stick, and with most dogs they last a substantial amount of time. We occasionally use rawhide but are always very particular about the rawhide we choose. Rawhide is not naturally white/beige. It is normally brown and only becomes lighter colored after a great deal of chemical processing. For this reason we prefer to only use rawhide that is manufactured in the USA. We always supervise the dogs when they are given bully sticks or rawhide to make sure that they do not try to swallow more than they should. These types of chews are edible, but intake should be limited.
Man-made hard chews
These are probably the most common chew toys for dogs and often the most durable. Our favorite in this category are the NylaboneÒ products. They come in various sizes, flavors and degrees of hardness for the puppy and adult dog that is a voracious chewer. Many NylaboneÒ products also help keep your dog’s teeth and gums clean and healthy. If your dog lacks enthusiasm toward his NylaboneÒ, try sanding the surface gently with some fine sandpaper. This will help release the flavor. Another alternative is to drill some holes in the bone that you fill with peanut butter.
Man-made soft chews
The NylaboneÒ Flexichew falls in this category as does the Booda Bone, many of the orbee-tuff products. Basically these are any soft toys the dog can chew with supervision. Remember, because they are soft you dog will be able to destroy them with less effort. They may not be appropriate for voracious chewers, even when supervised.
Treat dispensing chew toys
The toys in this category not only give your dog something to chew, they can keep him very busy. The granddad in this category is The KongÒ. Made of a hard, natural rubber and available in different sizes, their unique shape makes them bounce in an unpredictable manner, and their hollow center allows them to be stuffed with goodies. A KongÒ stuffed with various size pieces of dog biscuit, kibble, or carrot can keep your dog busy and out of trouble. Other toys in this category include the Premier twist ‘n treat™ and Busy Buddy® and the Planet Dog Orbee-TuffÒ line. The Planet Dog products are guaranteed for life.
No matter what toy or toys you choose, show your dog you are interested in them. Play with them and he too will start to show an interest.
2. Prevent your dog from learning it is acceptable to chew things other than his toys
- Make sure your dog is confined in his crate or in a puppy-proof room unless you can keep him under 100% supervision.
- When he starts to chew something he is not supposed to, redirect him to one of his chew toys. Praise him when he chews his toy. Do not bring more attention to the dog by scolding him for chewing an inappropriate item.
- If your puppy chews things such as cords, try spraying them with a product such as BitterÒ Apple or Bitter YUCK!™. These products have a very bitter taste which 99% of dogs find objectionable. Once the dog chews on a treated item, it will stop chewing because it tastes so bad. We do sell two brands because some dogs amazingly like the taste of this stuff.
3. Once your dog is doing well, start to give him more access to your home while continuing to keep him under close supervision. If he starts chewing something he is not supposed to chew, trade him for a chew toy. Now that he has been trained to know what he can chew it will be easier to redirect his attention.
Training your puppy or dog not to urinate or defecate in your house should begin as soon as you bring them into your home.
The same process used to housetrain a puppy can also be used with an older dog that is not housetrained or that develops housetraining issues. If you have an older dog that you thought was previously housetrained but is now having issues, the first thing you should do is make an appointment with your veterinarian. It is highly likely that your dog’s housetraining problem is not behavioral, but medical in nature.
With young puppies, a major factor in housetraining will be the size of their growing bladder and their control over it. A puppy that is under 10 weeks of age may need to go out every hour during the day and possibly once or twice every night. This is not necessarily a matter of training, but one of bladder control. By 12 weeks a puppy should be able to go up to 2 to 3 hours during the day without urinating and can usually make it through the night. When a puppy is 16 to 20 weeks of age, it should only need to go out every 4 to 6 hours during the day. Many adult dogs can eventually go up to 8 hours during the day before they require a potty break.
The first step in housetraining your puppy will be to get a crate. We recommend a fiberglass/plastic “airline” type crate. These crates are enclosed on all sides and provide a den-like atmosphere for your dog. If you prefer a wire crate, drape a cloth over the sides to make it more like a den, but be sure that the puppy cannot pull the cloth into the crate through the wires. You can achieve this by placing a board that extends out on all sides over the top of the crate, and then draping the cloth over the board so that it hangs at least a few inches away from the wires.
A crate should be large enough for your dog to sit up, lie down and turn around comfortably. However, the dog should not have enough room to sleep in one corner and urinate or defecate in the other. Usually it is most economical to purchase the size crate that will fit your puppy as an adult. For the time being you can place an old milk crate or some other non-edible object in the back of the crate to take up some space or else you can invest in a crate divider sold specifically for this purpose
There are beds specially made for dog crates, but we do not recommend them for young puppies. An old blanket or some towels will do just fine, providing the puppy does not tear and consume them. A couple of good chew toys will occupy a young dog's time in the crate. While you are housetraining your dog, you should not offer water in the crate, but do make sure it is available at all other times.
