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Puppy Nipping: Normal & Not Personal Pt.2

In my last post, I talked about how to get proactive to help yourself and your puppy get through the nipping stage that ALL puppies go through.

This stage in a pups life is a very short one but getting through it can tax even the most patient person so setting yourself up for success just makes sense and involves preparation and patience.

In this post, I’m going to give you another tip to help you with puppy nipping. If you practice this small but significant change in tandem with my practical suggestions, you’ll be home free through the nipping stage.

What is that change?

#2 Check your EGO!

I’m not talking about your your loud ego but the small and quiet one; That part of you that you don’t even realize is actually your ego talking. It can talk allot in our day and it can certainly rise up with our puppies. Doubt me?

Have you lost patience and hit your puppy or put your puppy back in his crate, roughly?
Have you yelled at your puppy when the nipping got too hard and physically hurtful?
Have you gotten angry because the puppy seems to bite you more than anyone else?
Have you cried because your puppy doesn’t’ seem to realize you’ve had a long day and you don’t like the nipping?
Have you resented your puppy, on one occasion, just a little bit?

That was your ego!

You’re having that feeling because on some level, be it a very small one, you’re making the nipping about you:

She’s doing this on purpose or
Why me? I feed you and play with you and walk you etc.

Its not about you!

What it IS is a puppy learning and exploring and trying to engage with you.  Let go of ideas that her nipping is about YOU  because dogs don’t carry personal agendas towards humans.  I guarantee you that if I was there, your puppy would be nipping me. I’ve experienced the pain of nipping and the lack of patience it can generate but I know getting angry isn’t fair to the dog.  When I felt my patience waining or when I wasn’t up for long play periods, I made sure I was prepared or had my husband spell me off for a break.

Remember, that lovely puppy your falling in love with is falling in love with you too.  She doesn’t’ mean to hurt you and she isn’t singling you out.  She wants to engage the only way she knows how and sometimes that includes her mouth.

Puppyhood is over so quickly. Be prepared and be proactive! Consider my tips to keep her mouth busy and help yourself enjoy your puppy.

Have you got other tips to get through the nipping period of puppyhood? Let me know in the comments below.

Premack Principle: Give the dog what he wants in order to get what you want!


The Premack Principle

Definition: more probable behaviors will reinforce less probable behaviors

I love the Premack Principle. I’ve really taken to applying it to Sadie Mae’s training and teaching my clients to use it in their own dog’s training regime.

It might be a little hard to understand at first but when you see it in action, its easy to see why it works so well with dogs.

Basically, its reverse psychology for dogs.

To get your dog to perform a behaivor that they don’t want to perform (low probability) or a behavior you struggle to train (loose leash walking), you give them ‘permission’ to perform a behavior that they want to perform (high probability) (sniffing) after they perform the low probabliliry behavior.

Here’s a few examples:
1. Jumping up:

Put jumping up on cue and ‘ask’ for it. The dog now knows he’ll be able to jump up so sitting politely will be easier for him and easier for you to train because he knows he gets to jump up, on cue.

2. Loose leash walking:

Give your dog permission to ‘go sniff’ on walks. Allowing him to ‘go sniff’ ups the chances of him walking nicely with you because he knows you let him ‘go sniff’.

3. Leash up in the dog park:

Randomly call him in, leash him up and walk then release him to ‘go play’. You’ll get more compliance to the recall when you aren’t always calling to leash up thus ending his freedom.

4. Recall:

On leash, toss a ball or treat. Allow the dog to go to the end of the lead but not get the reward. Call him back then give him permission to get the treat/ball (reward). One exercise to build a good recall.

This theory of behavior was created by Professor David Premack. Originally studied on humans, it applies wonderfully to dogs and fits in so well for those of us that use force free training methods.

Chances are you are already using the Premack Principle in your dog training regime:
  • You ask your dog for calm behavior before you let him out of the car.
  • You request a Sit at the door before you open it and let him through it.
  • You ask for a Sit/Stay before you release your dog to eat.

Now that you know about the Premack Method, you can start seeing ways to use it to train your dog.

Are you using the Premack Method in your training?

‘Go Sniff!” Say Whaaat?

If there is one thing I’ve learned working with dogs its that physical exercise is not the complete answer to giving our dogs a ‘work out’.  They also need a mental work out.

Dogs need to use their brains more often than we give them opportunity to.

Unfortunately, its often not considered as important as physical exercise. There is no Sudoku for dogs or crossword puzzles or books.  That leaves it up to us, their guardians, to provide much needed mental exercise.

In an effort to help my dog work out stress or excess energy AND to allow her to do what she does naturally, I’ve incorporated 2 techniques into her life that keep her on her game, mentally.

Sniffer walks

When Sadie Mae and I walk anywhere, I allow her lots of time to smell along the way to our destination but sometimes, when time or weather is an issue, we don the usual gear of harness and long line and venture out for a short ‘sniffer walk’, right outside our door.  Sniffer walks are not about my need for exercise but Sadie Mae’s need to exercise her brain and do what dogs do so well.  And honestly, all dog walks should be about the dog NOT the person at the end of the leash. IMO!

You’d be surprised what this type of activity can do for a dog in a short period of time.

Dogs smell everything and consider every smell they meet. THAT is allot of processing and it takes intense focus. So when we return from out 1/2 hr sniffer walk, she is ready to settle down and rest. And having her on a 15′ long line, allows her the freedom to go where ever she wants and I don’t have to tag along into the bush or ditch or wherever her nose takes her.

The leash work is fluid and I work on keeping her free from feeling pressure or from tripping over the line.  I take up the slack when necessary and allow it when she wants to go further from me.  Its a very fluid motion and my goal is that she not even notice that she is in fact, on a long line.  I want it to be invisible and Sadie Mae unfazed; focused on the job at hand: sniffing.

Brain Games

Image 1Another option to help exercise the brain are brain games.

A few examples of brain games:

*A skeletal ball (left) stuffed with cookies wrapped in material.

*Kibble dinner hidden in a plastic ball that spills it out when the dog knocks it, or you could use a margarin container with a small hole in the top just large enough for a kibble to spill out.

*Plastic containers with treats underneath so the dog has to tip the containers, working for the food.

My girl also knows ‘find it’.  I hide treats around the living room OR I throw them in the yard and say ‘find it’.  I also take some on our Sniffer walks and toss them into the brush and ask her to ‘find it’.

Forging is natural for dogs and it’s something that comes to them instinctually.  However, we’ve taken that away as we domesticated them and they need to look no further than their bowl for supper.

Creative games are great for dogs on so many levels and its something I encourage clients to incorporate into their dogs life regularly. Its problem solving for dogs thus it allows them to think for themselves.  That helps relieve boredom, builds confidence, patience and impulse control and helps all dogs but especially the ones that need it the most: anxious reactive dogs who have a hard time relaxing, fearful and shy dogs who need to build confidence without human involvement and over stimulated dogs to build focus and control.

We do so much for our dogs including solving most of their problems.

Dogs can get a sense of ‘learned helplessness’ because we are so quick to do for them. What we should be doing is presenting problem solving games in an effort to help them.

Remember, helping your dog mentally is just as important as physical exercise.

Are you incorporating games already? Share your ideas and photos and help get those creative juices flowing for other dog guardians.