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Discussion Starter #1
Any idea how to address this? My puppy is way too big to be slapping. It hurts, breaks skin, and leaves nasty bruises. She does it in play and for attention. But she doesn't do it gently. There's force behind it. It's obnoxious.
 

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How old is she? When did this behavior develop and what have you been doing to stop it currently?

You have a few different options of how to stop this behavior.
- verbal correction
-physical correction
- taking away or with holding the good/desirable thing she is using this behavior to get/elicit

I am not a fan of physical corrections. Physical corrections do often get the point across faster and stop the behavior faster, so sometimes it is worth it, and depending on the dog may be more or less likely to cause issues. In some dogs, physical aversives (especially those relying on pain and not just discomfort, or at the threshold of pain/discomfort) do have a risk of what is called "fallout", which is a term meaning 'unintended consequences'. This could be something as simple as the dog associating the physical correction with something other than the intended behavior (for example, the dog paws you while making eye contact and you flick its nose and the dog associates the nose flick with the eye contact and not the pawing you; your dog is now wary of giving you eye contact or possibly even looking directly at you) or associating the physical correction with a stimulus instead of the behavior (you use a leash correction- a short, sharp jerk of the leash- on a dog that lunges at another dog, and instead of associating the leash correction with lunging at the other dog, the dog you've corrected associates the unpleasantness of the leash correction on the very presence of the other dog, making the connection that other dog = unpleasant/painful sensation). Some dogs are at a higher risk of fallout- because they are more pain-sensitive (and a leash correction that another dog might feel as an annoyance is actually painful enough for them to vocalize), or because they are acting out from a place of fear/anxiety or frustration (which lends itself just as well to fallout, IME, as does fear/anxiety), or because they happen to be the kind of dog that meets pressure from you (in the form of a physical correction) with pressure of their own (which can lead to turning their aggression on you), etc. Some dogs can handle physical correction perfectly fine. That said, most people need to learn how to give efficient, appropriate physical corrections just as people need to work on their timing in reinforcement based training, and IMO with corrections timing is even more important. Because this is over the internet and there's no way to teach how to give efficient corrections or know if the dog is a good candidate for physical correction, that is reason enough for me not to like to recommend physical corrections. In addition- why I personally do not utilize physical correction in training my own personal dogs- I do not feel that physical correction actually does much to teach a dog. A physical correction suppresses a behavior, the dog then has the memory of that behavior being followed by that correction, and ideally has made the association that doing that behavior led to that consequence. The correction has only worked to mean that the behavior carries a consequence. Eventually, that behavior is likely to reappear- in a different context (place, or environment, or time of day, for example) or when the dog is at a higher arousal level than it was the first time(s), or whatever. There may even be a time when no uncomfortable consequence short of actual pain will be enough to discourage that behavior.

In cases like this, where the behavior is coming from a place of excitement in place and/or attention seeking, something like a nose flick, ear pinch, whatever might also be considered to be a sign you're playing with them, and/or not of much note because they're already in a highly aroused, excited state.

IMO, the above is also the worry with a verbal correction. You could try yelling at the dog or making a loud noise, but with yelling you run the risk of the dog thinking it is play and/or acting out (I would say barking at you is a likely result of a loud verbal correction). You could try it if you want, but in my experience it isn't going to do much, especially because the kinds of dogs with issues like paw slapping do tend to be more confident ones unfazed by this kind of response and will just try harder and might even enjoy the new game they discovered. I am currently working with/around (through my school, which is a dog training school) an 8 month old lab who is like this- a confident young dog that has realized if he barks really sharply and loudly, he gets shouted at by people, and after 2 weeks of working with a novice trainer who would shout "QUIET" at him every time he barked, he is barking more than ever.

