More On Puppy Biting

How To Teach Touch And Feed Game​.
In a way this is a cooperative care game where you teach your puppy to ‘tolerate your hand, no matter how tired they are, no matter what mood they're in, and they’ll be rewarded.’ Through this game you are communicating to your dog that 'you can have this treat and I want you to but you have to tolerate me touching you'. Most dogs are majority of the time are going to enjoy being touched, as that is what they've been bred to do and touch is mutually beneficial to both species. However, puppies majority of the times when they are awake restless, inquisitive creatures and a very much going through a mouthy development period where everything in their reach whether that be an object or a human limb ends up in their mouth. Without even realising, I can promise you that you are manhandling your puppy more than it needs such as picking it up, grabbing it, touching it when it doesn't want to be touch, moving it, etc. Very quickly puppies associate hands or human body parts as annoying and something that prevents them from being a puppy and from doing things that they want or need to do. Because puppies haven't learnt reasonable life skills and appropriate ways to communicate, the only way they know how to express themselves at the moment is through their mouth onto you the moment you are in sight. Now is the time to use the development period they are going through to your advantage and teach them to enjoy hands and see hands and body parts as good things so as they move into adulthood they have a really positive associate towards them. 

 

This is a really nice and easy exercise you can do together while you’re on the lounge or having quiet time (picking your puppy's mood is crucial when playing this game). I recommend that you play this game for only short periods of time and leave your puppy wanting more so they next time you play your puppy is enthusiastic for them game. This game is also a great opportunity to practice touching areas that your dog is overly sensitive to, or preventing them from becoming overly sensitive to. Areas such as feet, paws, tail, butt, around face, underside of body, etc. 
 

  • Step 1: Pinch a treat between your fingers in one hand and have the other hand empty. Hold up your hands and show your dog that you have a treat in one have and that the other is empty. 
     

  • Step 2: For this step your dog must be looking at your hands and can clearly see the treat in one and that the other is empty. Now start to slowly but steadily move both hands towards your dog at the same time. 
     

  • Step 3: The hand with the treat is going to go to their mouth while the empty hand is going to gently pat they body. 
     

  • Step 4: Whilst ever your dog is eating the treat you are going to touch and pat your dog in different areas over their body. The moment they stop eating, you must stop patting and touching them. 
     

  • Step 5: Repeat the above steps but this time add 1-2 more pats after they have finished eating their treat. Slowly work on increasing the number of pats (duration) post your dog finishing eating their treat. Make sure you go at their pace. You are successful at this game if your dog when finished eating their treat shows that they are indifferent to your touch/pat and don't immediately draw their attention to it. 
     

  • Step 6: Pat your dog, bridge the pat with your 'Yes' and give your dog a treat. This step teaches your dog that touch predicts really yummy things. 
     

  • Step 7: Slowly work on increasing the number of pats before you bridge and reward your dog. 

How To Desensitise Your Puppy To Dangling Objects.

Dogs are opportunists and biting and tugging on dangling, flapping or waving things is a species specific behaviour, so it’s up to you to teach them what is and isn’t appropriate to bite and chew on.Think fluffy slippers, dressing gowns, flowing dress or skirt, flapping towel, etc. And being a puppy, these things are going to be super enticing and engaging for them. Now, you might wonder how important this really is to teach them, that it’s just a minor inconvenience at this stage. Do not wait for it to be a problem to then try and counter it. It is a lot easier to prevent unwanted behaviour in the first place (and the great thing is that you have a puppy with very minimal life experience) rather than trying to fix it once it is ingrained. Do not forget your puppy is always learning and every time they go through the sequence of a behaviour they will remember and form habits. 

Here are some examples of dangling items we have seen in the real world that have spiked a dog's interest or gotten a reaction.

  • A child running around in a dressing gown and the cord is hanging down and running along the ground behind them. 

  • Someone shaking sand off a towel at the beach.

  • Clothes hanging on the line and flapping in the wind.

  • The best one (or worst depending on which way you want to look at it) involved a lady walking along the esplanade at Cronulla wearing a beautiful, expensive flowing, wavy dress, obviously on her way to an event and a dog out with it’s owner lunged at the bottom and tore a huge hole in it. 

 

Now, I imagine you do not want to endure any of those scenarios with your puppy or try to explain or defend yourself. And I know for fact that the person on the receiving end is not going to be impressed. Some people (especially those who are scared of dogs) could go as far to accuse your dog of attacking them (even though we know they are just playing, and it gets a lot more serious from there.  

  • Step 1: You can use whatever item you want (and we encourage you consistently swap it up to help your puppy generalise). Start by sitting on the floor with your puppy and encourage them into a drop position (refer back to How to teach your puppy drop for a refresher of how to use the L technique). When they are in a drop shuffle back a little bit so there is some space between you and your puppy. 
     

  • Step 2: If your puppy has a really eager personality and excites easily, it can be helpful to start this step with the use of a help who can hold the puppy loosely on lead. They are not to control the puppy, the lead is just there so they can't lunge forward and get to the person doing the game if they accidentally go over the puppy's threshold. Now you are going to slowly add movement, when they are looking at it but not responding, bridge and reward. If they are reacting to it, reevaluate how fast you are moving your body part/item as you might be advancing them too quickly or you might be too close to them initially. Repeat this step until your puppy shows not reaction and is indifferent. 

 

*Troubleshoot: If your puppy is too excited at first and just wants to go for it you and changing the speed or distance didn't work, you can also move items and feed at same time. Work on building your puppy to be able to do this off lead and closer to them.

 

  • Step 3: Now you are going to start with a brush of your item down the side of your puppy's face and over their body, making sure to start very gently and slowly. If they don’t react, bridge and reward them. You are starting to show them that movement is not a bad thing. Again we are looking for them to be indifferent to the movement.
     

  • Step 4: Repeat step 3 but this time increase the speed and the intensity and slowly build it up. 1 swipe = 1 treat. Do not do any more swipes per treat at this stage as you want to really build that positive piggy bank in your dog's mind. You are doing exercise at the right pace if your dog looks indifferent or unfazed by the action. If at any stage they respond, it means you’re being a bit too intense and you need to back off a little bit and do it a lot softer or slower.
     

  • Step 5: Repeat step 4 but after you have initially bridged and reward you can continue to dangle, swipe, move the item over and past their face and body while they are eating the treat
     

  • Step 6: Now stand up and move around whilst dangling and waving your item in front of your dog. Start slowly and reward your puppy for watching but not reacting. Gradually work up to more active and intense movements until you can wave your item around freely with no reaction.