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Help - very bitey puppy

(45 Posts)
QueenJuggler Sun 28-Aug-16 14:13:19


We've had several dogs from puppyhood before, so not inexperienced owners, but are having a massive issue with a new puppy. Male Springer, about 10 weeks old when it came to us, after being rejected by mother - and it has a massive biting problem. Way beyond normal puppy biting - my DD is terrified of it, and I honestly wouldn't let it be around any children right now. He bites everything in sight (can live with that) but that includes people, and very, very hard.

I am covered in bites - the only time he's not biting us is when he's sleeping. I've tried the "praise/treats when not biting" method, but because there are almost no times when he's not biting, that's not really working. He has a gazillion toys, and will happily run around the garden playing with them, and the suddenly launch at you and bite - he even managed to bite DH in the testicles the other day.

I think we need the help of a proper behaviourist. DH thinks there must be something we're doing wrong. The only thing that seems to work is having a long toy (e.g. ball on rope) and shoving that in his mouth when he launches at you - but I'm not sure that's going to work long-term, it's just distraction rather than learning.

Any ideas?

Topknob Sun 28-Aug-16 14:18:16

As he was rejected, he will have missed out on his mum telling him off for being too rough.

Did he get to stay with the other pups ?

LocalEditorEssex Sun 28-Aug-16 14:18:44

And how old is he now?

TrionicLettuce Sun 28-Aug-16 14:48:07

How old was he when he was rejected and what did the breeder do with him between then and him coming home with you? Did he stay with his siblings or was he removed from them and his dam completely?

Bite inhibition is one of the things that puppies can really struggle with if they're separated from their mum and littermates too young.

We got DDog2 (from a rescue) at about five weeks old and she really had issues with biting. We consistently treated as we would a "normal" puppy (redirecting onto a toy wherever possible, stopping play if she continued biting) and eventually she did get the idea. We do need to be careful during play and if we're giving her treats by hand. In both situations she can forget herself in the excitement and occasionally start nipping at us or catch hands/fingers with her teeth.

There are other issues you need to look out for with puppies who have left the litter too young, this article is quite a good one on the subject. DDog2 also really struggled with house training (it took a couple of years for her to get the hang of it but she's never been absolutely 100% reliable and needs watching like a hawk after meals!!), she has attachment issues and develops obsessive behaviours (mostly tail chasing or circling round furniture) at the drop of a hat.

It's hard to say for sure how much of that is down to the start she had in life and how much is down to her just generally being a bit of an oddball but they are all behaviours seen with a higher frequency in dogs who were removed too young.

QueenJuggler Sun 28-Aug-16 14:59:11

He was with two other pups - he's only 12 weeks old now. One of the other pups was the runt and very sickly - we were going to take them both, but runt wasn't well enough to go.

He's really lovely when he's calm, but it's so rare. and i don't want to hand him to a rescue - poor chap has had such a bad start in life already. i think we've taken on something a bit beyond us - but i'm determined to make this work. Someone is at home FT, we're in the country with plenty of land - and time to help make this little chap well-behaved. I'm trying a combination of:

1. distraction - am typing one handed because other hand is holding chew toy that i wave in his face every time he launches himself at my feet.

2. positive affirmation - trying stroking him and giving him plenty of cuddles and a treat when he manages 30 seconds without a bite (30 seconds is a long time for him!)

3. plenty of play in the garden with chewy toys - but this always seems to end with him launching himself at a limb

4. clicker training - he'll recall a tiny bit when it's just us, and will sit for a treat, but only if he's not over-excited.

5. walking away when he bites - but that's tough when he launches himself life a cannonball with teeth at you. The only way to get him to stop once he's started biting is to pop him in his crate.

Please help - even though we may have made a mistake getting him (is this too hard for us?), I don't want to let this guy down. There must be a way to fix this, surely?

QueenJuggler Sun 28-Aug-16 15:05:59

Trionic that article is really good, and explains a lot. Even though he was still with puppies, I don't think they were brilliantly well looked after, not socialised well (breeder shouldn't be breeding IMO, she had a another litter that she was willing to rehome at 6 weeks old). DH total soft touch and saw himself as puppy's knight in shining armour who was going to rescue them from certain doom - if only I had a suit of armour to protect myself from puppy's bites!

So, he came to us at 10 weeks, but was separated from litter and most human contact at 5 weeks. Both other puppies were rejected, and I'm not sure how much time they spent together.

He's poor on house training (pees/poops indoors at night, although will only toilet inside in the day if locked in), and will not use a crate (he's adopted an old wine box instead).

He eats everything - grass, slugs, moss.