My suggestion would be to go with the third option. My assumption is you have been responding in some way to her doing this, even if it is just to tell her to knock it off, and adding some kind of reinforcement to the situation. Even worse, you may have ignored her for some of the time, but responded a handful of times when you got really frustrated or she did it especially forcefully. Unfortunately, this kind of intermittent reinforcement is the absolute strongest kind of reinforcement. This method- technically a mild form of "negative punishment", in operant conditioning terms- does work. It works beautifully when done right. There are two places where people "fail" with it. The first is making the mistake of intermittently reinforcing the behavior. If you ignore the behavior and withold attention/play/you presence from the dog 20 times, and then respond in some way that reinforces the behavior (even with "negative" attention, like yelling at them, which if it is attention seeking behavior/play behavior the dog will still enjoy because it is still attention), then you have completely undone the impact of those 20 times and the dog will probably try even harder. You have to ignore/remove yourself and your attention 100% of the time The second way that people fail in this method is that they fall prey to the "extinction bump". An "extinction bump" refers to the tendency of a previously reinforced behavior to increase before it decreases. If the behavior has worked in the past, especially if there is a strong background of that behavior working in the past, the dog will often increase the frequency of the behavior in an attempt to get the results it is used to getting before it finally gives up and tries something else.

I'm working with an 8 month old lab (the sister of the one mentioned above) whose entire litter (of like 9 dogs, I think) ALL do the exact same behavior of backing to the end of the leash, straining with all their strength while planting on their haunches, and then sliding into a down still at the very of their leash while whining and/or barking sharply when they get bored/want attention/get frustrated. They are all in training to be service dogs, and just got pulled from their puppy homes and put back in the training program. We've been doing 45min lectures in a lecture room with long tables/desks, 10min breaks, and then 45min of lecture in the "training room" which is just a big empty room where we sit in folding chairs, listen to an explanation of commands, watch one of their fully trained dogs demo it, and then try it with our own dogs. Most of the 8 month olds don't really know any of the commands we're trying, and so it is frustrating for them and elicits their worst behaviors. There are about 20 dogs all on 4' leashes and sitting just out of touching distance in each room at any given time, all expected to learn to lay quietly without having to be told to while things are going on. The first day, this 8 month old puppy almost pulled me out a chair 4 times while backing to the end of the leash. The first lecture, she continued this behavior for 5 min, and then rested, and then did it another 5 min, then rested, then did it for 10 min, and rested the rest of the period. The next time we went into that room and I had her settle down, she did it for 20 minutes the entire way through and gave me rope burn on the hand holding the leash. She never did it in that room again. All I did was look pointedly away from her, not speak to her, and act as if she wasn't pulling me out of my chair. The behavior was meant to get me to look at/engage with her, and eventually she realized it didn't get her what she wanted, but before giving up she tried extra hard. She has 3 siblings that spend the day with us and do the same thing. One person has been doing verbal corrections- yelling at the dog to stop/by quiet/"leave it" about whatever is interesting to him and that he's mouthing at to get her attention on him- the dog has gotten worse than he was the first day. One person has mostly ignored the dog, but intermittently reinforced when she got extremely frustrated with it, and the behavior has neither increased nor decreased but stayed about the same. One person has also ignored successfully, and the behavior has gone away. In this case, the solution is to ignore it because the behavior is meant to get attention and is caused by boredom.

(cont. next post)
 

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In your case, I would suggest removing yourself and anything the dog is playing with. Get up, don't say anything, take the toy, and leave the room for the count of 20. Then, go back to the position you were in/activity you were doing, and act as if nothing happened. If she does it again, again remove yourself. Likely she will increase her slapping before she stops it, so just stay consistent. Don't get frustrated, don't get upset, and don't take it personally. Remember that reinforcing it even once and giving her what she wants- your attention on her- is going to undo all of the ignoring and you'll be starting from the beginning. She's just a puppy doing the behavior that has always worked in the past. She isn't trying to be the boss of you, dominate you, or hurt you. She just doesn't understand that that behavior is not OK- even if you think you've been communicating that it isn't- and IMO the best way to communicate that to her is to show her that it doesn't get her the thing she wants/do what it is meant to do (which sounds like is either to get your attention or as a form of play). If you are consistent with this, she will stop doing it eventually.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
It's hard to ignore and not when she draws blood or when she gets you in the face. Right now I try to get up, turn my back, stop play, etc. But I'd be lying if I said I ignored when it was painful. Sometimes it seems purposeful. She'll slap her paw on you, dig her claws in, and scrape in a downward motion. I don't ignore that.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
But no. Physical correction is useless. She thinks I'm playing. Sometimes I'm able to catch her paw her she hits me. So I stand up and then set her paw down. But she uses her paws when she plays with my older dog. I can't trust her around children or babies because of the smacking. She could seriously hurt them. She bloodied my grandmas arm from smacking.
 

