Well now, the end of the year clump of holidays has passed, but there are always more around the corner – after all this past Sunday was National Chocolate Cake day. And bite inhibition is always a good topic for discussion.
Funny, as I drifted off to sleep at my mother’s one Thanksgiving evening, it made me giggle how much our family holiday experiences are much like the struggle our dogs go through figuring out what and when a nip or gnashing of the teeth is allowable. And that’s not even taking into account the whole trigger-stacking aspect of the holidays.
So, where do we start with all those little nippers in our house? First we need to remember that our dogs use their mouths as humans use their hands. You know that even though your momma taught you better, the urge is strong to reach out and touch the arm of the person in the velvet jumpsuit.
Then there is speaking their language. As we start working with our pups we want to start by using their language, the language of the litter ~ it’s a yipe (high-pitched) and then a pull away from the offender. I have also started adding a “how could you” look on my face as I have seen pups use it on each other.
Okay, it’s the look I saw a couple of cute playful pups, who got the wrong end of Ruby, give her – the total look of hurt and disbelief was priceless. Oh, and not really Ruby’s fault as they were told to not approach – I know my girl!
Remember part of pulling away from your pup means taking your attention away. “You bite. We stop playing.” When you take your attention away, do it in a calm manner. This goes back to that old idea that even bad attention (getting scolded) is still attention and since being part of the pack (being with you) is of the utmost importance to them.
We also need to make sure we are giving them plenty of appropriate things to chew on. My personal favorite is bully sticks – be sure to look for the low odor variety. When your pup is romping with you and starts gnawing on a limb, grab that chew toy and stick it in his mouth. Talk sweetly and praise them profusely while they’re chewing on that item you gave them.
Finally we have to make sure our pups are getting plenty of activity, both physical and mental. I like the way my fellow trainer and friend MH put it …
“Enrichment, mind-exhausting games… snuffle mats, muffin tin game, food scatters, hunting games. R- [i.e. negative reinforcement] just by leaving the situation when it occurs. More mental stimulation. Extra physical stimulation.”
I hope everyone has survived and even enjoyed the holidaze. Time to settle back in to our daily routines and take some time to snuggle the ones we love.