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Hi Patti,
Iím writing to you for help, I have a 6 Ĺ month old male collie and Iím afraid if I canít correct his behavior now that it will never change.
Background info: we adopted him around 7-8 weeks(which was obviously too early)
He is crate trained and potty trained which he picked up very quickly. He sleeps in his crate throughout the night and he gets let out in the morning around 5am to eat and go to the bathroom and play for a while then again at 10am for a bathroom break and then 3pm is when I get home from work and he is out of his crate all night until bedtime. He has completed 2 (6 week) training courses at Pet Smart and we also had a trainer come to the house to try to help us with our problems. He is a very smart dog but he does not want to listen!

Some of the problems we are having with him at this time are;
1. Biting of the feet and pant legs, this has been an on and off problem since we adopted him
2. Biting in general, now this is not a mean bite at all it is mostly just mouthing I assume. He is getting a lot better but it is almost like he does not trust us, when we try to pet him he still wants to back away at times or trys to bite our hands (we have never abused/hurt him). We have been approaching him by starting to pet him on his chest first then work our way up to his head and he seems to be more receptive. I just want him to be loveable but its on his terms only! A good note is that when he is eating, I am able to take his bowl away from him without him reacting!
3. Barking, anytime we correct him he gets even angrier and barks and barks, we ignore him but it doesnít seem to help. He also barks if you have something he wants, say Iím eating a snack on the couch, he thinks he is entitled to some as well so he barks at me (I do not feed him from the table/couch).
4. Shoes, he is obsessed with shoes! I know dogs like the scent but I canít seem to break him of the habit. I donít want to move all of my shoes because he needs to learn that they are not his toys, he has plenty of toys, chews, etc.
5. Now he is starting to grab things off of the kitchen table.
I feel like we have tried almost everything to try to correct his behavior. We have tried the bitter apple spray, lemon juice, water bottle spray, shaking coins in a can, ignoring, putting in time out, trying to redirect/ distract him with a toy, keeping him on his leash while in the house for correction, NOTHING IS WORKING!!! I donít know what else to do, I know a lot of it is probably puppy behavior but I cannot let it go on for the rest of his life! Some trainers say he is shy-aggressive.
Please I would appreciate any help/advice you could give me!
Thank You!


Hi Mandy,

Adopting a puppy at 7-8 weeks isn't too early. Eight weeks is preferable, but seven weeks is acceptable.

You're right, you've got to get control over your puppy's biting now, as it's a problem that will only escalate in time. Around 6-7 months of age a puppy's chewing has little to do with teething and everything to do with his heightened awareness of dominant and submissive rankings. He's continually testing these boundaries and is challenging you, in order to determine his place in the family, which he sees as his "pack". As your puppy grows up, it's his natural instinct to want to be the one who's in charge. By biting he's asserting his dominance over you. He needs to see you as a leader, but every bite and every time he demands your attention is a challenge to your leadership. Enrolling in a "puppy kindergarten" obedience class is the quickest way of putting your puppy in his place, after all, if you could get control over this problem on your own, you would have by now. In an obedience class your puppy will learn his place, he'll learn to obey, and you will learn how to control him. Ask your vet's office or a local boarding kennel for a referral to an obedience class.

In the meantime, before the obedience class begins, there is a simple regimen you can follow at home to help your puppy realize that you are the one who's in charge. It's called Nothing In Life Is Free, read about it here:
Though effective, NILIF isn't a substitute for the obedience training your puppy needs.

While you are trying to stop your puppy from biting, don't play tug of war, wrestling or chase type games with him, this only encourages the biting and nipping. If you must play these sort of games, make sure you're the one who wins.

As far as the shoes go, it's up to you to put your shoes away. This is very much a puppy phase, and he'll grow out of it. For the here and now, you can't blame your puppy if you leave your shoes out, knowing that he's going to chew them. Many times prevention is the answer to a puppy's bad behavior. This goes for anything you leave out, and can be reached! Things on the kitchen table, your dirty laundry... anything and everything has to be put away or moved to a height that your puppy can't reach. If your puppy is getting into these things and has the opportunity to be destructive, he's not being supervised closely enough. Whenever you can't be supervising him, he needs to be crated. I can understand you not wanting to crate him, since it sounds like he's spending enough time being crated everyday when you're at work, so this bounces back to you needing to supervise and put things away. An option to not crating when you're at home is to keep your puppy on his leash in the house. Keep his leash on him until he's been trained to come when called in the face of distractions (such as your shoes).

Never hit your puppy. If you want your puppy to control his behavior, you need to control yours. Although the urge to give your dog a smack when he bites may feel like a natural reflex, avoid it at all costs. Hitting your puppy will only feed into his aggression and his natural instinct to protect himself, and will in turn lead to more biting.

You didn't say how much daily exercise your puppy is getting. Being left outside alone in a fenced in yard doesn't count as daily exercise, if this is your habit. At 6 months of age, your puppy has boundless energy which needs to be used up. If you aren't providing that release of energy in the way of exercise, he'll use it up on his own by being destructive. Except he doesn't see it that way, he sees it as having something to do. He needs a solid hour or so each day of long leashed walks and part of this hour should be off leash exercise or active play, such as chasing a ball, etc. A dog who receives the correct amount of exercise is calmer, easier to train, and will spend more time sleeping rather than barking or looking for things to chew on. Exercising your puppy's mind is just as important as exercising his body. Obedience training counts as mental stimulation for a dog or puppy. Things you learn in class need to be practiced several times a day.

If you haven't already done so, NOW is the perfect time to get your puppy neutered. Neutering won't stop the bad habits your puppy has already acquired, neutering will help make him be calmer because he'll have less testosterone in his system. It will help with aggression, humping, and other dominance-related behaviors.

There's no doubt about it, raising a puppy is really hard work! But once your puppy is trained and all grown up, you'll be very glad you invested the time.

I hope I've been a help.
Best of luck,



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To date, I've owned 7 dogs, all of which have lived into old age. Having cared for them in all stages of life, I feel I can offer sound advice to other pet owners, and people considering getting a dog. I am knowledgeable about the AKC (American Kennel Club) dog breeds, training and exercise, caring for sick and elderly pets, feeding, as well as many holistic treatments pets can benefit from. My only request is that you write me using standard English and punctuation.


My life experience in this field is more like "on the job training" rather than an actual degree in animal welfare. You may benefit from my experiences over the past 30 years. Aside from the dogs I've owned, I'm also involved in "breed rescue" and have fostered several dogs, all of which have been adopted to wonderful "forever homes". I find helping people who want a dog very rewarding.

Real life experience, based on over 30 years of dog ownership.

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