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Old 12-13-2012, 03:36 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Help! My dog thinks i'm his treat.

Hi All!
I am at my wits end and do not know what else to do. I'm hoping someone can give me better advice than the dog trainer. I have an 8 month old, 83 lb. male GS. He thinks i'm his littermate. He is almost constantly nipping me, or trying to bite me. When I pet him, he will squirm around trying to bite my hands. Walking around the house or down the hall, it's nip,nip,nip. If i am trying to get dressed and he's in the room, he will grab a pant leg with his mouth and pull, or bite at my hands and feet and jump up on me trying to nip me. This also happens if I sit on the couch. When I'm putting on my shoes, he is nipping my hands, arms, feet, and shoes. He is all over me like i've been soaked in broth! I know he just wants to play so we play tug of war, and ball and he has chew toys and bones. The dog trainer said it's domination, so we practice obedience EVERY day and we walk/HEEL every day. I've been told to spray water at him, put vinegar in his mouth, put liquid soap on my arms and hands, slap his nose (all above from dog trainer), pull his ears, hold his mouth shut, say ouch, turn my back, close him out of the room, hold him in a cuddle position facing away from my body...yada, yada. NONE of it works! I have thought of using a shock collar for when he tries to bite me but am worried of any negative effects it might have on him. We got him at 7-8 weeks old and he doesn't do any of this to my husband but an occasional nip. Any advice is greatly appreciated!
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Old 12-13-2012, 07:19 PM   #2 (permalink)
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You are right; he treats you like a subordinate litter mate that he can bully. Fire your trainer and get a knowledgeable dog trainer for private training asap before accidents occur. This dog does not respect you and he is getting dangerously strong. The methods you have used will make him more determined to fight you. Check out APDT.com and go to trainer search or check out a Schutzhund club.
But remember he is just a dog without guidance and he took the lead since no one else did.

Last edited by wolfy dog; 12-13-2012 at 07:22 PM.
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Old 12-14-2012, 11:37 AM   #3 (permalink)
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thanks Wolfy Dog. I went to the website you suggested and have contacted one of the trainers. I wasn't impressed with the dog trainer i just had, however she came highly recommended, i couldn't find another one and at that point anything was better than none. Hopefully, one of the trainers i contacted through the APDT will be able to help me.
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Old 12-14-2012, 12:57 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I think seeking the advice of a trainer is really the best option here too. Also, I know you said you play with him, but how much exercise is he getting? Your mantra here should be, "A tired dog is a good dog!" 8-month-old GSDs can require a lot of exercise.

Please, please do not use a shock collar on him. Most trainers I have worked with do not recommend them for biting/mouthiness issues because they can escalate the behavior into aggression, particularly if you are inexperienced with them and your timing is less than perfect. I'd say that is true of most strong aversives, actually--pulling on his ears? Yikes, that would get me bit by my mouthy dog in a heartbeat! I agree that most of the methods you mention will just make things worse. Even the soap on your arms...not only does that sound horrible for your skin, but I know my dogs get upset if I have scented things like soap or lotion on my skin and want to get it off!

A couple of things to consider as you set things up with a trainer...do you ever give in and reward him for nipping you? In other words, when you're, say, trying to put on your shoes and he comes over and tries to get you to play, do you ever grab his toy and play for a few minutes just to get him to leave you alone? It's an easy temptation to give in to, especially if you're running late for work or something and just really are not in the mood, but if you ever do that, you're encouraging him. At this point, play should only happen if he's being polite and you initiate it, or if he asks politely (for example, if he comes up to you and sits in front of you with his toy in his mouth, reward him by playing with him even if you don't really feel like it; he needs to know what is good as well as what is bad!). So if you ever, ever even think about doing that, stop! And keep in mind, pushing him away or holding him down can seem like wrestling to him and also be a reward.

Next, ignoring him is probably the safest thing you can do. Any attention is fun for him--dogs play a lot rougher than we do (and getting rough enough to deter him can lead to biting, as I said above), and clearly your verbal corrections aren't helping. Since turning your back doesn't work, I'd suggest a "time-out"--if he gets rude, you immediately (and I mean immediately) send him to his room, as it were. Some people use the crate for this (if he's crate trained), but since it's a negative thing, I would probably set up an x-pen or gated off area in a room he can't do much damage to, like a laundry room or bathroom. You do this silently, and walk away completely so he can't see or hear you. Leave him in there for 5-10 minutes, then take him out--but if he gets rude again, you immediately return him to the room. If he's in a playful mood, you might spend a few hours doing this one evening, but hopefully it won't take him too long to get the idea. And you need to do this every single time he nips you. To help with this, confine him in a "safe" space (not his time-out room) like his crate or bedroom when you know you're going to do something that will excite him like putting on your shoes. Try to manage him so that he only has the opportunity to nip when you have time to train.

Basically, you need to try to minimize his opportunities to practice this behavior, while rewarding good behavior (whether it's playing when he asks politely, or simply letting him hang out in the room with you while you watch TV--being with you is a reward in itself). As far as the time-outs go, be sure you're being firm and matter-of-fact but not emotional or loud (talking to him as you take him to his time-out room, for example).

Also, and I'm going to bold this because to me it's probably the most important thing: This must be done in conjunction with him getting plenty of exercise, mental stimulation and positive attention from you. You're going to be fighting an uphill battle if he has too much energy or is bored, and probably no training method is going to get you the results you want. I'd also recommend practicing NILIF, or "nothing in life is free" if you're not already--basically, before he gets any food or treat or other fun thing, he has to do something good (a sit/stay before dinner, for example...it doesn't necessarily have to be something big). This will help establish you in a leadership role and as the one who is calling the shots.

