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My Experience with Puppy Nipping

Author: | Date: August 24, 2012

This is our new puppy McGee.  Perhaps you have heard that puppies are adorable to ensure their survival?  As in, if they weren’t so darn cute, people would not put up with that exasperating puppy stuff.

In our case, it is a terrible case of nipping and biting and we are his favorite target.

McGee nips our hands, legs, feet, socks, shoes and loose clothing.  The conventional wisdom to combat this behavior is to say “ow” in a high-pitched voice and walk away for a few seconds, mimicking the response that a littermate would make.   It sounds good, but if McGee had our feet or legs in his mouth, he wouldn’t even let go enough for us to walk away.  I tried it many times and my husband and son laughed at me.  They pretty much refused to make any high-pitched noise themselves.  I talked to a senior trainer and did a lot of reading.  Just recently I had lunch with Lindsay, the owner of AnimalSense and she said, “keep doing it” (i.e., saying “ow”).  From all sources, this is what I came up with:

  • I wear a bait pouch with treats at all times.
  • McGee wears a light-weight leash in the house.
  • We hand feed him his meals, or if we give him a bowl, we sit on the floor next to him and touch him and put our hands in the bowl.
  • At the start of a shark attack, I say “ow” and then ask McGee to do something, like “sit” or “touch.”
  • If I can sense an attack is imminent, I break out the toys to proactively engage him and prevent one in the first place.
  • If he does not let go, I put a treat up to his nose and say “drop it.”
  • I have left the room entirely a number of times for about 10 seconds.
  • I am clicker training him as well, so I also try to “click” and give him a treat when he lets go.

One day last week, we noticed that he was loosening up enough when we said “ow” that we could calmly remove our body part – and sometimes he stopped entirely!  I swear sometimes he lets go and rolls his eyes and says to himself “you humans are such sissies.”  Overall, his mouthing is much more gentle (but he still has his moments – he is only 13 weeks right now).

The moral of the story is that consistent training is working even when you cannot see immediate results.

So, keep it up. Puppies are worth the effort.




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