Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Top 10 ways to stop puppy biting


Princeton gets a mischievous, sharkey look in his eyes right before he bites

Our biggest challenge with our Great Dane pup Princeton is that he lunges and bites when he wants to play.

He just wants to play and is too young to know better, but it HURTS! He’s also ripping holes in our pants and sleeves with his sharp little puppy teeth. And he’s getting bigger every day! Trying to escape his jaws or block him just seems like a game to him.

Here are some tactics that we’ve tried and the results:

1. Distract him with a toy. (Doesn’t work. A human target is much more interesting.)

2. Shake a jar full of coins to distract him. (Doesn’t work. This gets him more excited and makes him bark at me between bites.)

3.Gently hold his little mouth shut and say “No bite.” (Works sometimes. But this also resulted in me getting the worst bite on my wrist. His “little” mouth is already as big as the mouths of many full-grown dogs.)

4. Carry a cane to block (not hit) him and assert your authority. (Surprisingly effective. He’s more respectful as soon as I pick up the cane. But he still thinks it’s a fun game when I try to block him.)

5. Ignore him. (Doesn’t work. Ouch! He just keeps biting my skin or tearing my clothes.)

6. Remain calm. (Ha! Stay calm while a shark draws blood biting and circling you? Easier said than done!)

7. Yelp like a puppy to let him know that it hurts. (Satisfying to me, but doesn’t stop him at all.)

8. Spray mint mouthwash into his mouth when he opens it to bite. I carried a pocket-size mouthwash spray with me at all times for weeks. (This worked, but he gradually got used to the flavor.)

9. Nip it in the bud as soon as he starts to act up by removing sources of excitement, such as food or the cat. (Works sometimes.)

10. As soon as he starts biting, give him a “time-out” by putting him in his crate or other isolated space. (This really works!!! When I tried this, Princeton spent most of the first day alone in time-out, but the next day he started biting us a lot less!)

What really worked:  Watch “The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan” to learn how to be a calm, assertive pack leader. This turned out to be the key to solving our dog's mouthiness!

The new book “Chewing, Tugging, Nipping and Biting: Detailed Step-by-Step Training for Puppies” and Dogs” by Faye Dunningham looks helpful too.

Another idea: Poke your finger in his cheek so he bites his own mouth and he knows how it feels. (Haven’t tried this yet. He already has sores that won’t heal from biting his own lips.)

_______
Update on May 17, 2009 --
Princeton is one year old now, and several people have asked me if he ever stopped biting. Yes, it’s about 95 percent gone. He still occasionally gets mouthy when he’s excited, but even then he doesn’t bite down hard. It never hurts, but it can scare foolish strangers who sometimes TRY to get him excited at the dog park.

We have a new technique for disciplining him when he gets mouthy, and it seems to be working well. We stand our ground and quietly face him with both hands open, sending him “calm, assertive energy” (based on the ideas of the “Dog Whisperer”).

The most important thing is not giving up before he surrenders. Just keep standing there until the dog lies down and looks away in surrender. It’s really about mental power, not physical strength. At first it took 10 minutes as Princeton barked in protest and lunged to mouth our arms. Now he gives up much more quickly -- although he’s still testing us. It’s really surprising how well this works. The best part is that I don’t feel stressed out, injured or exhausted by the process. In fact, we all end up feeling better and calmer.

I must have seen the Dog Whisperer do this technique on TV more than 100 times before I understood it and got it to work. I’m not sure how well this would have worked on Princeton when he still had his baby teeth -- because it was impossible for me to remain calm when those needle-sharp teeth sank into my flesh. But it works great now.

This has been my most popular post ever, and I still get emails and comments about it. For all you new puppy owners out there, don't give up. Even the pups who are most like sharks will someday grow up, learn to stop biting and become love bugs.


Update in Dec 2016: Princeton doesn't get mouthy with people anymore, but he did chew up another dog bed! Now that he is 8 years old, he is getting stiff and needs a firmer bed. We just bought him the Big Barker 7" Pillow Top Orthopedic Dog Bed for Large and Extra Large Breed Dogs (Sleek Edition).