Anyway, there are lots of ways to handle an issue like this and so please do consult a trainer. The strategy I outlined here is just to help get you through until you can get someone to assess your individual problem and help you develop a more personalized strategy.
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Last edited by RowdyDogs; 12-14-2012 at 01:00 PM.
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Old 12-14-2012, 01:13 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Also, even though he only occasionally nips your husband and isn't really causing a problem there, I'd still give him time-outs for that. He needs to learn two things here: 1) that you're his leader, not his subordinate, and he can't bully you around; and 2) that it is never okay to nip people. The former is more important for your quality of life right now, but the latter is also an important rule for a puppy to learn, particularly if you're going to have him around kids or out in public much in the future--you don't want him to try to initiate play with a child or someone who is afraid of dogs (or giving off submissive signals for whatever other reasons) by nipping. Also, I'd recommend you personally being the one to take him to his time-out space if you can manage it, as well as you managing feedings and things like that following NILIF principles. He already respects your husband, so you need to teach him that you control his environment and resources too.

edit: also, obviously this is just how I'd handle it personally. I realize I come across a bit as "YOU MUST DO THIS" and I don't mean to.
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Scooter-12 y/o ACD/Border Collie mix
Bandit-8 y/o ACD
Wooby-14 y/o ACD
Abutiu "Abi"-ACD puppy and hopeful future SAR dog!

Last edited by RowdyDogs; 12-14-2012 at 01:16 PM.
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Old 12-14-2012, 02:35 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Excellent advice above. I would add:

Your dog is trying to establish himself behind husband but above you in the pack order. Your husband needs to be aware and involved in preventing this. If the dog walks by and gives you a small surreptitious nip and then H plays with him, H is reinforcing that bad habit. The dog needs to be ignored and time-outed whenever he nips you at all--at his size, that is a strict no-no.
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Old 12-17-2012, 01:16 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I agree he thinks he is equal or above you in the pack order. Some of the things you say the trainer told you are things my wife and I use and work fine. So I would say the trainer could be bad, OR you could be doing a bad job at the training. To me, if the dog is nipping, I would say in a very strong voice "NO" and show him my hand up back side (this is our hand signal to sit.) If you can't even get your dog to do a basic stop and sit on command, it might not be your trainer.

We just got a 12 week old male GSD to go with our beagle and 3yr old GSD, its been seven days and the wife has him stopping and sitting. today she had him going into a lie down position. without being there, my first thought is your not being the strong master, but a small vocal playmate.
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Old 12-17-2012, 11:01 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I am not sure about the "establish a pack order" thing - sounds to me more likeyour dog is just trying to get you and you husband to play an of course that is howdogs (even big rough ones) play.

Obviously you do need to get it under control because a little "play" inducing nip for a GSD can be a hurting pinch to human skin. A trainer who can see the actual behavior is of coure best.

It sounds like maybe your dog has been doing this behavior for a long while? It will take a while to change it, so you can expect that. Maybe look how cute as a little puppy ad then not so cute (maybe even a little threatening as the dog gets bigger!).

BTW, you can fix it!

Our 5yo male 90lb GSD still is very mouthy - difference is that he very very rarely even comes close t pinching as he has amazing bite control. We eventually found what workd best as he grew up was a loud "OW" and then encouraged him to "Kiss" (lick) in place of mouthing.
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Old 12-17-2012, 06:57 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by codmaster View Post
I am not sure about the "establish a pack order" thing - sounds to me more likeyour dog is just trying to get you and you husband to play an of course that is howdogs (even big rough ones) play.
I'm not big on dominance/pack order stuff either, but I think in this case there might be some merit to the respect issue. I say this simply because she says the dog will occasionally nip the husband but back off, but he won't leave her alone. I think it is possible he may see her as someone he can push around. I don't think it's so much "pack order" as a personal issue, if that makes sense. It's not the old school captive-wolf-pack dominance theory, but he still needs to learn that when she says she doesn't want to play, he needs to back off.

I agree that it is just play. It's just that he needs to learn that when she says no, that means knock it the heck off.

Definitely agree with everything else you said, btw. Dogs play rough and they need an outlet for that, and it is definitely a fixable (and even common) issue! I've dealt with it myself many times in foster dogs.
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The rowdy dogs:
Hector-2 y/o GSD (mix?) rescue
Scooter-12 y/o ACD/Border Collie mix
Bandit-8 y/o ACD
Wooby-14 y/o ACD
Abutiu "Abi"-ACD puppy and hopeful future SAR dog!
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Old 12-17-2012, 07:48 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RowdyDogs View Post
I'm not big on dominance/pack order stuff either, but I think in this case there might be some merit to the respect issue. I say this simply because she says the dog will occasionally nip the husband but back off, but he won't leave her alone. I think it is possible he may see her as someone he can push around. I don't think it's so much "pack order" as a personal issue, if that makes sense. It's not the old school captive-wolf-pack dominance theory, but he still needs to learn that when she says she doesn't want to play, he needs to back off.

I agree that it is just play. It's just that he needs to learn that when she says no, that means knock it the heck off.

Definitely agree with everything else you said, btw. Dogs play rough and they need an outlet for that, and it is definitely a fixable (and even common) issue! I've dealt with it myself many times in foster dogs.
Very true - I suspect that most families with dogs usually find that the dog will listen better (respect?) one family member more so than others. We see that in our house for sure.
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