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Help! My dog thinks i'm his doggy treat.

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Member Since
Barked: Thu Dec 13, '12 10:01am PST 
Hi All! I am at my wits end and do not know what else to do. I'm hoping someone can give me better advice than the dog trainer. I have an 8 month old, 83 lb. male GS. He thinks i'm his littermate. He is almost constantly nipping me, or trying to bite me. When I pet him, he will squirm around trying to bite my hands. Walking around the house or down the hall, it's nip,nip,nip. If i am trying to get dressed and he's in the room, he will grab a pant leg with his mouth and pull, or bite at my hands and feet and jump up on me trying to nip me. This also happens if I sit on the couch. When I'm putting on my shoes, he is nipping my hands, arms, feet, trying to get my attention. He is all over me like i've been soaked in broth! I know he just wants to play so we play tug of war, and ball and he has chew toys and bones. The dog trainer said it's domination, so we practice obedience EVERY day and we walk/HEEL every day. I've been told to spray water at him, put vinegar in his mouth, put liquid soap on my arms and hands, slap his nose, pull his ears, hold his mouth shut, say ouch, turn my back, close him out of the room, yada, yada, yada. NONE of it works! I have thought of using a shock collar for when he bites me but am worried of any negative effects it might have on him. We got him at 7-8 weeks old and he doesn't do any of this to my husband but an occasional nip. Any advice is greatly appreciated!

Do you even- lift?
Barked: Thu Dec 13, '12 1:09pm PST 
Most of the things you've been told to do are terrible ideas, imo. Slapping his nose? Pulling his ears? I would run from anyone who told you to do those things to your dog for any reason, much less for wanting to play. At best he's going to think you're playing, and it will encourage the behavior you're trying to stop. At worse he'll begin to retaliate and may bite for real.

I also disagree that his behavior is related to dominance. At eight months old, he's still very much a puppy, and his behavior sounds nothing but playful. We're talking about a breed that doesn't fully mature until 2-3 years old. I absolutely would not recommending using an electronic collar in this situation.

First and foremost, how much exercise is he getting? German Shepherds are a very active breed, and he's at an age where his energy levels are probably through the roof. Walking is good, free running is better. Do you have a safe area you can let him off lead and let him really just flat out run? Many behavioral issues can at least be improved just by increasing exercise. In addition to physical exercise, do make sure you're providing adequate mental stimulation, as GSDs are intelligent dogs bred to work.

As far as your nipping problem, since he likes to play tug, have you tried redirecting him onto a toy when he starts biting? A strong desire to play with toys can be your best friend as toys can very easily be incorporated into obedience. If he starts biting, ask for something simple like a sit. When he sits, out comes the toy and you play tug together for a few seconds. You'll need to teach a solid 'out' or 'drop', anything that means let go of the toy, which is easy enough to do. Stop tugging and hold the toy completely still, tell him to out, and wait. It may take some patience the first few times, but as soon as he gets bored and lets go, tell him 'yes!' and start playing again. He'll learn that the faster he lets go when you ask him to, the sooner he gets to play again.

It's also a good idea to take away whatever toy you're going to use for tug when you're finished. It's not a dominance human-always-has-to-win thing, in fact it's encouraging for the dog to let him win sometimes as long as he brings the toy back to you for more tug, taking the toy away at the end of the session and only bringing it out when you're going to work will keep that toy exciting and interesting. On that note, it's also a good idea to end a tug/obedience session while he's still wanting more. Don't wait until he's bored and tuned out to stop.

Make sure you don't just bring the tug out when he nips you, as you don't want him to start biting as a way to initiate a game of tug. If he does continue pestering you despite increased exercise and tug/obedience sessions, I would try the ignore method. I know you said you've tried that, but remember that any method is going to require some time and consistency before you'll see results. The ignore method needs to be a complete ignore. He bites, you stop whatever you're doing, and stand perfectly still. Don't talk to him, look at him, or acknowledge him in any way. Chances are he won't immediately stop biting, but wait him out. It takes patience, but eventually he will get bored and stop. As soon as he stops, calmly praise and if you can, gently pet him. If he starts biting again, immediately remove all attention. After enough repetitions, he'll figure out that biting makes you incredibly boring, which is the opposite of what he wants.

And at the end of the day, remember that he is entering the notorious bratty GSD adolescent phase, so he'll likely start testing and pushing you. Be firm, consistent, and fair with the rules you've put in place, and remember that if you put in the work now, it will get better as he matures.

Edited by author Thu Dec 13, '12 1:35pm PST


too old to eat- any more KD
Barked: Fri Dec 14, '12 1:43pm PST 
Onyx applauseapplauseapplause
Totally agree. The only thing I would add is, because he is now 83 pounds, if he is nipping too much while you ignore then calmly & quietly put him in a safe room for about one minute. Not a word..just take him & keep ignoring. Not his want that to be a source of comfort. A bathroom, or gated off room is best.
I always had an appropriate chewy in my pocket to help redirect my shepagators at this age
Consistency now is vital. The next 2 years may be the longest of your life laugh out loud
Keep up with daily training & please look into positive methods. "The Power of Positive Dog Training" by Pat Miller is inexpensive, & chock full of good info on clicker training/positive reinforcement.

Member Since
Barked: Wed Dec 26, '12 7:43am PST 
My Apologies for the delayed response. Thank you soo much for the helpful advice. I'm thrilled to read that ya'll recommend positive over negative rewards/reinforcement. I am going to start incorporating your advice in our daily routines and see what happens. I've been conducting some trial and error with him and have noticed that lately when he's acting psycho on me if i go into the bathroom and close him out of where i am he gets upset. He will lay at the door and whine. It takes about 5-6 x of me shutting him out until he is calm and doesn't attack me the minute i open the door. I totally agree that it's going to be a long two years with him...LOL...but he's too sweet and lovey to go through it without him! Thank you again!
Sammi Fulla Grace

Sam-a-lama-ding-- dong
Barked: Wed Jan 9, '13 2:22pm PST 
You are, indeed, a "litter mate"! Your husband seems to exhibit more of a pack leader energy, or the dog would treat him the same way. You are probably the more affectionate one. This may bring trust, but not respect. Your pup is "claiming" you as his, and controling you with your own mind! You really can't expect to control a guy that big physically, but any dog is easily controlled mentally. First, abandon the notion that your dog is somehow human; he ain't! So stop feeling guilty when you think you've hurt his feeling by establishing and enforcing rules. dogs don't hold a grudge, they react and adapt. They are instinctual, not intellectual. Let him know what you expect-no negotiation. Claim your space calmly with head high, chest out, hands on hips and an expectation that he will aquiesce. Of course, this is all done calmly with positive reenforcement when he does what you would like him to do. Punishment for a dog is when he knows you're not happy. Discipline is being consistant with your calm, assertive energy and being a pack leader all the time. In short think like a dog! The reward will be a dog's version of love: Loyalty and devotion!blue dog

too old to eat- any more KD
Barked: Wed Jan 9, '13 8:15pm PST 
Sammi...while Cesar Millan has some good ideas, (most notably that people walk their dogs) most of us on this forum are not huge fans. His stuff about dominance, pack energy, & leadership is outdated. And some of his techniques can be detrimental to a dog.
When I give advice it is based on over 30 years of experience raising German Shepherd Dogs, and White German Shepherd Dogs.
And welcome