I wish I bought it for him when he was younger because the foam has a 10-year guarantee. They even have a bigger "giant size" Big Barker Orthopedic Dog Bed -- with a headrest.






Princeton opens wide to bite



Check out Princeton's sharp little baby teeth in profile




29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Isn't Sharkey cute!

Abbey said...

Chels had a short period of this. I usually removed myself. (1/2 effective) one day when she bit particularly hard and with excitement. I just gave a low loud bark (total reflex and surprised me..lol) but she stopped.

She went through a stage of mouthing my hand as I walked as they were at her head height but this passed.

Anonymous said...

We have a 5 month old female great dane and it seems like her mouth is open more often than not. She is constantly mouthing our arms, hands, clothes, and even my mom's little bichons. We've tried just about everything that you have tried but nothing has helped! Like you said, anytime we try and get her to stop, she thinks it's a game and bites even more! If you have anymore suggestions please let us know! Thanks :)

KC said...

OK, I hate to say it, but what finally worked was taking Princeton to a tougher obedience class that uses physical punishment when needed. The teacher showed us how to hit our puppy’s snout when he bit us -- and he stopped almost immediately after that. It made me realize that until that time, Princeton had no idea what the word “no” meant. Treats, distraction and positive-only methods did NOT work. Physical discipline is only used for very bad behavior like when the dog bites you, not for minor stuff. And Princeton still loves us.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I struggled with our dane's bitting until we tried the time out and it has worked miracles.

brooke said...

Weve tried alot of those techniques you have listed (no jar of coins or cane) and some times they sometimes help, but shes still pretty mouthy.... I know we need to keep in mind our dane is only 11 weeks old, but it does get annoying after awhile.
Weve tried other techniques recommended by friends, biting her ear and shoving our hands farther into her mouth when she tries to bite... and they work for a little while, but not completely.
Im glad to hear that firmer discipline (physical) has worked... Ive read so much about how you shouldnt use physical punishment on danes, but at the same time, if it works, it works.

Anonymous said...

i don't have a great dane, just stumbled upon this blog after googling "puppy bites so hard it hurts" or something along those lines... my 12 week old boxer/german shepherd rescue puppy has been leaving me bruised and battered for the past month or so. like mentioned above most of my attempts to stop the behavior just result in him getting more excited and biting even harder/more. the most effective thing so far has been me leaving the room or looking the other way even though my pup will continue biting at my feet/pantlegs (also very painful). putting him in his crate has started getting difficult as he will reach around with his mouth and bite HARD when i try to do this. i may have to result to more physical corrections, but i think i'll start first with a water spray bottle of ice cold water. oh and i always keep his leash on in the house now, so i can grab him and hold him away from my body as i look away and "ignore" him. sometimes i think it is improving but then we will have another painful playtime and it is driving me nuts!!!

KC said...

Princeton is one year old now, and several people have asked me if he ever stopped biting. Yes, it’s about 95 percent gone. He still occasionally gets mouthy when he’s excited, but even then he doesn’t bite down hard. It never hurts, but it can scare foolish strangers who sometimes TRY to get him excited at the dog park.

We have a new technique for disciplining him when he gets mouthy, and it seems to be working well. We stand our ground and quietly face him with both hands open, sending him “calm, assertive energy” (based on the ideas of the “Dog Whisperer”). The most important thing is not giving up before he surrenders. Just keep standing there until the dog lies down and looks away in surrender. It’s really about mental power, not physical strength. At first it took 10 minutes as Princeton barked in protest and lunged to mouth our arms. Now he gives up much more quickly -- although he’s still testing us. It’s really surprising how well this works. The best part is that I don’t feel stressed out, injured or exhausted by the process. In fact, we all end up feeling better and calmer.

I must have seen the Dog Whisperer do this technique on TV more than 100 times before I understood it and got it to work. I’m not sure how well this would have worked on Princeton when he still had his baby teeth -- because it was impossible for me to remain calm when those needle-sharp teeth sank into my flesh. But it works great now.

