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Hello All,

This is my first post on this forum. We added a 12 week old yellow labrador to our family, Zazu, a couple of weeks ago. He is now 15 weeks and is a happy, energetic puppy. We love him but are having a tough time understanding how to control his nipping and mouthing. He also barks and snaps when he does this. I have read several articles and watched several videos on how to control this. However, nothing is working, and although he is less aggressive with me, he is very aggressive with my fiancé and her brother, and I feel the things I am doing to control this are confusing him more than helping him. Also, I feel he's getting more fearful of me everyday.

These are the things I have tried and the results,

1. Positive reinforcement - keeping a treat inside my closed fist, treating him when he stops biting my hand, and then move forward to petting him and treating him when he does not bite my hand. However, this does not work since he can sense the treats with me and his behavior completely changes when he knows I am carrying treats and behaves perfectly. His focus is completely on the treats and does not care about anything else. When I don't have the treats, he will still listen to commands like sit, but still mouths and nips me a little, and is very aggressive to my fiancé and her brother.

2. Be the Alpha Male - lead him when on a leash, crate timeouts when he gets aggressive (I know people hold the opinion that he should not be punished in his crate) however, I think this is just scaring him. I do not shout at him, or hit him. At the moment we are primarily pursuing the timeout method but have no idea if it is working.

I don't want him to dislike me, or be scared. At the same time, I don't want him to be barking and snapping at us. Please help me with how I can control this. I am a big fan of Cesar Milan, and believe in the alpha male idea of the dog training philosophy. However, I am trying to train him basic obedience using positive reinforcements but have no idea of how to control his bad behavior.

Please help.
 

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First off, I'm going to ask that you please have an open mind in regards to changing your approach with your dog. It will not only help you see progress with training your dog, but it will improve your relationship with him, and all dogs in your life. A dog that truly bonds with it's owner, will grow to respect it, as it wants to perform behaviors, because it has been taught through mutual respect and methods that promote the most efficient learning.

I think you may be confusing aggression with normal puppy behaviors. Puppies go through terrible phases of not only severely biting and mouthing, but snapping, barking, growling, and even what can look like they are all of a sudden possessed by the devil lol. Don't worry, we've all been there, and worked through it, without needing the use of any force, and without needing to operate on a falsified manifesto like dominance/pack theory.

Many of us have approached dogs in this way at one time in our lives, but then learned what is fact and what is not when it comes to effectively, productively and humanely approaching/training dogs. We've been where you are, so please understand there is no judgement. Cesar Millan's show has perpetuated a ton of misinformation, and it's very easy to assume he is correct about what he states about how dogs think, how dogs socialize, how dogs view human relationships, and how to treat dogs, because he claims to be a professional. He's not. And 95% of what he states on his show, is actually false, and has been proven so by true professionals, scientific studies and research, and the experience of people whom have dedicated their lives to the study of canine science.

Here are some great links to give you a better idea of why approaching your relationship with your dog in this way is detrimental/counterproductive:

(This thread has tons of information)
http://www.dogforum.com/dog-training/dominance-dogs-4076/

Cesar Millan - The Dog Whisperer: Critics Answers

The Damage of the Dog Whisperer: A scientific critique of Cesar Millan’s theories and training methods. |

Why veterinary behaviorists can't stand Cesar Millan | petMD

Shadow and Cesar Millan: An Update on the Strung Up Husky | Psychology Today

What are the Implications of Using Training Techniques Which Induce Fear or Pain in Dogs?

The Effect of Training Method on Stress Levels in Dogs | Psychology Today

While you're of course not meaning to, you are indeed making this pup more fearful of you. It's likely in your overall approach, and I've seen this happen so often. Your dog is becoming more fearful of you because he is intimidated by your actions, even if they seem harmless to you. What matters is what he perceives as aversive or scary, even if that is just simply raising your voice at him. Anything that startles, scares, or intimidates a puppy/dog is just not necessary to teach him anything. As a puppy, the equivalent of an infant, he is not yet capable of knowing what you expect of him. It's your job to teach him what you would like him to do and not do, and give him appropriate alternatives to whatever normal, natural, but very inconvenient behavior he's exhibiting. :)

Again, your pup is just going through the crazy biting phase of puppyhood, he is not aggressive at all. There are actually a ton of threads here started by owners with extremely bitey puppies, that have made great progress with their pups using force-free methods. There is no need for physical corrections, force, manipulation, intimidation or aversive methods in dog training. Please understand that this is not a matter of opinion. The advice/information you will read here is the most up-to-date, science-based, knowledgeable information out there. The information on Cesar's show is sadly completely inaccurate. There are thousands of reputable professionals (again, something Cesar is not) that can attest to that, and have, as you can read in the links above. I just realized I am repeating myself lol, my apologies.

