Canine Behavior/Aggressive Puppy
QUESTION: We just recently got a german shepherd pit bull mix puppy. She is really sweet but when she plays she can bite really hard, the point where it now draws blood. When she does that she also growls. I'm worried when she gets older she could be a very badly behaved dog. So far we have tried pushing down with our thumb underneath her tongue when she bites. Do you have any advice?
ANSWER: Bad "beeder", one of two things happened:
1. Dam (bitch) was unable to adequately care for, and naturally discipline, her puppies
2. Puppies were removed from dam far too early and did not learn that TEETH HURT.
Do not fear this puppy. Instead, TEACH HER.
She has little bite inhibition; her growling is meant as "play". No neonate (puppy under four months of age) would growl with intent to harm unless it was FERAL and terrified. Your puppy is not feral, and she's not terrified. SHE IS WITHOUT A CLUE. Try this first:
Every single time this puppy uses her teeth, whine and cry like a dog and LEAVE her. Meanwhile, teach her to "sit" using this:
and, read this:
As a new dog trainer, while continuing my studies in post graduate school, I was "given" a Doberman Pinscher puppy. This puppy was already 14 weeks old and had been in a PET STORE (the person who gave her to me really had no clue; well, few did those days back in the late 70s). I had so many puncture marks on both arms that I looked like a junkie. :o/ She, too, growled a lot in normal "play". What did I do? I slowly trained her and slowly redirected her to a trained behavior when she "bit" because she had no bite inhibition due to terrible breeding and having rotted in that pet store for far too long! Ultimately, this was one of the best dogs I have ever had (and I have had a lot of dogs). Her name was Rosebud.
SO: fear not. I want you to try the whine and cry and self removal and I want you to teach her to "sit" and read the other information I provided. IN ONE WEEK, re-post USING FOLLOWUP FEATURE (I can then see original post and my answer to it) and tell me what has changed, or what has not changed, and we will go from there.
Is this particular hybrid (a mix of two breeds or breed types) optimal? Well, each have their own issues but that doesn't mean a thing. Both the Pit Bull AND the GSD can be wonderful companions. SOCIALIZE THIS DOG HEAVILY right now: if she's too young to go to a puppy kindergarten, meet/greet other people's dogs (friends) outside; walk the dogs parallel to one another (be sure your friends' dogs ARE FRIENDLY and TRAINED); also, take this puppy OUT on harness (no choker collars) and let her meet/greet Humans of every size shape and age, at least THREE TIMES A WEEK (optimally, every day). Carry tiny treats; instruct people to put treat on the palm of their hand, crouch down, open their hand and let the puppy take the treat. She will NOT "attack" anyone. What you are doing is conditioning her to see people as rewarding, all the time. If you must (seems weird but I've done it) wear a home made sign around your neck that says : SOCIALIZING MY PUPPY.
Do your homework, report back, one week.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: This past week or so she has done much better!! I used the whine and cry technique at first and it might have helped a little, but what made the biggest difference I think was that we put her outside with our older puppy and she plays with her now and doesn't bite as hard, if at all on us. We need to work on socializing though.
Your older "puppy' is teaching her bite inhibition BUT HAVE YOU FOLLOWED MY INSTRUCTIONS? Doesn't sound like it. You must teach her bite inhibition with you in a humane way, and teach take it/leave it and read other highly instructional materials on Dr. Dunbar's web site, DogStarDaily.com, as I instructed you. What you are DOING NOW is BONDING THAT PUPPY TO YOUR OLDER DOG/PUPPY, not to YOURSELF. "Socialization" ends at 14 weeks of age; the rest is rehabilitation. This puppy has to be taken OUT at least three times a week, alone (without the other dog), exposed to children, people of all ages, types, races; toddlers (but not too close, I wouldn't let you if I had a toddler); stand outside a playground, carry small treats, every time a child passes and YOU SEE that your puppy is not OVERLY EXCITED but is happy and calm, reward her. You have a lot of work to do with this puppy. You can't just stick her out in the yard with the other dog and expect magic to happen.
This puppy also needs a professional puppy kindergarten in a training venue that uses ONLY positive reinforcement and with a trainer who restricts puppies in age and type (in other words, they don't put 3 month old puppies with 5 month old puppies). She needs to learn to remain calm, on and off leash, in such a venue where the trainer (look for educational credentials and observe a class before signing up) can help correct any inappropriate interactions.
Every puppy is A LOT OF WORK. A puppy with a difficult breed type/hybrid needs even MORE work. Putting a dog out in the yard DOES NOT DO THE WORK. If you do NOT do the work, you will be writing to me again in about 18 months and it won't be a pretty picture.