I've had Zoey for a month now. I do think she may be my heart dog.
I love almost everything about her. (Yes, there is one thing I don't love and the reason for the post.) I've always had rescue dogs but I have never had one settle into our lives so easily. She walks well on the leash (with a fabric martingale because I don't want to lose her) and only pulls when she sees a squirrel.
She is about 15 months old and full of puppy energy still. She was well socialized at some point because she has great people and doggie skills with meeting and greeting. She was just never trained any obedience or manners but is working well on that, well, MOST of that.
I am using a backpack to help her get more of an energy drain from our walks since she is young (and I am not) plus I am rehabbing my knee from a meniscus tear which means I can't walk as far as I would like, yet. So she does about a mile and a half with me once or twice a day and then several longer walks with my husband each day.
We are going to group obedience classes where she is the star pupil, not trying to engage with other dogs, listening to me, waiting nicely on her rug, etc. We are also working one-on-one with an excellent trainer who believes, as I do, in training with NILFF and love.
Sounds great, right?
But here's the issue I need support with - she's a nipper for attention. Not always but a couple of times a day. I can understand first thing in the morning because we haven't walked or played yet to release the energy. It also happens in the evenings, a few hours after eating she will want to go outside so we do and before I can even get her to get a toy, she is nipping at me. My arms, legs, back and even my stomach are bruised from all the nips. When I went to PT for my knee last week the therapist gasped at the many bruises on my calves.
Working with the trainer we have taught her to "get a toy" and then we can play chase with her (though my chase is limited due to my injury - I mostly try to get her to run by my so I can tap her on the rear as she goes by and get her to keep running.) Hubby actually runs around with her and she is pretty good when she is running at keeping that toy in her mouth now. (Which means she isn't running by and trying to nip as she goes by.) She needs to do the zooms a couple of times a day to get really tired.
But sometimes we go outside, like at the end of the day, and I barely get out the door and she is on me, nipping at my legs, jumping up to get my arms or hands. We are working on "stop" by playing tug and asking her to "stop" and she does it most of the time, letting go of the toy and sitting and I mark and reward then we play some more. But when she gets into this other mode, it's like a switch is flipped and I can't get through to her.
I've resorted the last couple of days to standing on the patio as close to the door as I can and as soon as she starts to nip and I say stop and she ignores me, I step back in the house. (I can't turn my back on her outside because she just keeps nipping at me.)
I wait at least 30 seconds before I open the door, trying to look for calming signals. If she comes right back at me I don't say anything, I just go back inside.
That seems to be helping but I have only just started doing it. And there are still those times, like last night when I thought we were just going out for a potty break so I was in the middle of the yard with nothing but a flashlight and she decided she wanted to play. Ouch.
I think I am doing all the right things. We do a lot of mini training sessions throughout the day, not just on stop but on all the other obedience things. I am hoping it is just that she is older, at 15 months so it is more of a habit, and that she is new to us, and that I will, eventually be able to wander around the yard without getting a new collection of bruises.
The hardest thing, of course, is to stay calm when she is nipping. I turn my side to her. I keep my hands and arms close to my chest. I try moving into her space (which works if can back her against a wall.) I practice saying "stop" in a calm, low voice when I am alone in the house. I remind myself that nothing good, like a great relationship with a wonderful dog, comes without a lot of hard work. But still . . .I am covered in bruises and hubby and I have both lost multiple articles of clothing due to her grabbing and ripping them.
I've read tons of the posts here on the forum about similar issues so, like I said, I think I'm doing all the right things and it is just a matter of time and repetition. I just needed to vent among people who would understand and support me.
Thanks for reading this long post.