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Discussion Starter #1
Hi!
On week two with our 13 week old AmStaff/Boxer/Terrier mix and looking for a little help. As a background- we got her from a shelter where she, mom, and litter mates were and were told she rated "borderline" because she was fearless, was amped up by human contact, and lacked bite inhibition. The puppies in her litter had to be separated because they played too hard and mama didn't correct them and they were injuring each other. We were told we would never be able to play tug of war with her or ever let her off leash.

For the last 9 days, we have been doing well- ignoring her when she bites, stopping play when she bites, learning the precursors to biting and working to prevent escalation to biting etc. However, whenever we try to get her interested in toys or games, all she is interested in are HANDS. Try presenting a chew toy, she goes for the hands. Try presenting a squeaky toy, she goes for the hands. We got her to stop biting hands with toys sometimes, but it means she never really wants to play with toys or do games with us. She's a smart and stubborn little girl. She's an angel when she's sleepy- a little snuggler who just curls up with you.

Last night, things escalated. We went to training session 1 of our puppy classes where the lady taught us to grab her collar with our thumbs and place our hands out of reach on her head when she gets bitey. Once she calmed down, we were supposed to reassure her with calm pats. Well, that backfired HORRIBLY. She reacted very very badly to the holding technique, wouldn't calm down and regressed. We spent 2 hours last night, with an aggressive, bitey dog who was clearly acting out of fear. We got her calm enough to go to bed and know we have to now repair her trust in us.

Now, every once in a while, she acts up and bites horribly. This morning, after our walk, she just attacked my hands, legs, kneecaps, and ankles without any warning signs. Shes' escalated to the point where if she can't get your hands, she goes for the kneecaps (OUCH!!!) and the ankles. It's hard to ignore a dog when she's got her mouth around your ankle or knee cap and is biting HARD. It is a struggle to be able to get her to her calm place where we can work on reinforcing (positively!) when she is calm.

HELP! I would love suggestions and tips on both how to repair her trust and perhaps how to get her interested in toys and playing games rather than eating my hands!
 

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Oh gosh. I feel like I should add that we DO have some positive interactions with hands. We occasionally hand feed her and she takes treats from between two fingers gently.
It honestly seems like half the biting is because she's MAD (or tired) and acts out.
 

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At what age did they separate the puppies? If they were taken apart too early, they could possibly have not learned appropriate inhibitions regarding play and biting. Whatever the case, it's not impossible to fix behaviors. I can't say anything about playing tug, however no matter how well-trained a dog is it should not be off leash if your area has leash laws.

I wouldn't say your trainer is an idiot, but if you're training a dog not to bite hands the last thing you want to do is keep your hands near or on a dog who is aroused by the stimulus, let alone grab at them. This is a decent little tip video about biting and handling.
 

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I agree that the trainer was wrong in that instance. I think I need to be a crazy puppy mommy and send her the whole doggy bio that we got from the shelter.I really like the video (and others by kikopup), so thank you for the link! The trainer did get us started on clicker training and I think that will really help to work on making her friendly with hands.

My understanding is the dogs were split into smaller puppy groups and not completely isolated at the shelter. I'm unsure at what age this happened but it was definitely before 8 weeks.

And the off-leash comment was more specifically that we would never be able to let her off leash in an off-leash area in her entire lifetime. But so far, she loves seeing other dogs and we are going to work very hard to socialize her properly with all types of dogs and humans and things. I don't agree with this "never" talk, but this pup will have to earn our trust (and we will have to earn hers).
 

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My favorite technique when I had a bitey puppy was to just step on the leash. Just tight enough that the puppy can't jump up and bite you. Though if she's going for ankles it might work better to tether her to a tree or something to you can step out of the way. Either way, the idea is for her to see that biting makes things very boring for her. No interaction from people, no exploring, she just sits there while everything is boring. Once she settles a bit you can praise and carry on.

I'm sure there are puppies who are "aggressive" at such a young age, but honestly she sounds like a normal puppy. I think the shelter did a disservice to you by putting so many labels on her and making her seem like a difficult problem child already. I would forget everything they said and work with the dog who is in front of you.

And as far as off leash goes, I haven't met a 13 week old puppy who wasn't naturally good off leash. If you are interested in her being off leash at some point then start now while she is a natural follower.

And tug of war is a fantastic game. It gets out energy, it can be used as a reward, and it can be used to teach impulse control. Don't listen to anybody who tries to tell you that it causes aggression.
 

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Hello, congrats on your little one - would love to see pics of her! :D

Back in 2013 we rescued a (roughly) 10 week old Staffy pup. We know her previous owner bought her from a pet shop (so she was probably separated from mum too young), then with that owner she spent two weeks living alone outside before she came to us. When brought her home she was so incredibly hyper. Everything was wonderful, fun and there to be bitten! She was extremely confident and outgoing, which was lovely but meant everyone was there to be jumped on and chewed!! She was fearless!

