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Hello, we have a male 7 month old St Bernard who is very affectionate however every time I or we leave the house even for 10 minutes when we come in the door he freaks out jumps up and down wants to be pet and continuously  bites our hands for a few minutes til he calms down! More like nipping, but still hurts! Why?????

Answer
Hi Sue

Thank you for writing to me about your puppy.  To understand dog behavior you have to look at their ancestors, the wolves.  Wolves have a way of greeting each other that dogs mimic..except they are doing it to humans and we don't like bad manners.  To put it basically..a puppy jumps up on a human because it's saying hello, in dog talk!  When puppies are very young, we usually either hold them or sit on the floor with them and let them kiss us.  When they get larger and we are standing, they try to do the same thing..by jumping on us.  When your puppy does this, do not bend over to greet them or it encourages the unwanted behavior.  The solution lies in giving your puppy an alternative to greeting you in what will become a mannerly way. Teach your puppy to sit and then stay..a puppy that is sitting cannot jump.  Reward him with a treat but also reward him by kneeling down and giving him a special hug.  Dogs are very tuned in to human behavior and once they realize what gets them a reward, they will repeat the behavior..because dogs aim to please!

It is just as important to teach your puppy to sit-stay for others as much as for yourself.  Never allow a human to disregard your request to not allow your puppy to jump on them.  When a dog jumps on a human, if it's a child or older person, it puts the puppy in danger.  If there is an injury, your dog can be confiscated as a dangerous dog and put down..so this is really quite serious.  So when your puppy tries to jump in an effort to greet someone, you must put the dog into a sit-stay position befor the jump actually happens, treat, calm the puppy down and only then can the person greet your dog!  You want to short circuit the brain thinking it's going to do something and beat the dog to the jump so to speak or break the circuit and replace with a positive act!

It is essential to practice the non jumping behavior by practicing every day, as many times as you can.  You can possibly go out a back door and come around to the front door and practice the non jumping greeting. Another method is to put a leash on your dog and step down on it.  Your dog will not be able to jump because the leash is tight to the ground, kept there by your foot.  When the puppy calms down, immediately reward.  Create a command word for the behavior you want.

As far as the nipping is concerned, it's called "mouthing."  When puppies play with each other in the litter, they practice what is known as "bite inhibition."  That is learning how much pressure to use with their jaws when playing.  So when your puppy puts his teeth on you and mouths, give out a high pitched scream, the same way another puppy would..when your dog releases pressure, instantly praise and treat.  Your dog will learn quickly what hurts others and doesn't.  Tell everyone who comes in contact with your dog, exactly how to do this.  When you follow both methods of training, the jumping and the mouthing, your puppy will become a well mannered dog.  All well mannered dogs are welcome everywhere.

Best of luck,
Shelley Davis

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Shelley Davis

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Cageless Country Boarding, Holistic Health Concerns, Behavorial Concerns.

Experience

Crusader in the founding of Dog Runs in NYC Parks, instrumental in changing the law in NY State which allows Pet Facilitate Therapy into Acute Care Hospitals, accomplished artist and craftsperson, certified by Red Cross in pet first aid, pioneer in Children Reading To Dogs program in Ulster Co. NY, founder of Bed & Biscuit:Where Dogs Run Free, www.bednbiscuit.com/

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