8-month-old Jensen is a black Cocker Spaniel. From the moment the lady lets him out of his bed in the morning the excitement begins.
As the day progress, things the three female members of the family in particular do with him unwittingly, bit by bit, fire him up.
Excitement leads to biting hands
The days starts with an enthusiastic and vigorously playful welcome. Hands are involved.
Jensen, when excited, bites hands. At 8-months old it can no longer be attributed to puppy biting. It’s become a habit – his default way of relieving his own arousal.
Some dogs dig holes, some chase tales, some hump, some bark. Many have to chew something as an item in the mouth is self-calming. Jensen is a chewer. If it’s not someone’s hands, it’s the throw on the sofa or his bedding.
Of course chewing hands then triggers other arousing things as they try to stop him.
Their main tactic will be to reduce all the things that wire Jensen up unnecessarily. This includes wild family greetings and taking a ball on walks. He comes home from a walk on high-octane fuel which tells me the walk isn’t doing it’s job! Now he should be able to mooch, sniff and do what comes naturally.
Instead of tolerating several hand bites before reacting, they should now react immediately but not by scolding.
Let him know in ‘dog language’ that they don’t want it – by folding arms and looking away. If he he doesn’t get the message, they should get up and walk away.
This is only half the process. Now the emphasis will be on what they WOULD like him to do. Teach him. They will have a box of chewy delights, ready to give him as an alternative to their hands when excitement gets too much.
Alternatives for defusing arousal
If he’s full of arousal, he needs an alternative methods of defusing excitement – not biting or blanket-chewing. Suggestions include a tug game, scatter feeding, working on a frozen Kong and a rummage box full of household recyclables.
They will need to resist too much touching unless it’s very gentle and he’s sleepy. Offer him moving hands and he will bite them!
Getting to the root of the biting means working on the excitement.
Arousal peaks in the evening when they want to watch TV
There is not an ounce of aggression in Jensen’s biting. I would regard it as the only way he can decompress when excitement gets too much for him – and it’s now become a habit – his default – particularly in the evening when all the day’s arousal has built up.
Interestingly, Jensen is with the man much of the day and never bites him. The man is much calmer.
When they get on top of this he will be nearly the perfect dog! He’s great on walks, great with people and comes when called (so far! He’s a teenager!).
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ and is always written with permission of the client. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help