The method of opening and closing your fist to teach attention and reduce hand mugging is a great way to begin training. It is also just one of many, many methods that fall under the category of positive reinforcement. :) So for every single behavioral issue that Cesar claims to cure, it can be resolved without the use of physical force or outdated theories. Even highly aggressive dogs can be trained without it, and in most cases, like you'll read in the links provided, it makes aggression worse. It also creates fear, which is not supposed to be synonymous with respect. Here's a vid that may be similar to the one you already viewed, but just in case:


As you'll learn in the stickies and other posts around here, there is no need to walk in front of your dog, unless it's for convenience. As there is no such thing as "dominance", moreso in human-dog relationships, it has absolutely nothing to do with him thinking you're the "alpha" if you're walking in front of him. He literally just sees it as you walking in front of him lol. Dogs do not pull on their leashes to climb some sort of ladder of social hierarchy, and cannot do so with humans. They see us as humans, not as dogs, simple as that. And doing things like walking ahead of the dog, making the dog go behind you through doorways, etc., mean absolutely nothing to him.

Achieving good behavior on walks and at the door takes training, and not the kind of "training" Cesar thinks he teaches people lol. Because pulling forward on a leash is self-reinforcing, and creates fun things like sniffing and engaging with the world, during the moments we would like our dog to walk at our sides, we have to teach them that walking on a loose leash is more rewarding than pulling. Also, dogs do need to explore their world and smell things, and enjoy their walk. So please do not feel as though you can't let your puppy sniff around and explore, while teaching to walk on a leash politely. Here are some great videos for you:








Again, please remember that your puppy is very young. And keep reminding yourself that "landsharking", this crazy, nonstop biting issue, is what almost every puppy owner goes through. It has nothing to do with being the "alpha". He's literally just a baby. This is a very critical age for your dog, and to ensure he grows into a well-behaved, confident and well-rounded dog, you must teach him what is appropriate in a productive way. You want him to truly learn, not just suppress his behaviors to avoid corrections. You will also avoid tons of behavioral issues by simply rewarding the behaviors that you do want, while providing an alternative behavior. You will also have a safer dog, if you are not using punishment to correct behavior. Never punish your dog for using it's own language either, like growling. This is your dog's way of communicating, and contrary to the BS Cesar promotes, it should always be looked at as a good thing, and never punished. I won't get into that though, as I'm trying to not overwhelm you with my post lol, so here's a list of training and behavior stickies:

http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/

ETA: Do not use the crate for punishment, ever. But using it for a quiet, calm time out to settle down is completely fine. Make it rewarding to go in the crate, even if it's being used as a technical time out. You always want the crate to be a very rewarding, relaxing place.
 

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Megs87 went into such detail that I can't add anything but this - http://www.dogforum.com/training-behavior-stickies/4-quadrants-operant-conditioning-23702/ - this helped me put positive reinforcement in a different perspective and I am huge fan of this stickie!

I'd also like to add that I used to watch Cesar Milan and I was in awe of him (I never used any of his methods on my rescue though because she was a bundle of nerves)!
Then I started doing more research on training and all things involved and I disliked his methods right away. It was like I was seeing his show for the first time! :eek:

I raised my 2 Rottweiler puppies only with PR methods and people can't believe how self confident they are but they still look to me to see what I want them to do! They are amazing!

That being said - they both went through exactly the same stage you are going through and Brutus was especially nippy and jumpy!

Shadow needed more mental exercise than any other dog I've been around. His brain just doesn't stop! lol
Shadow was also more motivated with toys than food.
Brutus is on the other hand very much food motivated and will try to fly for a piece of melon! lol

If you follow what Megs87 has given you, you will be glad for it in the long run! Your relationship will be so much better and deeper, you won't regret it!

Find out what works for your pup and use it shamelessly!

I heard someone say that they used to smear a bit of peanut butter on the back of their hand and they used that in part to discourage biting and encourage a more soft approach to your hands? Anybody here done that?
 

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I was just addressing another thread on this not 30 seconds ago!

Just a cross-post:

She is playing, but you're totally within your rights to draw a line... when she hits 5, 6, 7 months she'll be capable of leaving some pretty crazy bruises!