Generally the crate should be placed in an area that is quiet, but where your dog can still see and hear you. Remember, dogs are social animals and want to be with the rest of the family; they do not like feeling isolated. Putting the crate in your bedroom at night will help to strengthen the bond between you and your dog by allowing him to sleep near you. You may have a couple of sleepless nights initially, but it is worth it in the end. Having the dog near you while you sleep will also aid you in hearing the puppy when he needs to eliminate during the night.
It is very important not to abuse the crate. We want the dog to like the crate so it should never be used for punishment. If your dog spends a significant amount of time in a crate it will also need a significant amount of time to exercise and play.
Introducing the dog to the crate
- 1.Open the door to the crate and let your dog explore it. Toss in a treat or a favorite toy so he goes in to investigate. Feed your dog meals in the crate to further create a positive association.
- 2.Pick a word such as “kennel,” toss a treat in and shut the door after the puppy enters. Now pass a treat through the gate and then let your puppy out. Repeat this several times, increasing the length of time your puppy is in the crate.
- 3.Say “kennel,” wait for your puppy to enter and then shut the door and pass them a treat. Leave the room for one minute and then return to let the puppy out. Never make a big deal of crating your dog or letting him out. If you act as though it is nothing your dog will accept the idea much more quickly. Also, remember to not reward your dog as you let him or her out of the crate. Exiting the crate should be a non-event.
- 4.Allow your dog to become used to the crate. Start with a couple of minutes and then increase the time from there.
- 5.If your dog is barking, ignore him. Otherwise he will learn that barking results in your attention, which is what he wants. However, if he whines in the middle of the night, he may have to go outside. In this case take him out immediately and then put him back in the crate for the remainder of the night.
The happier you are with the crate, the happier your dog will be. You will be amazed at how rapidly dogs come to like their new home.
If you are having difficulty teaching your dog or puppy to accept its crate, please talk to us. There are many little tips and tricks that can help.
Diet and Housetraining
Your puppy’s diet will have a large impact on housetraining. The quality of what goes in will greatly determine the quantity of what comes out. The frequency of feeding will also have an effect on how often your dog needs to eliminate. By feeding at set intervals you will make bowel movements much more predictable. I recommend you feed a puppy 3 times a day. Set the food down for 15 minutes and if the puppy walks away from anything that is left, pick it up and put it away until the next meal.
The Housetraining Process
Until such time that your dog has been housetrained (roughly 6 weeks without an accident), they should always be in a crate, on a leash attached to you, or under constant supervision. You must not take your eye off the puppy if you want to prevent accidents. This means that if a responsible adult is not devoting all of their attention to the puppy, then the puppy should be in its crate.
It is essential that you minimize the number of accidents an animal has inside; your goal should be none. Every accident the puppy has provides positive reinforcement, in the form of relief, for eliminating inside. Positive reinforcement causes behaviors to be repeated, something we do not want in this circumstance.
You should take your puppy out to eliminate whenever:
- They finish a meal or snack.
- They awake from sleeping.
- They come out of the crate, whether they have been sleeping or not.
- Immediately before and after play sessions.
- Any time the dog’s behavior suggests they may need to go out (circling, sniffing, walking away and sitting by a door).
When taking your puppy or dog out to eliminate, follow these steps:
- Put your dog on a leash, 6ft in length or less, so you have control over them outside. You need to stay out with them, so dress appropriately.
- Always go out the same door. This will help them to identify why they are going out.
- Go directly to the area in your yard you have selected as the bathroom area. This area should be fairly close to the door so you can get there in a hurry when necessary. Dogs tend to favor porous surfaces so they will generally prefer to eliminate on a grassy area. After your puppy defecates here the first time, leave some stool for the first few days to serve as a marker that this is the place to go.
- Remain standing in one place. When the dog starts to eliminate quietly say “good,” remain silent and allow them to finish. Give them a treat and lots of praise immediately after they have finished. This treat needs to be delivered within 1-2 seconds of the dog completing the behavior if it is to be associated with the behavior. If you wait to give the puppy the treat until after you get back inside, you are NOT rewarding for the bathroom behavior but for coming inside. This may create a puppy that is in a hurry to get inside and thus does not finish going to the bathroom outside but does so inside. After your puppy is finished eliminating, then it is time for play or a walk.
- After your dog is eliminating in the same spot you can start to add a verbal cue. When your dog starts to eliminate, repeat the word you want to use for elimination (“Do your business,” “Go potty,” etc.). Always use the same phrase as we eventually will use this to get our dog to eliminate on cue.
- Give your dog up to 10 minutes to eliminate. If a puppy, wait an additional 2 minutes after they have eliminated just in case they have not finished. If they eliminate again, reward them with another treat.
