Tonawanda News


December 3, 2012

CRITTER COMPANIONS: How to handle a nippy puppy

Tonawanda News — QUESTION: We adopted an 11-month-old puppy with little to no previous training. She is a mixed

breed — basset hound, beagle and daschund. She gets over-excited when playing and gets nippy, grabbing at the toys and then our hands whether we have a toy or not. — Jim & Carol B., Niagara Falls

ANSWER: “Don’t Shoot the Dog” by Karen Pyror is a great book, based on science, to get started redirecting your puppy on more appropriate behaviors.

If you can teach your dog to “station,” it can turn into a powerful tool. If you have a pillow or dog bed that you could train your dog to go to every time you say “station” you could ask your dog to go over there every time she gets excited and starts nipping. This way you can toss her a treat for doing a correct behavior — stationing on the dog bed/pillow — and not worry about your fingers being nipped. Instead of stationing, you could also ask your dog to do another incompatible behavior like lying down, rolling over, etc. When she does these behaviors she can’t be biting you either.

I would also start training with all the treats hidden in a pocket or treat pouch, so your dog doesn’t know the type or size of the treats. When she does good things, you can give her 1⁄4 of a treat or one treat, depending on how great the behavior was. 

No bitting or jumping gets her a full treat. If you measure out how much dog food you feed her you can also use part of the normal diet as rewards. For the time being you don’t have to hand her treats, you can toss them to the ground. 

Another beneficial way to decrease biting is to give your puppy a Least Reinforcing Scenario. This means a time out. If she gets nippy or jumpy you can leave the room or turn and not face the dog. If your dog wants you to stay and play she will have to play nice.

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