Although some would recommend trying to teach the dog bite inhibition by yelping when the bite too hard, I find that a torqued up puppy rarely has the self-control to employ that knowledge even if they know what is too hard for a human.

What really works for me is to avoid any sort of biting of the flesh altogether. If we are roughhousing or wrestling I will shove a toy into their mouth. I keep my hands/arms clear of the dog's mouth during play, redirect to a toy as much as possible and if the dog still insists on grabbing at skin/clothing... their loss, I just leave for a few minutes.

The difficulty with trying to 'punish out' biting behaviour during play is that in all honestly... they will probably think you're just joining them in the rough play. And I have seen some pretty intense play between dogs, two that I walk will grab each other by the cheeks! Its hard to top that without all out abusing the dog. Its so much easier to use the approach that dogs use: If that's how you play, then I'm not interested.
Always have a toy handy that you can shove in their mouth. The less he grabs your skin, the weaker the habit will get. Eventually it becomes their primary reaction that 'biting is for toys, not for human flesh!'

On the side for the rough and tumble guys I also find that it helps to introduce them to a dog or two who is down for their crazy, grabby, chompy play. The benefit of this is that the dog learns what a dog who is receptive to super-rough crazy play looks like, and acts like, and they learn in turn that rough play is not something gotten simply by pestering and bullying any old dog until they give in. While I manage without it for stopping biting on humans, these 'smack down playdates' seem to improve interactions between the puppy and dogs not interested in rough play.

You may find that at times he is simply super super super whipped up and he needs to be alone so that he can cool his jets. This is a perfectly effective method so long as you're not resorting to it as a punishment. If the dog is sincerely overstimulated, that means that the stimulus (the thing that's riling them up) is the issue at hand, not primarily their behaviour, and removing them from the 'stimulus' for a few minutes will calm them down significantly
 

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Just wanted to say that rough play and wrestling is not the best play style for puppies that get over aroused and have play biting problems. It's easier to keep a puppy from becoming over aroused than to try to calm a puppy once it's reached that state of mind.

Ditto to what Megs87 advised.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you Megs87 and everyone else for your input. Of course I was in awe of how CM handled situations, but I am open to learning new things. I knew that I was not on the right track and there were many conflicting opinions on the internet. I had great luck in getting good information about my car on forums, hence, I reached out to a dog forum for some expert puppy advice.

I have not been able to go through all of the links yet as I am busy with some college work currently (finals on Monday), but I will surely make it through those soon and I will let you know of how he progresses.

Also, here is a picture of Zazu
 

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I love that name! And he is absolutely adorable!!!
 

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Great tips above. Just to add, another video I like for biting:


This is one of four of this trainer's four part series--strongly suggest watching the others as well!
 
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First off, I'm going to ask that you please have an open mind in regards to changing your approach with your dog. It will not only help you see progress with training your dog, but it will improve your relationship with him, and all dogs in your life. A dog that truly bonds with it's owner, will grow to respect it, as it wants to perform behaviors, because it has been taught through mutual respect and methods that promote the most efficient learning.

I think you may be confusing aggression with normal puppy behaviors. Puppies go through terrible phases of not only severely biting and mouthing, but snapping, barking, growling, and even what can look like they are all of a sudden possessed by the devil lol. Don't worry, we've all been there, and worked through it, without needing the use of any force, and without needing to operate on a falsified manifesto like dominance/pack theory.
First of all thank you to the OP for posting this and all the responses.

I had to laugh at the above response because although our puppy, I feel, is really well behaved (we are A new puppy family, had him one month) and he only whined 15 minutes the first night and really only cries/whines when he needs something. He does, however, at times snip, growl, etc. and last night he acted just like the devil hahaha He was running in circles wildly, growling, barking, etc. Thank you so much for the laugh and the detailed response and videos! I'm looking forward to learning so much!! We are so excited to have Coco!
 

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Oh my goodness, could he BE any cuter?!? I thought Dublin had big ears as a pup! His are to die for! Thanks in advance for keeping us updated on his progress! Don't hesitate to ask any questions, or share frustrating (or adorable) stories. :)
 

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Oh my goodness, could he BE any cuter?!? I thought Dublin had big ears as a pup! His are to die for! Thanks in advance for keeping us updated on his progress! Don't hesitate to ask any questions, or share frustrating (or adorable) stories. :)
Hi Megs, Thanks! We think he is pretty darn cute and fabulous! I will definitely keep you updated, share stories and ask questions! Everyone is so friendly here, I love it!!
 
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