This has been my most popular post ever, and I still get emails and comments about it. For all you new puppy owners out there, don't give up. Even the pups who are most like sharks will someday grow up, learn to stop biting and become love bugs.

Natalie said...

Our 11 week old Dane, Iris, is not responding to the closing of the mouth. Depending on her level of excitement, she'll more often than not respond to the 'down' command with a flat palm in her face, but sometimes...no.

KC said...

It's one year later, and mouthiness is STILL a problem with Princeton! However, he really has improved a lot.

Surprisingly, one new technique that often works is barking at him with one deep, growly "WOOF" sound. He seems to instinctively understand this "dog language." The woof can make him stop and think, no matter what he is doing.

Good luck to all of you who are dealing with bitey new puppies!

kitkatknit said...

Juneau is 14 weeks this Saturday and my arms are scared forever (over 55 years of cat scratches...). Every one keeps reminding us that she is "just a tiny puppy, in everything but size of course. We've tried everything in the book including what our Puppy STAR trainer has suggested plus the Dog Whisperer method. Have not tried the cane method. When she's done with Pup class we're going to get some private lessons from a Great Dane trainer in town. Juneau already has some adult teeth (verified by the vet last night)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the insight. We have a 13wk old Great Dane called Levi (aka Shark Face, for obvious reasons). Glad to know we are not alone!

DSDA said...

It is common for puppies to bite when they are around 3 to 10 months old. As part of dog training, dog owner should understand the nature of puppy biting. Giving them the right objects to bite will discipline them.

Anonymous said...

Our big bad boy "Oliver", is 4 1/2 months old now. I truly understand and empathize with you all in regards to the biting. Even though it can be extremely frustrating at times, believe me I know! I strongly disagree with inflicting pain of any kind to another living being, especially one that we love and respect. My husband and I are now in our early forties. While we were still both in university, we were also raising our three children ,and believe it or not; two labrador retrievers. Anyone who has raised a lab will attest to the fact that they "live to chew"!! They chew and bite anything that comes within their grasp. The big difference though between a lab and a dane is that a lab has a "soft bite". When we first brought "Oliver", our great dane,home,(he was only 8 weeks old)we were shocked at how strong his bite was. From that day on though we did the same training with him as we had done with our labs. When he tried to nip we would wrap our hand around his muzzle with a little pressure to keep it closed and in a loud deep voice say "no"!! Nothing else, just "no"!! Oliver would cry and whimper but it was not causing him any pain. As he grew bigger and stronger we now also put him down on his side, at the same time as we are holding his jaws closed. We put our body and weight on top of him while again saying "no"!! We hold him there for a count of 5 then slowly lift off, as we calmly stroke his head and say in a soft voice "ok, goooood boy, (keeping extremely calm). This has always worked for us. We have found that the dogs respond to short consistant commands like "no, sit, stay... We also must remind ourselves that even though he weighs 100lbs. at 4 1/2 months,he is still only a puppy, a toddler. So I know that every day Oliver will have his "big,bad boy time", but I know laugh as I watch him getting into trouble as he discovers new things and I remember with love the adventures we had as we raised our three little monsters. We must treat all that are dear to us with a kind, and gentle hand and with patience and love for you will not ever be loved or respected by being a bully! You will only end up with angry adult children and large therapy bills and a timid sad "best friend"!

Anonymous said...

