Play biting, attention seeking nips, real aggression

8 Jan

Around the age of 6 months old, Maya seemed to have developed a fairly big problem when it came to biting. Everything that i knew about dogs told me that this was just her being overly rough in play, and that she was seeking attention: the way she moved, when she did it and her high pitched barking. However, every so often she would give me reasons to doubt my instincts. I used to say that she was “schizophrenic” : one minute she was sitting peacefully, the next moment she was up, lunging at us and nipping. My parents were concerned that she was going to be an aggressive dog, and my sister was a little scared of her. For weeks we were all walking around covered in bruises.I even have a scar on my arm where she tore the skin.

What we did:

1. First we tried ignoring her. Assuming that the biting was attention seeking, we followed the rule that by ignoring her, she would learn that she wasn’t gaining anything from nipping, and would stop. I don’t know if you have ever tried ignoring a 15kg Labrador that is jumping all over you and biting you,but its not easy.

2. We would get up and walk away. She would follow.

3. My parents tried combining the word “no” and tapping her on the nose or giving her bum a light smack. This only seemed to spur her on.

4. Putting her on the floor. This seemed to have some success. The problem came that she was by that time fairly big, strong and had enough energy and will power to get out of the hold, or would simply refuse to stay down as soon as we loosed our hold. I should also note here that we hadn’t been trained or shown how to do this technique, and therefore the limited success could have been down to the fact that we were not executing it correctly (i simply do not know.

5. I personally found that this technique worked the best. I would stand up (if i had been sitting) and simply stand my ground. With my hands on my hips and standing tall i would say “no” in a calm, firm voice and just stand my ground. She would try nipping at my ankles and sometimes lunge at my face, in which case, i would use my feet to keep her away. Most of the time it didn’t take long for her to “stand down” and she would lay down on the floor, with a heavy sigh, and calm down.

Some people i have spoken to say that this is a phase that most puppies go through at around 6 months of age. Whilst this may be true, i will openly admit that i think it could have been avoided. One of the biggest rules in bringing up a puppy is: under no exceptions should you let it think that biting is acceptable. There are a number of ways you can go about doing this:

1. Pull your hand away

2. pull your hand away and make a whining noise, making her think that she has hurt you (this is what would happen when playing with her litter mates)

3. Stopping play all together

4. redirecting the behavior (i.e with a toy or a bone)

No matter what you do, you shouldn’t let your dog learn to think that it is ok to bite or nip a human. We made that mistake, as many puppy owners do, A tiny little puppy with their needle sharp teeth don’t do much harm, but your opinion changes when they are 6 months old with a strong jaw and big, adult teeth. Perhaps if we hadn’t let her nibble on us as a baby, we might not have had such a problem.


The good news:

It has stopped. She very rarely nips anymore, and if she does, i simply stand my ground and she gives in quickly with a minimal amount of fuss.


One Response to “Play biting, attention seeking nips, real aggression”

  1. taniamend January 14, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this! Our Labrashepherd is 5mos now, she bites, nibbles and so playful. Thanks for the tips, I’m doing the ‘calm way’ of saying no, she actually listen but then when no ones around she’s playbiting again. She is so adorable, look at those puppy eyes! 🙂

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