QueenJuggler Sun 28-Aug-16 15:08:25

BTW, the crate that he hates has become the place where I lock him when he gets over-bitey. Is that a bad idea? He hated it from day 1, well before I started doing that. I've never needed a crate before - other dogs were all big softies who lolled around on dog beds.

oneoldmare Sun 28-Aug-16 15:18:02

Hi, his mom would have yelped if he was too rough when playing then bit him back now I'm not suggesting you bite him but I would yelp loudly immediately then put a suitable biting toy in his mouth and withdraw from play for a while.
Springers can be highly excitable and he probably needs to keep play to 10 mins max and then settle again for a rest.
Puppyhood is difficult but so worth it if you get this right.
Good luck

TrionicLettuce Sun 28-Aug-16 15:25:17

I suspected the breeder was less than ideal if they were happy for you to take two puppies, even you didn't end up doing so. Unfortunately buying puppies from such a breeder just encourages them to continue breeding litter after litter as they know they can make money from people who can't walk away. I would suggest going through this list of options and report the breeder in any way possible. Your puppy might now be safe but there are the other litters and obviously multiple bitches who will continue to be used as money making machines until they've outlived their usefulness sad

If he hates the crate then yes, it's a very bad idea to lock him in there. Crate training needs to be done very gradually so it's always a positive place for them to be. If at any point they're crying or distressed then you're going too fast and need to go back a few steps. This is a really great guide to crate training.

I'd recommend finding a decent behaviourist for help if you're feeling out of your depth. Either get a referral from your vet or you can look for one through either the APBC or CAPBT.

Spudlet Sun 28-Aug-16 15:36:28

If you can get to Suffolk or to Yorkshire, I can recommend some good trainers who know their spaniels and use modern, reward-based methods. I'd recommend you get help sooner rather than later. The sooner you start, the more chance of turning this little one around.

FATEdestiny Sun 28-Aug-16 15:39:41

Don't lock him in the crate if he hates it. The crate should be his safe space, never as a punishment.

He is a bit young to be too concerned about biting yet. 12 weeks is still tiny.

I know you said you've had puppies before, but it's really easy to forget what it's like. Having a pup hanging off me by the teeth really isn't unusual for the first few months.

I would recommend leggings (no flappy trousers for pup to grab hold of) and always wear shoes around the pup for now (socks are easy for little teeth to grab)

A baby stair gate on a kitchen door is useful if you feel the need to shut pup away to calm down a bit.

Then redirect mouthing to a toy. Remember, he's teething. He needs to bite and chew stuff. So encourage appropriate chewing almost constantly. If he always needs s chew toy when no asleep, so be it. He will grow out if it.

QueenJuggler Sun 28-Aug-16 16:23:53

Trionic we reported the breeder to the RSPCA already. There were so many things wrong about her set-up - not least that she was prepared to give these puppies away for a ridiculously low cost to anyone who would have them. DH has form for "rescuing" animals - hence the rather large numbers of various animals we have. All of whom we have managed to get through tricky behaviour issues - even the bonkers billy-goat who butted everyone who came within 2 feet of him. So I am positive we can make it work, just need to find the right way.

FATE I know 12 weeks is still tiny, - I'd totally forgotten what hard work puppyhood is! One of my cuts needed suturing though, which I don't remember being normal for a puppy - he seems to have vice-like jaws!

I've just seen our vet (he lives down the lane and uses some of our land so is always happy to help with our menagerie, very useful) who's given me a few training tips and the names of some local behaviourists. He also thinks using the crate is not good - so I've just puppy-proofed a room to pop him in for some calm-down time.

I've just managed 15 mins of play with almost no bites by popping a new chew toy in his mouth whenever he launched himself at me, and then giving him a treat every 2-3 mins of chewing a toy rather than me. Does that sound like the right approach? It ended badly though - a hard bite to my hand. Maybe overstimulation?

QueenJuggler Sun 28-Aug-16 16:25:02

Spudlet we're in Sussex but I'm totally happy to travel, so yes please.

Spudlet Sun 28-Aug-16 17:10:24

Ok, in Suffolk I'd recommend Sophia Taylor. She's really nice, very experienced, has spaniels and HPRs of her own. I used to train with her before having DS.

She works closely with two behaviourists and will refer you on if she feels you'd benefit.

In Yorkshire, I'd recommend Philippa Williams. She does the gundog demo at Crufts which is on YouTube if you want to see her in action. I had a lesson with her a few years ago, she's also very good.

Hope this info is helpful to you! smile

Spudlet Sun 28-Aug-16 17:33:24

Another person you might try (possibly closer to you?) is Howard Kirby in Hampshire:

I have no personal experience of this guy (well he answered my question on a problem page once!) but he used to be on Horse and Country TV and I always liked his style. Again he seems to use positive reinforcement, clicker training etc.

