They’ve not had a puppy for over thirty years and their aim is to be the best dog parents possible.
They chose 10-week-old Cockerpoo Hugo very carefully and did all the right things.
The lady has very high expectations of Hugo and he’s living up to them. He’s great in his crate at night, they can leave him alone for short periods of time and they are making progress with toilet training.
Listening to what people say
In trying to get everything right, they have sometimes been confused by listening to ‘other people’, ‘what people say’ and ‘somebody told us to…’
On Facebook groups describing a problem invites a stream of personal anecdotes and opinions. Some say “I do this”, other say “I do that”.
What people say often still advises harsh, out-of-date methods.
Puppy owners are bombarded with conflicting suggestions which is why Hugo’s humans came to me.
Their problem is Hugo’s teeth!
Right from the start of the day, Hugo will suddenly fly at them and hang off the lady’s skirt or the bottom of gentleman’s trousers. Often his teeth penetrate flesh. Ouch! It catches them both off guard.
To quote the lady, although she doesn’t react angrily, the pain makes her feel angry, She doesn’t want to feel angry.
Instead of dealing with the ‘attacks’ themselves, in various ways ‘people say’, they will now regard the behaviour as a symptom.
A symptom of what?
The possibilities are teething, over-excitement, over-tiredness, boredom, need for play or lacking something for his mouth to do.
Unusually it seems to happen randomly, often when all is peaceful. He starts at the beginning of the day and not as a result of any build-up of excitement.
It’s very likely to be a mix of all of the above causes.
Now, instead of trying to STOP the biting, they will look at giving Hugo reinforcing and enriching things to do that are incompatible with hanging off clothes.
He is currently fed his four meals, in bowls, in his crate. This is missing a big opportunity for using his mouth and helping him to keep calm.
I suggest putting his food in a series of Kongs through the day, pre-empting those times they expect the behaviour. They can also scatter feed, feed him in a snufflemat and provide him with ways of searching or hunting for his food.
They will keep a special box of things to for him chew on. As soon as nipping starts, they can give him an acceptable alternative.
Already the behaviour of hanging off clothes has become a habit. Habits are so much easier to form than to undo.
Breaking the habit
To break the habit, they can teach him that it’s more rewarding, if he’s in a nippy mood, to run away from them than it is to fly at their clothes. This means carrying kibble on them all the time and being ready to roll it away at any time they feel he could start. Over and over. This makes a good game of NOT going for their clothes.
Hugo should now feel more fulfilled so less likely to need to resort to the grabbing behaviour.
A couple of days ago he started nibbling the carpet like he’s grooming it. I hope that the suggested activities will also mean he feels no need to do this either.
The couple certainly will no longer be listening to ‘what people say’.