Our big bad boy "Oliver", is 4 1/2 months old now. I truly understand and empathize with you all in regards to the biting. Even though it can be extremely frustrating at times, believe me I know! I strongly disagree with inflicting pain of any kind to another living being, especially one that we love and respect. My husband and I are now in our early forties. While we were still both in university, we were also raising our three children ,and believe it or not; two labrador retrievers. Anyone who has raised a lab will attest to the fact that they "live to chew"!! They chew and bite anything that comes within their grasp. The big difference though between a lab and a dane is that a lab has a "soft bite". When we first brought "Oliver", our great dane,home,(he was only 8 weeks old)we were shocked at how strong his bite was. From that day on though we did the same training with him as we had done with our labs. When he tried to nip we would wrap our hand around his muzzle with a little pressure to keep it closed and in a loud deep voice say "no"!! Nothing else, just "no"!! Oliver would cry and whimper but it was not causing him any pain. As he grew bigger and stronger we now also put him down on his side, at the same time as we are holding his jaws closed. We put our body and weight on top of him while again saying "no"!! We hold him there for a count of 5 then slowly lift off, as we calmly stroke his head and say in a soft voice "ok, goooood boy, (keeping extremely calm). This has always worked for us. We have found that the dogs respond to short consistant commands like "no, sit, stay... We also must remind ourselves that even though he weighs 100lbs. at 4 1/2 months,he is still only a puppy, a toddler. So I know that every day Oliver will have his "big,bad boy time", but I know laugh as I watch him getting into trouble as he discovers new things and I remember with love the adventures we had as we raised our three little monsters. We must treat all that are dear to us with a kind, and gentle hand and with patience and love for you will not ever be loved or respected by being a bully! You will only end up with angry adult children and large therapy bills and a timid sad "best friend"!

KC said...

Thanks, anonymous. I’m sure your painless approach will work for some, but I was too weak to hold Princeton’s jaws closed or to hold him down with my weight even when he was a pup. In the 2-1/2 years since I first wrote this post, I have been forced to admit that Princeton was TOO BIG for me -- a painful truth that I refused to see for a long time. But then he tore a ligament in my shoulder by pulling while I was walking him on a leash. I have been in a lot of pain and still have very limited use of my shoulder after 4 months. I no longer walk Princeton at all. That job is now reserved for my partner, and I go along while she holds the leash. I have had to accept that I will never be able to walk my dog again. If I lived alone, I would have to find a new home for him.

I foolishly believed the Dog Whisperer when he said that energy, not physical strength, was the key to dog training, but in fact physical strength is an absolute MUST. I ignored the advice of those who warned that Danes are too big for most people, you should spend time with a Dane before buying one, etc. I would never get another Dane, and I warn others to be very careful before deciding to get a Dane.

On the bright side, Princeton did outgrow the mouthy, bitey stage at about age 2 years, and he brings a lot of love into our home.

Chakri said...

I have a 2 months old grate dane Simba , it bites every thing and any thing ,, i like to play with ,, some times i let it bite my hand ,, what it does is ,, it will try to hold it but it never bites,, only if its my bad day ,, but then it lets me open its mouth and remove my hand ,, i use its hand some time to replace mine to show it how it feels ,, it loves the game ,, but it hurts,, cos the teeth are very sharp,, i got it a remote control car ,, its a great distracter ,, and i keep chainging the toys ,, works out ,, can some one sugest me what can be done for its sharp nails ,, i am too scared to file em !!!!

Anonymous said...

I have an 11 week old great dane named Cleo - as soon as i googled 'how to stop my great dane biting' i saw that crazy little great dane face of Princeton and thought thats the face that rips my pants, attacks my toes (especially when they have nail polish on them) trys to eat my shoes whilst wearing them and nips at my fingers when i try to stop her biting...thank god there is hope i thought maybe it was just something i was doing or maybe she was the pscyho puppy from the litter... i love my little pup but the biting hurts...il try the timeout method and see how that goes :)...thank you for posting this!!

Anonymous said...

I have an 8 mth old great Dane. A majority of the time he is a wonderful lovable companion. We brought him home at 5 mths. Mouthing was an issue that become immediately apparent. We addressed this at obedience classes and were advised to use the yelp. I've also tried the dog whisperer method which works sometimes. My greatest success has been a screeching megaphone.

Many would be upset to read this but I have also purchased a shock collar. It is only used during drastic situations such as intense mouthing or jumping. This may sound harsh but worse would be an unsuspecting human being injured by such behaviors. I am told that Great Danes calm down around two or three.

As KC said, a Great Dane is much different to correct due to the size of the breed. I'm a small 5'1 so gaining control is essential. My Dane is a very lovable large puppy. His exuberance and playfulness is not any different from that of most puppies. The size of the Great Dane makes these puppy behaviors less than cute. I say love your dogs and get them appropriate training. Also be realistic about how stubborn this breed can be and ensure training continues for your safety and the safety of others.