- If your dog does not eliminate after 10 minutes go directly back inside with no play, walk or treat. Remembering that you have a “loaded” puppy, either put them in their crate or keep them attached to you by a leash. If your puppy starts to whine in the crate or shows any pre-elimination behaviors immediately take him outside.
- Once your puppy is going reliably in his special place you should start training them to go on cue in other places. If you stay at Grandma’s be prepared for the possibility of an accident. You need to watch your puppy closely in new situations and may need to do some remedial training.
When Accidents Happen
No matter how good you and your puppy are, the odds are there will be some accidents in the house. If the puppy starts to eliminate inside, say “Out!” sharply. This should get their attention and cause them to momentarily stop. Quickly scoop them up or leash them and take them outside, following the steps above.
If an accident occurs in the house and you did not actually catch the puppy at the instant it was eliminating, just quietly put him in the crate while you clean up the mess. If you punish the dog after the fact it will not understand why it is being punished. If you think your dog “looks guilty” and knows it has done something wrong, your dog is picking up on your negative body language. He senses you are upset but does not understand why.
Be careful about reprimanding your puppy even if you catch them in the act. Rather than associating your punishment with going inside they may associate it with eliminating in front of you which can make housetraining even more difficult.
When your dog has an accident inside it is imperative you clean it thoroughly. Any residual feces or urine may trigger the puppy to eliminate in that specific location again. We recommend that you use an enzymatic based cleaning product such as such as Urine Off or Nature’s Miracle. These products contain enzymes which break down the urine that “mark” a spot as an appropriate bathroom area. Many household cleaners only cover the smell left behind and do not breakdown the urine. Do NOT use ammonia-based cleaners, as to many dogs these may actually smell like urine.
Things You Do Not Want to Do
Walking to Eliminate
Taking your dog for a walk to eliminate may actually make housetraining more difficult. Most dogs enjoy walks and if they learn that the walk ends when they go to the bathroom (essentially punishing them), they may delay eliminating in order to extend the walk. It is easier to teach that eliminating quickly at home results in a fun walk.
Paper or Pee Pad Training
Training your dog to go inside on newspapers or pee pads will make the entire housetraining process more difficult and lengthy. Every time a dog goes inside on a newspaper or pee pad, he is learning and being positively reinforced for going inside. Training him to only go outside after this has been allowed is extremely challenging so avoid this if possible.
That being said, at times you may find this necessary, particularly with the cold Maine winters and some smaller dog breeds that struggle to maintain warmth outdoors. If you do have to resort to inside toileting, just remember that you have added an extra step and will have to be patient when trying to retrain the puppy to urinate and defecate outside.
Housetraining Issues with Adult Dogs
Upon reaching sexual maturity, many male dogs and some female dogs exhibit marking behavior. They urinate on objects to leave their scent, thus staking out their territory. Remedial housetraining may be necessary in these cases. Early neutering of males, before this behavior develops, may help prevent this behavior from developing. Many veterinarians can neuter and spay puppies as young as 8 weeks of age.
If an adult dog with a good record of housetraining suddenly starts having accidents, take them to your veterinarian. Urinary infections or cystitis can cause a dog to urinate inside. Internal parasites or other illnesses can cause diarrhea or increase the frequency of defecation.
PRESS RELEASE: Green Acres Hosts Pet First Aid & CPR Seminar January 14th
For Immediate Release
Sunday, January 01, 2012
Green Acres Kennel Shop
[Bangor]- On Saturday, January 14th, Green Acres Kennel Shop will be hosting a Pet First Aid and CPR Seminar taught by Certified Pet Tech Instructor Tracy Haskell. This 4-hour PetSaver Program will teach participants Pet CPR, Pet First Aid, and basic care and handling that can be used in the event of emergencies. At the completion of the program participants will have the resources they need to keep their pet safe, healthy, and happy. Whether your pets just hang around at home with you or live an active and adventurous life, the knowledge you gain in this class may possibly save your pet’s life.
The seminar will run from 1PM until 5PM and includes hands on instruction and a handy reference guide. The fee for the class is $50, with $10 from each enrollment being donated to the Eastern Area Agency on Aging Furry Friends’ Food Bank. A maximum of 10 spots are available, so don’t delay! Call Green Acres at 945-6841 to register.
In business since 1965, Green Acres Kennel Shop at 1653 Union Street is a Pet Care Services Association (PCSA) accredited facility offering boarding, daycare and grooming for dogs and cats, as well as pet behavior consultations and training classes. Voted Best Kennel every year since 2002, Best Pet Store every year since 2007, and Best Dog Trainer in 2011, the Green Acres retail store offers a wide variety of wholesome pet foods, treats and quality supplies. For more information, please call 945-6841 or visit www.greenacreskennel.com.