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My puppy nips at me when overexcited

(34 Posts)
BecauseIsaidS0 Sun 15-Jun-14 06:21:00

Hello! I have a 13 week old pug who is an absolute delight. Now that he's got his vaccinations, I have started taking him out on a leash.

Being a puppy, he gets really excited when he sees people. I keep him close to me, but if someone asks if they can pet him, I let them do it, warning them beforehand that he gets rather excited and will try to climb up their legs and lick them grin

So far so good, except that a couple of times I have noticed him getting way too excited, a bit frantic in fact, so I've taken him in my arms and when I have done so, he's bitten me in the arm. Not nipping, but actual hard biting. He's also done this at home after some playing.

We are starting puppy training classes this week so of course I will ask the trainer, but since it's 6am and I'm insomniac I thought I'd ask here too.

LtEveDallas Sun 15-Jun-14 06:26:06

MuttDog did this to me a few times. What I was told to do was yelp (a high pitched "ow" like another dog) and then grab the scruff of her next, not to hurt her, just a quick hold. Apparently that is what a 'mother dog' would do if her pup nipped her when feeding. I don't know how true that is, but it certainly worked with the Mutt, and with my NDNs pup.

Lilcamper Sun 15-Jun-14 09:46:47

Mother dogs do NOT scruff their pups. The only time their mouth goes around their neck is to move them before they are mobile themselves. Please don't do that. it could make a pup scared of you or force them to up the ante and retaliate more with their teeth.

Interrupt with a kissy noise and redirect onto an appropriate toy or chew. It sounds like he doesn't like being picked up in these situations, so don't.

SpicyPear Sun 15-Jun-14 10:08:13

lilcamper's advice is good.

With small dogs I would advise imagining that they are a lab. People tend not to allow their lab pups to climb up people's legs because once the dog is grown they will knock them over. Just because your pug will not get very big does not mean you should neglect to teach them not to climb up people and jump up. It is just as rude and still frightening for small children. A simple way to teach a calm greeting is to pop them on a lead. Have the person approach them but as soon as all four paws are not on the floor, they back off. Keep repeating (treating for calm behaviour as well) until pup learns that they only get a fuss when they have all paws down on the ground. If they jump during the greeting, person backs off immediately.

I understand that with a small breed it is very tempting to lift them out of situations but it is not good for the dog as physically removing them does nothing to teach them how to behave. In this case your dog is clearly finding it extremely frustrating. Again imagine you have a large dog who you cannot move. Train appropriate behaviour like you would have to in that situation. Otherwise you may find you end up with a reactive dog.

MothershipG Sun 15-Jun-14 10:39:57

Don't pick him up when he's frantic! You need to remove him from the over stimulation so he can calm down.

In fact try and avoid picking him up when you are out, unless it really is essential for his safety. He needs to learn how to behave and how to deal with all the everyday situations he will encounter and he needs to learn to to this with his paws on the floor.

As the owner of small dogs my top tip would be to carefully manage his interactions with people and dogs, especially big ones. Make sure that they are positive for him so that he doesn't become anxious or fearful.

Also does your trainer have experience with small dogs? Some trainers don't seem to get small dogs in my experience.

BecauseIsaidS0 Sun 15-Jun-14 17:17:45

Thanks, ladies! I tried the high pitched yelp and grabbing him by the skin of the neck and it worked, but that was at home where I had more control. I think teaching him to not climb up people's legs is the way to go. I agree that it is rude. I will enlists DH to teach the "no approach until all legs are on the floor" method. Thank you all for your advice.

Lilcamper Sun 15-Jun-14 17:45:25

Please don't grab him by the scruff again. It will do nothing but make him scared of you and in some brachycephalic breeds like pugs you actually run the risk of making his eyes pop out of their sockets.

Canidae Sun 15-Jun-14 17:50:25

When mine had nippy/excited moments I would walk away, even leave the room if I had to. Shouting or yelping made her worse so I took her plaything (me) away until she was calm.

hmc Sun 15-Jun-14 17:55:44

I wouldn't and didn't grab by the scruff...I did however make a high pitched yelping noise which seemed to stop mine in his tracks combined with then withdrawing attention from him and ignoring him

LtEveDallas Sun 15-Jun-14 18:03:46

Different dogs, different reactions. It worked with mine and she's not scared of me, it worked with my NDNs dog who was biting rather than nipping and drawing blood and he's not scared of me either. It's an old fashioned technique, yes, but it IS what dogs do to each other.

I see many working dogs picked up by their scruffs, now I wouldn't do that as I think their weight would cause injury, but the instant they are held they are submissive and quiet. It seems to work and I've always been told that is what happens in family groups.

SpicyPear Sun 15-Jun-14 18:14:46

Good to enlist your DH but you will need to proof it with all sorts of other people so they understand it applies to everyone not just him. Dogs don't generalise very well.

I'm not going to get involved in a generalised scruffing debate because it is not helpful to the OP. Regardless of your views on it generally, it is very definitely not advised with brachycephalic breeds because of the increased risk of proptosis.

Lilcamper Sun 15-Jun-14 18:48:37

Great that it worked for you, dogs don't do it to each other....they are also very aware that you are not another dog.

LtEveDallas Sun 15-Jun-14 18:55:08

So what are they doing when they are grabbing each other by the neck and forcing one to the floor? What about when they are hanging on to the neck skin?

