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We have a six month old miniature bull terrier who has been so fun! He has always played really roughly, but over the last two weeks, his rough play seems to have progressed to aggressive biting at other dogs' faces and ears, and even a few latching incidents.

A little history--we got him at seven weeks, which seems to be a bit young, particularly in terms of bit inhibition, I now know. We took him to puppy playgroups weekly until he was fully vaccinated. At that point on it has either been daily daycare or dog park trips, depending on our schedule. Basically, he has a social activity every day and lots of exercise. I would have thought this was sufficient socialization, but maybe we overdid it...

He started basic obedience at four months, and he breezed right through it. We can shape him into a trick in 24 hours--so I feel like his is at least moderately trainable. He is pretty good with "leave it" and recall--still working on these a lot. We start intermediate classes shortly.

He still has bad manners. He's always jumping in dogs' faces and can be annoying. We have to watch him closely for this at the park. Recently, during reciprocal play, he has been snapping a lot, audibly. Now it has progressed into him latching onto muzzles and ears and not letting go. Once this escalated into a fight, and the other two times were with puppies who just cried...but he still didn't let go!

I'm so sad about this, but I'm looking for some direction to teach him it's wrong. Our trainer, via email, said it seemed like typical puppy behavior, and that reinforcing the "leave it" would solve the problem. I feel like we should also be teaching him the latching is bad.

Tonight after a short latch onto a puppy's ear, I got him away, got him turned around and settled, and he was fine the rest of the time. But I really don't trust him around small dogs anymore, and I'm scared to death he's going to instigate a dog into attacking him.

Is this a predecessor to any aggression? Or do you think this is just a lack of bit inhibition and examples of him just playing harder than we should allow?

Thank you so much in advance!
 

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To make you feel better, you are probably in your puppy's craziest age range right now. Your trainer sounds right on, but if you feel that he is simply getting too whipped up to listen, you can try stepping in and removing him for a time-out. You may also find that he has a better time of staying mindful of his friends' comfort when he's in smaller groups, or even one-on-one.

If there are no resource-guarding problems amongst his playmates (and you are not in a dog park, where a fight could break out over toys or food) you can also try involving a toy like a rope or a tug in playdates. Gives dogs something to chop, tug and rip on without taking chunks out of each other!

I like these Kong Squeez (with the rope) toys: KONG Squeezz Double Ball with Rope

Durable, tuggable, easy to rinse off and the dogs like to tease each other by squeaking it in their faces!
 

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I don't think it's aggressive, I would say it's just his style of play. My 5 mo. old and I are working on the EXACT same problem. Now that she's getting bigger/stronger she's starting make her sister yelp from latching onto her mouth/ears and I am not for that at all. I also feared she would lose friends as she has one friend who is a basset hound and he loves playing chase but as soon as she goes for the ears he runs and hides behind his owner and after she calms down he resumes play.

Last night I got so mad at her I got up, gave her a very stern "Okay it's time for a time-out!" and she stopped immediately and laid down. I had never said that to her before so I was amazed and I am now trying to incorporate that in her play as much as possible. She is learning that at any given time mom doesn't like the way she's mouthing/biting, she gets a time-out where she stops and lays down for a few seconds and then can continue playing. When she exhibits said behavior again, she gets a little longer of a time out. When she's completely bonkers she gets a 5 minute crate time out.

She's starting to catch on quickly. A couple times I was able to just say time-out and she would stop. Other times I still have to remove her but I think eventually she'll get the hint that if she wants to keep playing without being bothered she will stop going for the ears/mouth/face area.
 

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It sounds as if he's playing, but playing very inappropriately. You're right to be concerned that it could lead to a fight.

I'd interrupt him, time outs, or redirection, every time he starts that type of play.

Dog parks may not be the best place for him, but if you could arrange play dates with dogs with similar play styles, and even better ones that can play with toys with other dogs, then that would be best.

Practice calm behavior, at home. When he's calm reward him, as he offers calm behavior more often put it on cue, good calm! Give treat. Once he's good at it in the house move outside. Once he's really good then you can start using it at the dog park (if you choose to keep going) If you see him getting to excited, get him and give him his calm command, once he's calmed down then let him go play again as the reward.
 

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You've gotten great advice so far. Another thing to consider is that he is very busy with other dogs/playmates, and maybe he needs a little more downtime? Dogs stress hormone levels do rise even with 'good stress', which can lead to more aroused behavior and possibly spill over into aggression. Maybe a little more downtime at home would help calm him down?
 
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