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Canine Behavior/Puppy is biting hard-- ONLY ME, no strangers


My puppy, Torin, is about 4 months old. He is half Husky half Border Collie, which I understand are very active breeds. I take him for walks two or three times a day, and we go for hikes once or twice a week. I also do a training session with him once or twice a day after walks. So far he has learned sit, stay, and lay.
Unfortunately, we have hit a snag: he bites me. He is biting only me, no strangers, and he is not being aggressive in ANY manner towards our 2 year old male chihuahua. I have raised puppies all my life, so I originally chalked it up to play biting, but I can't make him stop with any of the usual tactics. I coat my arms and hands in bitter cherry spray, but he doesn't react. I tried re-directing to a toy, but he drops it and goes for my hands again. I yelp every time, but he doesn't seem to register it. I then walk away (very slowly, per the suggestion of a friend), but he follows me out of the room hanging onto my pants or chewing my feet. Once I get into another room and close the door, I stay until he has stopped whining but once I re-enter, he starts it all over again. He bites when I feed him, when I try to hook up his harness, when I pet him, when I'm not paying attention to him, when I try to brush him, when I play with him, basically 90% of the time that I'm near him with my hands. I thought I could handle it on my own, but he has broken the skin several times. He's breaking the skin far less now that his teeth aren't so sharp and needle-like, but he is getting stronger, and I'm covered in scratches, and cuts. I try not to yank away when he bites, but it startles me so much sometimes that I pull away, and that's when I get cut. He's not actively trying to break the skin, and he has never drawn blood of his own accord, but I'm still very worried this could escalate. I tried getting in to see the behaviorist near me, but she told me I had to wait until he was at least 6 months old to bring him to her.
I'm getting him fixed in 3 weeks, after his booster shots; he just turned 4 months old, and he is getting his primary vaccinations tomorrow. I'm hoping the neutering will help with this problem, but I don't know if it's related to aggression, or if he's just particularly stubborn.
What should I do in the meantime, and how should I progress once I do get him fixed?

Be VERY CAREFUL with vaccinations, especially Rabies!!  A dog CANNOT HAVE SURGERY following  Rabies vaccination as it affects coagulation; also, some dogs react behaviorally to the Rabies vaccine.  Talk to your vet at length.  Booster shots are NOT "primary" vaccinations; the neonate is vaccinated approximately at six weeks, then eight weeks, possibly again at ten weeks to catch the drop in titers as the puppy's immune system loses them from the dam.  Over vaccination is not something I suggest.  I also do NOT understand ANY so called "behaviorist" that does not COME TO YOU (other than a veterinary behaviorist) and must wait until he is six months of age.  That is not a certified applied animal behaviorist, and this is what you need: a CAAB.

I will provide links where hopefully you can find a CAAB.  If his testicles are descended, neuter him BEFORE the rabies vaccination, and ASAP.

This puppy reminds me of one I rescued many years ago: I looked like a heroin addict (I was still in graduate school at the time)!  She did calm down eventually with very, very patient, consistent, and daily (short sessions) of POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT TRAINING, no choker collars, no correction, no punishment.

Let's see if these few videos and articles from Dr. Ian Dunbar's site can help you:

All of these links address out of control puppy biting and the manner in which it can be extinguished, on one level or another.  I also suggest you follow Dr. Dunbar's Sirius Puppy Training, some found here in video:

Also available from Amazon

Here is a list of CAABs in the USA, hopefully one near you.  These people have actual credentials and this situation can easily be remedied with an educated eye:

NO dog trainers and certainly no dog "whisperer"!

Meanwhile: the dog is being rewarded here and I can't see a thing from here.  Dogs do not repeat behaviors that are not rewarded in some way (and even negative attention can be construed as a reward).  I suggest you put a house tab on this dog: lightweight long leash.  When he begins this behavior, pick up the tab out of reach of his mouth, hold him at arm's length, no eye contact, say nothing, no defensive movements, until his cognition returns and he "wakes up" and stops the manic mouthing.  THEN, ask for "sit" (trained ONLY with positive reinforcement: if you have to start over, use another word) and praise dog, drop house tab; carry in your pocket a squeaky toy that he gets ONLY when he responds to the "sit" after CALMING, and then let him have it for only a couple of minutes, retrieve it and keep it yourself.  He should see you with this squeaky toy, talking to it (sounds dumb but we are building a TROPHY ITEM here), sleeping with it under your pillow (saturated with your scent) and the ultimate REWARD for a short time after calming, sitting, following a mouthing frenzy.

I suggest you put him on a Nothing In Life Is Free regimen.  This means: he must "sit" before being fed, petted (NO FREE AFFECTION from you), going out the door, coming in the door, everything (NILIF).  This will psychologically create a place for him in the social hierarchy with you first.  If any of this mouthing is a "challenge" of any sort, NILIF will stop it. If he sleeps with you in your room, confine him to the kitchen instead right now.  At four months it IS possible you are seeing a challenge in social hierarchy.  STOP overly exercising this young dog.  He should not be jogging, he should not be going on strenuous walks, it is quite bad for his orthopedic development.  It can also produce an emotional overload (especially if he is in pain from hips, joints, etc.)  Examine his food carefully: take him OFF "puppy" food.  Look at protein content and actual ingredients as they appear on the label.  Stay away from low end foods and foods high in protein.  First ingredient should be: chicken, lamb, beef, not byproducts.

Let's get going on this today or as soon as you are able.  I would like a followup report in one week.  Please keep notes.  Use followup feature so I can see original question/answer.  Set aside your anxiety, it is feeding his manic behavior.  You have nothing to fear from a four month old dog.

Canine Behavior

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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