Anonymous said...

I have a 7 mnth old great dane 'Rover'.We've had him since he was 2 mnths old.I've spent $100s on his toys.Doesn't play with them but instead bites,jumps and constantly digs in my garden.Tried to disciplin him verbaly and physicaly by grabing on his coller, but he thinks its a game.My wife and kids can't even get close to him any more without being pumped on or bit.I need some help.

KC said...

Thanks for all the comments about other mouthy Danes. Princeton is now 3 and 1/2 years old, and much less mouthy. However, he does still do it when he gets excited. For example, this week we got an unexpected visit from a neighbor whose dog often plays with Princeton. Our dog was so happy and excited that he did mouth our neighbor’s arms a few times. Fortunately he is a dog lover who understands Princeton.

The method of discipline that still works best is calm assertive energy. I hold both palms up facing Princeton and say, “Calm down, head down.” If he doesn’t lay down right away, I put both hands on his neck and squeeze, like a mother dog “biting” him with my fingers. This always makes him lay down. Then I don’t let go until he puts his head down, relaxes and sighs.

I can relate to the anonymous comment who said she thought maybe she got “the psycho puppy from the litter.” I still wonder that about Princeton. He still gets so excited so much faster than any dog I’ve known. A professional dog walker refused to work with him, saying that all the other Danes she’s known are calm. I told her, “Yeah, that’s what the breeders say.”

To the person who bought a shock collar, I say -- Good for you, for doing whatever it takes to teach your Dane. I used to be judgmental about e-collars, but now I see their value. I suspect the “vibrate” setting is enough to stop most unwanted behavior. I didn’t try this when Princeton was younger because my partner objected and I read that they weren’t a good idea for excitable dogs. But we may still try it to help manage him at off-leash parks and trails.

Anonymous said...

I know this is an old post, but I'm looking for some advice.

I just brought home my first Great Dane; 11 weeks old now. He LOVES to bite and challenge me. I want him to know that I am the boss, not him,and he cannot challenge me. With the biting, I will try and replace my hand with a toy and he just bites my fingers and will refuse the toy.

Does anyone have any advice on how to solve these issues? I'm going to start puppy school, but I have heard a lot about the stubbornness of this breed. It is essential that I break through this. I love my boy with everything, and I want to make sure he's a good dog when he's bigger.

Please help?

Kim Welborn said...

I never really comment on blogs, but wanted to offer some advice that worked for us that I found on another site. My husband, (and 3 children ages 7,8,and 10) have a 4 month old great dane. At around 10 weeks old he began puppy nipping pretty hard and very often. At the size great danes are at that age he was strong enough to put holes in our shirts. He was only treating us like he treated his littermates. I read on another site that advised putting them into a short time out while giving no emotion or attention while doing this. I spent a solid 2 days putting him into a toddler play yard for about 30 seconds at a time, and it worked. Just as the blog earlier that I read, you have to be very consistent. I would catch him in the act of nipping (if I got to him once he had already nipped it was too late to corect). I would simply and quietly pick him up and place him into the playyard. I was very careful to never scold him or act mad or upset when putting him there. Also he did not get any attention while in the time out. He only stayed in time out for 30 seconds or until he was quiet. He quickly learned to be quiet while in there because it was the only way to get my attention and get out. He did not get any attention from anyone while he was there. Once time out was over, I would say good boy and let him out. After 2 days of consistenly doing this, we never had another hole in a shirt and it cut out about 98% of the nipping. After those two days, I continued doing this, but only had to place him into time out maybe 2 or 3 times a day after that. Also he is 3 and half months old now, and my children can safely play outide and run with him using sticks, toys, frisbees to play with. He does not nip anymore. It was definitely worth the work. Those two days were not easy because I was putting him into time out several times an hour at some points, but when you are consistent, danes do eventually get it that the fun stops when they nip. Be careful not to scold while doing this, because the dogs become more focused on you being upset with them. Being upset with a dog only scares them and distracts them from their training. We have been careful from day one to not scold him or use any physical punishment. We rarely say no, but instead use commands. I read in a training manual that danes do not build trust extremely easy, but once you have gained their trust they are very eager to please you. I have to say this has been the case with our great dane. He is a harlequin and is our first great dane. I am very new to this, but wanted to post things that helped me. I have used the "Dog Training for Dummies" book, the Great Dane Lady website, and "DOL" great dane forum website, and the all about danes website. Our boy will begin obedience training next week to hopefully achieve the star puppy and canine good citizen awards. I have never had a pet in
training classes before.

