Dogs Jump to Say Hello
Training is needed to keep dogs from jumping to say "Hello."
Q. I have a 3-year-old Jack Russell Terrier and a 3-year-old German Shepherd Dog who both jump up on people to say hello. How do I get them to stop?
A. A two-dog greeting is often more than twice as high-energy and pushy as a one-dog greeting. When two dogs try to say hello at once, they compete with each other for the person's attention, making it a dog-dog status issue as well as a manners issue. It's difficult to work on this with both dogs at first, so separate them for the initial polite greeting skill training.
To greet people without jumping up on them, a dog needs to learn to restrain his impulse to greet them as he would another dog. Work with each dog, individually teaching them to hold a Sit-stay while you pet them. After they can do that one at a time, start working on the same lesson with both dogs together.
Enlist friends to help you with the training. Have your dogs sit still while different people pet them. The more people your dogs practice this polite greeting with, the more natural it will become for them. Until they're reliable about not jumping, leash them when visitors arrive. That way, if your dogs lose their self-control, you'll have a handle on them.
Dog Biting During Play
Some puppies bite when they get too excited.
Q: We recently adopted an 11-week-old Labrador Retriever-American Pit Bull Terrier mix named Cleo. She responds well to me and my husband; she follows us, on and off leash, and will play bow to us. She has learned and responds to Sit, Down, Leave It and Off.
She has several toys -- rawhides, a small tennis ball and some fabric she keeps in her mouth when she seems to be teething. We have a large fenced backyard in which we let her run off steam or play with our two other dogs.
I know puppies bite when playing -- but when she’s overly excited and I try to stop her, she will bite my arms. I use commands to stop her first, and then I calmly and assertively put her in her crate until she calms down.
I’ve tried laying her on her side or her back when she’s in her biting mode. Her heart and breathing is usually racing then and I want to try to calm her down, but this seems to make it worse. Again, at this time I put her in her crate for a timeout. Is this the right thing to do? What alternatives do I have?
A: Forcing a pup onto her side or back is quite scary and, as you've observed, will not calm or relax her at all -- so stop doing that. It sounds like your pup is mainly biting when she’s over-stimulated, so be proactive and start calming her before she reaches meltdown.
Often pups get into that wild, “bitey” mode when they’re tired. A short timeout in her crate or other puppy-safe area when she gets over-stimulated and nippy won’t hurt your pup, and it will give her a chance to simmer down and take a needed rest. Take her there calmly and matter-of-factly and only leave her there about three to five minutes, then check on her. If she's awake, calmly release her from confinement. But if she's fallen asleep, let her nap there until she wakes on her own.
If your pup gets mouthy in play sometimes, try focusing her teeth on a toy, encouraging her to bite that instead of your arms and clothing. Also teach her the “Go Wild and Freeze” game, which is a great way to build an off switch for over-excitement. (Click this link to the Training Games page on our website.)
By playing Go Wild and Freeze, your pup will learn a reliable and prompt response to the Sit cue, even when she’s approaching overexcitement. Once she learns how to do this, you’ll be able to stop her from going over the edge by simply standing tall and telling her to sit.
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Puppy Nips and Jumps on People
Keep puppy entertained with toys and games to prevent her from nipping and jumping on people.
Q: I have a beautiful, wonderful 4-month-old Boxer puppy named Sasha. She has mastered everything she is supposed to, but she nips everyone and jumps on people as they come in the house. How can I stop her from doing these things?
I‘ve tried a can with rocks but that didn’t work. She just barks louder and continues nipping at our hands and feet. We’ve also tried ignoring her, and that didn't work either. I'm at my wit's end on how to make Sasha more enjoyable for my family. We all love her very much, but it's hard for my daughters to enjoy a dog who bites them every chance she gets.
A: Four months is the age puppies start growing rapidly stronger and more athletic. Puppies this age are typically bursting with energy and act like everything is an athletic contest. Sasha is releasing some of her exuberance and joyful spirit by jumping and nipping when she's excited in play or in greeting. She may realize you disapprove of it, but may not be able to stop herself because that abundant energy needs someplace to go. You can resolve this by giving her something different to do with her energy and by teaching her more acceptable outlets for it.
For the nipping, avoid playing games that involve grabbing and biting. Playing that way with a pup may encourage hand-nipping. Teach Sasha to grab a toy when she's excited rather than a person, and play fetch-and-give games and controlled tug-and-release games instead. These are interactive games that Sasha can enjoy while keeping her mouth busy and off your clothes and hands.
Toy games like these can also be used when greeting people. When you or your daughters greet Sasha, have her sit, and then reward her by handing a favorite ball or fleece toy, or by throwing it for her to fetch. Wait to pet her until she's holding the toy. Reward Sasha by petting her and giving her the attention she's looking for. Although she may not remain sitting for long, having something to hold in her mouth will help take Sasha's focus away from her unwanted habit of jumping.
The more consistent you are, the sooner Sasha will learn the better behaviors you're teaching her. Keep a leash by each door, so whenever possible, you can manage Sasha when people are coming in and help her practice acceptable greetings. Keep toys available near doors for greetings and any other place nipping play is likely to occur. Be proactive. Grab a toy and redirect Sasha's attention to an acceptable game before she gets a chance to start nipping or jumping. Before long, you'll be able to send Sasha to get a toy herself rather than you having to find one to give her.
The Biting Puppy
A puppy needs some training to stop biting.
Q: I have a 5-month-old Peek-a-Poo puppy that likes to bite. How do you cure this habit?
A: Biting can have a number of different motivations, and with your quick question and not much description of the behavior, it's hard to know exactly what the biting is about. You say your pup “likes to bite,” which sounds more as if he does it for fun than to intimidate or hurt you. I'm going to take his age and developmental stage as a clue to what's happening. Considering these points, I'd guess he's probably a fairly normal pup who just needs to learn more appropriate play behavior.
Puppies learn about life's rules through play, and your pup needs to learn that people don't appreciate being bitten. If you've been playing hand-mouth tag with your puppy, quit that right away. When you play with your pup, keep a toy handy, and if he starts to bite you, redirect his attention to the toy and encourage him to bite that instead.
If that doesn't work and he keeps trying to bite you, end the game. Fold your arms across your chest and turn away from the pup. You may even need to leave the room, to give him a short time-out to calm down. This time-out only needs to last 30 seconds or a minute to be effective. He'll quickly realize he's lost his playmate (you) and will try to play more gently when you come back. If he renews his biting when you return, leave again.
Some pups get irritable and 'bitey' when they're hungry or sleepy. If your pup won't stop biting you and it's been a while since he's eaten or napped, feed him a snack in his sleeping area and leave him alone for 10 minutes. Then quietly check in on him and if he's resting, don't disturb him. Puppies, like human toddlers, do need regular naptimes to stay sweet-tempered all day.