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I keep reading what you're posting, and I've gone back through most of your posts on this forum... I see a whole list of symptoms from fear, reactivity, slapping etc.

You're trying to treat the symptoms one by one - and it's unsuccessful. It's the top down approach.

Take a step back and look at the whole dog - what's the disease that's causing all the symptoms.
 

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I keep reading what you're posting, and I've gone back through most of your posts on this forum... I see a whole list of symptoms from fear, reactivity, slapping etc.

You're trying to treat the symptoms one by one - and it's unsuccessful. It's the top down approach.

Take a step back and look at the whole dog - what's the disease that's causing all the symptoms.
She's a puppy
 

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She's a puppy
Ahhhhhh, the dreaded "puppy disease".

I think Moonstream hit on some really good points especially about how many unknowingly reinforce negative behavior by lacking in solid consistency and in doing so just makes the dog "try even harder". Also, the point made about the human's reaction, whether it is displayed in a negative or positive manner, it still is attention focused at the dog and I am of the belief that the old saying, any attention, good or bad, is still attention desired by many dogs, has some truth to it. With that in mind, indifference at times coupled with a definitive ending of a play session when your pup paw slaps you might get the message through the best. As long as the session has no paw slapping, it continues and when you choose to end it, use a positive ending verbal cue. If the pup slaps you, no words, no emotion just an abrupt and immediate end to the session with indifference. Hopefully, the pup will connect the dots and learn the immediate consequence of her paw karate behavior.

Dogs "speak" with their paws and it sounds like you have a rather talkative girl.
 

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She's a puppy
Yes she is, but that's not the root cause.


I liken these issues to the Minpin. 3 years we spent treating medical symptoms, but never getting to the root of the problem. Sometimes we thought the issues were licked, but no, kept reoccurring and getting worse. Through food trials, different meds, different vets and a whole lot of frustration - a synthroid pill cured all of his symptoms. Once we got to the root of the problem, he was a brand new dog.

If these dogs were a human, they would likely be in a psych ward being treated for anti-social behaviors, that's reality. It's not normal for a dog to be afraid of dogs, it's not normal for a dog to be afraid of humans or inanimate objects. So why would your dog be afraid of everything? You can spend the next 3 years treating behavioral symptoms and calling it puppy behavior, never really succeed, but never get to the root cause?

To quote Gnostic, the only way out is the way it went in... It's almost always because they haven't been socialized at a young age - desensitized to the world around it - never been given trust and have never been trusting. Everything is new, they are unsure about it cause they don't know what it is... Chances are very good that she never learned how to be "dog".

Is that your fault? No it isn't, you adopted someone else's mess - and unfortunately, it's now up to you to undo what's been done. Your dog needs to be brought back to basics... Now lets take a look at human psychology - cause so many times I see the words "I don't trust the dog" on this forum. This is the very reason many don't succeed.

Would you follow someone that you don't trust? Take their advise? Let them lead you into something that you're not sure about? I sure wouldn't. I have friends that I would trust with my life, they've earned it - they trust me in return. I would go the distance with someone that has my trust. With trust has to come respect. Here's the problem, if you don't trust your dog - why should she trust you? Why would your dog follow you if she doesn't trust you?

You keep saying she's trying, she wants to - but you don't trust her... The onus can't be thrown on the dog to trust you - you have to give in order to get. Once you have 100% trust, the results can be magical.
 
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