KC said...

Yes, this is an old post, but the problem of Dane puppy biting seems to be endless as new Danes are born. Fortunately at age 4 years Princeton has stopped mouthing and biting.

Wow, Kim, I am impressed that you can pick up a 4-month-old Dane! My boy weighed at least 50 pounds then. And I have health issues that meant I couldn’t even lift him when he was 2 months old. In retrospect, it was foolish to get a dog that was destined to be so much stronger than me. Live and learn.

Kim, I’m glad that your method worked for you, but it would not have worked with Princeton. As I mentioned before, the ONLY thing that worked was using calm assertive energy (as described by the Dog Whisperer) and pushing him into a down position and holding him there calmly and quietly until he sighed and relaxed. This might qualify as a “short time out,” but it happened quickly with no change of location. Ignoring the dog DOES NOT WORK for all dogs, especially Princeton. Basically there is a line with bad behavior -- if it’s minor, ignoring can stop it, but if it’s major, it must be addressed directly!

You wrote, “I read in a training manual that danes do not build trust extremely easy, but once you have gained their trust they are very eager to please you.” I now believe that this kind of info is propaganda put out by Dane breeders. Princeton is NEVER eager to please, even now. And the Dane rescue websites are full of other Dane with this same type of stubborn, aloof personality.

Here is a link to the Dog Whisperer episode that changed my life and showed me how he calmed a “wild, hyperactive Dane named Buster” who is a lot like Princeton:


http://www.cesarsway.com/dogwhisperer/episode-archive/season-5-episode-14/

KW said...

KC, I really was only commenting to the dane owner of the 11 week old puppy who posted just before my post. I don't usually blog, but their description sounded just like how I felt when our dane was 10 weeks old until I found the helpful advice on the web that proved to be very helpful for us. I was just trying to share another method for new puppy owners. Our dane is 3 and half months old now and 47 pounds. I do not pick him up now unless to help him into the van. He was only 25 or 30 pounds when I used the time out. I do not use the time out method now, but it was good to eliminate the nipping. I now also use the clicker training method which not only helps to train dogs to commands, but also helps eliminate bad behavior by clicking and reinforceing the behavior you want. I know that with each age we will have new challenges. I try to do a lot of research and stay ahead of each challenge to have a plan, but I am sure I will find myself with the same feeling at some point of what to do, and I hope we will find that helpful advice once again. We are hoping that professional obedience training will ensure that he will be a well behaved dog. I know you mentioned that the dane rescue websites are full of danes who are not eager to please, but I also think those danes may have good reasons to not trust people in the way they have been treated or lack of training. It is amazing to hear of so many stories on the DOL forum and other websites of danes who have been rescued and not only their physical health improve greatly, but so do their social skills and obedience. Again, I knew this was an old post, and really was responding to the post just before mine to maybe share with a new puppy owner. Good luck to you and Princeton. He is very cute!

Anonymous said...

We are going through the same thing right now, Boon is 5 months old,and yes it does hurt, at night he goes berserk,We are going to try these steps and see how it turns out, thanks

Unknown said...

What type of commands do u use instead of "no"

jenifer hermann said...

U helped me so much KW. .I am starting ur advice immediately. Thank you

KC said...

One of the main commands that I use instead of no is "Leave it!" This can be practiced by holding a lot of treats in one hand and one treat in the other. Open the hand with lots of treats. When the dog gets interested in it, say, "Leave it" and open the other hand and let him eat that treat immediately. This worked great with Princeton.