Lilcamper Sun 15-Jun-14 19:13:00

You are not a dog.

LtEveDallas Sun 15-Jun-14 19:14:45

Heh, my ex husband may disagree with that statement grin

You said dogs don't do it to each other, what did you mean then because in our pack of mutts they are doing it to each other all the time?

Lilcamper Sun 15-Jun-14 19:17:11

In play. Not in punishment.

LtEveDallas Sun 15-Jun-14 19:27:42

Of course, but they also do it when one of the younger pups gets out of hand. You've never seen anything funnier than the 9 year old female cocker pinning down the 18 month Rottie grin

Lilcamper Sun 15-Jun-14 19:39:02

This is the last time I am going to say it. Scruffing or pinning a dog is not appropriate, you are not a dog, you are a human and they know it.

LtEveDallas Sun 15-Jun-14 19:48:48

I don't know why you are getting snippy?

You said that it was wrong, and I accept that is how you feel, I haven't commented on that. But you also said that dogs don't do it to each other. I see it all the time, so I am simply asking what they are doing then, if not what I think?

I was asking your opinion. You were quick to have one before, why are you annoyed now? Aren't we just talking?

Lilcamper Sun 15-Jun-14 20:10:01

It isn't my opinion, it isn't how I feel, it is scientific fact based on research and peer reviewed studies.

LtEveDallas Sun 15-Jun-14 20:19:05

God, am I talking Farsi? grin

All I am asking (because you sounded so sure of yourself that I assumed you worked with dogs) is what you think the dogs are doing when they are pinning each other to the floor or grabbing each other by the neck? I don't mean when they are playing, I mean when the playing has got too rough.

I work (and play) with dogs every day, our own 'pack' is 12 dogs strong and we all bring them into work. We also exercise our dogs alongside the drug and bomb dogs that live and work with their trainers - it's them that taught me about the 'scruff' thing. So I see it all the time and it looks like the oldest dog, the one the others seem to defer to, does it when the play has got out of hand. She will also run forward and bark in the centre when they are chasing each other round the paddock, otherwise she ignores them.

When she isnt around I have seen my own dog do it to the pups (I say pups, they are all over 12 months now). They try to do it back to her and she properly snaps at them and they cower.

If you are a behaviourist, then I am very interested in what you think this behaviour is, if it isn't an older dog telling off youngsters in a family style group.

muttynutty Sun 15-Jun-14 21:28:45

Dogs tend to scruff the necks of other dogs in play. Some dogs also do so in excitement or just out of bad manners. As mentioned above Mum dogs do it to move the puppies from different locations. I think dogs scruff each other as they do not have thumbs.

If dogs do want another dog to stop a behaviour they will usually stand very very still with their head tilted away from the dog. If dogs separate a fight they will charge between the fighting dogs and stand still - they will not scruff the necks of the dogs.

It is now recognised that dogs clearly communicate differently with dogs and humans and this is part of the reason that dogs are so successful in integrating with humans.

What can happen with humans trying to imitate how dogs communicate with each others is that dogs think we are crazy as they realise we do not normally communicate that way. So scruff of the neck or any physical way of preventing behaviour just causes the dog stress and confusion.

It can work very successfully with some dogs as many uninformed trainers have found BUT there are a huge number of dogs that find this kind of training intimidating and it can have a negative affect on the dogs bond with their trainer or owner.

There is a major study at the moment which I am involved in which is looking at dogs that appear to be well behaved that have been trained in aversive methods. The early indication is that the dogs have a similar relationship with their owners as children that are abused. They work hard to try to change the mood of the abuser/trainer and offer more and more good behaviours. However the mental state of the dogs is very highly stressed and fearful.

So although scruffing dogs may appear successful it can stress the dog and actually cause more unwanted behaviours.

LtEveDallas Sun 15-Jun-14 21:34:01

Thanks muttynutty, that's really interesting smile

What is it that I am seeing then? Just impolite behaviour, or something else?

I've definately seen the 'stopping a fight thing'. One of the Boarders has taken a shine to the MuttDog and he jumps in between her and the play fighting dogs (bit of unrequited love there).

muttynutty Sun 15-Jun-14 21:45:41

It is hard to say without seeing the dogs but usually it is the bad mannered poorly social skilled dogs (for want of a better expression) that do it.

A dog that has good social skills with other dogs would not need to be so vocal or "shout" to get what they need.

Look for the subtle head tilts, lip licks, yawning, polite circling away from other dogs for example.

Rather than deferring to the dog that is scruffing, the other dogs will be wary and will try to prevent the dog from reacting like that but the scruffing dog will not be a liked or respected dog because of it in certain situations.

Do you work with forces or police dogs? The handlers are known to be (dont want to offend anyone here ) but quite outdated with their training methods eg dominance and aversive training. I do not support this type of training but dogs in forces situation have to be pretty Bomb proof (see what I did there) so they may cope better with the scruffing. Many dogs will fail the training as they can not cope with this method of training but they are then classed as not suitable for the work.

I am glad to see that positive training is now being introduced to the forces and Police dog albeit slowly. - The results will be amazing.

Lilcamper Sun 15-Jun-14 21:51:53

Mutty I am pleased to say that our Forces dogs, both protection and detection are trained using reward based methods. Personal knowledge and experience smile

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