TrionicLettuce Sun 28-Aug-16 17:55:29

The RSPCA are highly unlikely to bother doing anything if the dogs have food, water and something vaguely approaching shelter. Your local council (in case they need to be licensed and they're not) and HMRC are a better bet. If any of their dogs were registered you can also report them to the KC.

SkydivingFerret Sun 28-Aug-16 18:00:44

If our puppy bites the only way to make her stop is to turn your back on her and end the game immediately. Redirection doesn't work she just spits the toy out and goes for you again. Stand up and turn your back and once the puppy is calm carry on with the game

phillipp Sun 28-Aug-16 18:15:39

I agree with skydiving

I have a sprocker pup. She was a terrible biter. Popping s chew toy in her mouth didn't work, yelping didn't work etc.

The only thing that has, is stopping play and ignoring her for a short period.

We have taught the kids to do the same.

As other pps have said, your puppy has not had the chance to learn to control how hard it bites from its mother. It's not really the dogs fault and, if it wanted too, it could probably have a finger off. So there is some control there.

I think you need to decide. ASAP, wether you commit to sorting the problem or rehome with someone who can. That's not meant to be nasty. It's just the truth.

Greyhorses Sun 28-Aug-16 18:35:25

I have a puppy who was rejected by mum undersocialised, and has no social skills at all.

I wish I had consulted a behaviouralist much much sooner. I waited until she was 6 months and made so many mistakes in this time I made everything worse! If I was you I would invest in an hour or two assessment and go from there and save yourself the problems later on smile

QueenJuggler Sun 28-Aug-16 19:01:14

phillipp we're absolutely committed to sorting the problem. It took us several years to sort one of our pets out so that he can wander freely without any harm to himself or anyone else, and months to help a cat that had been so maltreated it was bordering on feral. Both are much loved family pets now, and I know with a bit of love, attention and the right training, we can get there with this puppy as well. We have the time, and if it takes it, the money to get whatever help he needs.

He is a lovely, lovely chap when he's calm - its just he goes from calm (able to be stroked, will play with a toy) to crazy (cannonball with teeth) with no warning. Classic case of no social skills.

Trionic will try council/HMRC/KC route as well. The vet told us the reason she was trying to offload these pups so cheaply is because she'd tried to sell them as working dogs, but all the vets round here refused to dock their tails because they were so concerned about how she was breeding her dogs. So she's well known for poor form.

The back turning on the biting isn't doing brilliantly - he just bites my backside instead. Admittedly, it's quite an ample arse, but I'm quite fond of it, and would prefer not to lose any of it to his bite.

What seemed to work better today was the "petting/rewarding" approach - he seems to like that, and it at least makes him feel safe. You can see that in his eyes.

This isn't a dreadful dog beyond salvation. When he's happy and calm, you can see the dog he has the potential to be. He just needs some help getting there, and he definitely needs it through a really positive reinforcement approach. Anything more archaic is likely to result in some serious aggression, I suspect.

I'll get onto some of the behaviourists on Tuesday - the sooner the better. DD's back at school in a couple of weeks, and the horses go back to the yard, so it will be easier to work with puppy then.

Has anyone ever used a residential "bootcamp" approach? It doesn't feel right to me, but our neighbour does it for all her dogs (5 and counting) with a great deal of success.

QueenJuggler Sun 28-Aug-16 19:04:04

I forgot to say thank you for all the help, it really is much appreciated!

Spudlet Sun 28-Aug-16 19:12:14

Bless him.

Just an idea to tide you over - when I was training, when we allowed the puppies to play freely with each other, we allowed rough and tumble type play for no more than 15 seconds. Anything beyond that can go a bit too far. Watch two adult, socialised dogs play, roughly every 15 seconds or do they'll break off, play bow, maybe sniff about a bit - that's their way of keeping it fun, not getting too tense and wound up. So when you're playing, be sure to have plenty of calm breaks between very short play sessions. Might help keep a lid on the over-excitability smile

QueenJuggler Sun 28-Aug-16 19:27:05

Yes, I've been trying more frequent but shorter play sessions today and that seems to be better. Yesterday was dreadful (not helped by the fact that beloved cat is also not well so needed the vet and a lot of TLC), today has been a bit better. Two steps forward....

QueenJuggler Sun 28-Aug-16 19:28:26

Oh, and of course, bonkers DH's solution is get another older dog to act as "Mum". I've vetoed that one. Sometimes I think he's totally crazy!

skatesection Sun 28-Aug-16 19:32:34

We would put our dog (a golden retriever mix), in the kitchen for a timeout when she bit too hard. We split the bites into "levels" so gentle ones didn't stop play at first but ones that broke skin did, then the ones that caused bruises, then the ones that just pinched. It took about five weeks and it was bloody hellish. Don't ever want to go through that again.
She's got a lovely soft mouth now though.

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