We quickly worked on teaching her to drop things (toys, sleeves, 'stolen' items etc) and leave items when asked. This was very useful as if she was tugging at my sleeve I'd grab a treat, hold it to her nose and mark and reward the moment she let go. (we had pots of treats dotted all around the house so they were always in easy reach :D )

Like your girl she was never interested in toys AND humans at the same time...she would shred them and empty a Kong, but wouldn't tug with toys. I only recently started teaching her tug, but I assume it's similar to a puppy...I hold a toy in my hand and click and treat her for touching it with her nose. I encourage her to grab it ("take it Zoey!"), we tug for a while and then I ask her to drop it. She eats her treat and then she waits until I tell her to 'take it' again. She's still very mouthy and when excited will nibble hands (extremely gently though), but I've never had an issue playing tug with her :)

Also teaching her 'touch' was helpful...hands are for nudging not biting! ;) (Kikopup has a video on touch I think) We also followed the Kikopup video where she's reaching for a puppy and c/t when the dog doesn't bite at the hand...we did this with reaching hands, flapping hands, jumping about etc etc. This is a video from when Zoey was a year old...she really had a thing for quick moving hands, and previously would jump and try mouth them:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3J2jN0IiEv0

We currently have a 10 week old puppy, and of course he loves to tug at our shorts and bite at our legs / knees. I've worked really hard to teach him 'sit' is a default behaviour, and it's gotten to the point where after a few seconds ignoring him as he jumps, he will put his bum on the floor and wait for me to reward him hugely :) He sees hands as things to bite too. At the moment I'm teaching him to chew and tug his toys only (this puppy LOVES tug!), to take treats gently and soon I'll start working on him being calm with reaching hands, me checking his teeth, (gently) scruffing him and other handling stuff.

As for the 'never off lead' thing, having young puppies off lead is a really easy way to get them to pay attention to you on walks and teach them recall...they follow you around and can easily be encouraged to you by crouching down, running away from them, flapping your arms etc. The best time to teach a puppy to be off lead is when they're really young, before adolescence hits!

Finally, when puppies are overly tired or excited they tend to get snappy. This is when I pop them in their crate or a pen, with plenty of toys and a Kong stuffed with delicious things (Kongs can be frozen to last longer, too). This lets them cool off, calm down and relieves some stress.

Oh - if you skip to 2 minutes in on this video, you will see some handling exercises I've done with our Staffy. The chin rest is useful as it's an easy way to gently hold her, get her to calm down and can encourage recall too. The teeth checking we have been working on for a long time and she's doing really well :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oViigfnQMqc

Basically don't despair haha. Zoey was the mouthiest puppy I've met (and she mouthed HARD!) but she is wonderful and gentle now. Have you read up on teaching bite inhibition, where you start off reacting with only the hard bites to begin with, and then eventually all bites result in play stopping?

Good luck :)
 

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I do my best to ignore the labels, but sometimes she really does live up to them!

She's not really a treat or toy oriented dog. Her favourite things are attention and lots of it. We have started using her meals as treats (basically no food from the bowl, she earns it all) until she is food-motivated as suggested by our trainer.

She doesn't enjoy playing with kongs or toys. She may nudge a treat or two out of a kong, but only if the human is also interested and in the room.

I have noticed she is snappy when tired and it is one of the signs we always look for and encourage her to go to her quiet spot (or put her there).

Thanks for all of the suggestions Red. I suppose you can clicker train your dog to like toys?

Thank you all for your suggestions (and keep em coming). It's nice to hear positive things from people, especially when she's being particularly snappish.
 

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I do my best to ignore the labels, but sometimes she really does live up to them!

She's not really a treat or toy oriented dog. Her favourite things are attention and lots of it. We have started using her meals as treats (basically no food from the bowl, she earns it all) until she is food-motivated as suggested by our trainer.
Have you tried bits of hotdog? I one pretty snobby food critic, but he'll dance for a microscopic bit of hotdog. I will say it has been my experience as well that with mouthy pups/dogs it is a good idea to present treats with a closed fist. They seem less likely to bite than an open hand or cupped palm. I use the "easy" command for soft mouth.

I have noticed she is snappy when tired and it is one of the signs we always look for and encourage her to go to her quiet spot (or put her there).
Thank you all for your suggestions (and keep em coming). It's nice to hear positive things from people, especially when she's being particularly snappish.
I also have one that is what is considered a hard dog and he came coupled with a hard bite. I will say it has taken a while to help him learn some bite inhibition, and even now if he gets too revved up you are likely to get a big CHOMP. I also am finding (at least with my limited experience) that hard dogs have a much lower frustration tolerance, and less impulse control. I think managing the frustration tolerance and impulse control goes a long way toward getting a good response in bite inhibition training. With my mouthy boy I tend to use my knees to nudge him (this is a light contact) during training interaction versus involving my hands.
 
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