Doberman Forum : Doberman Breed Dog Forums banner
1 - 11 of 11 Posts

· Registered
2 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Our 14 week old puppy Harper has been awesome except for a few challenges we have had lately. The biting has been very hard to deal with, which I have had puppies before but this is my first doberman so I had NO idea about. I took a lot of comfort in reading how other doberman owners have handled it (holding their mouths closed or holding them by the collar until they settle down) The trainer I had over to do some initial one on one training suggested I crate her for 15-20 seconds since she was looking for attention. That wasn't feasible since #1 she was in there all the time and #2 it's happening in the backyard too so taking her inside to crate her when I am trying to potty train her wasn't working. Well this morning we had a new thing happen. I had bought her a "busy bone" not an actual bone its soft so it doesn't hurt her teeth and it has two treats on either side, it keeps her busy while I am getting ready in the morning. My 11 year old daughter walked by her and she growled and barred her teeth. My daughter was just leaving the room not bending down or anything or even acknowledging the dog. Harper had had breakfast and treats that morning so it wasn't like she was overly hungry. I went over, and she did the same to me. I grabbed her collar to correct her and she went nuts! Snarling and acting really aggressive. I put her on her back/side and held her mouth (not tight just closed with my thumb and index fingers) and she continued to snarl and growl. I was talking to her calmly and telling her to calm down and she went on like that for 3 minutes. I finally let her up. She went back to her toy. After awhile (5 minutes or so) she came over with the bone/toy and was close but by this time i was scared to reach for it. HELP. I don't want to worry about her or worry that she may go after my daughter or the woman that walks her has a daughter as well that she brings. I know she is young but I want to NIP (no pun intended) in the bud now before she gets too big.

· Registered
4,565 Posts
I do not allow for growling, snarling, or talking back at any age. I give a stern "NO!", grab the bone, and they go to their crate or somewhere where they are in a time out. I would also start working on "drop it". They drop a toy/bone.... and are rewarded with a high value treat. And then give the toy or bone back (eventually start extending the time that you give the bone back) It shows them that they get rewarded for handing over something and that they might get it back. Have your daughter work with the puppy as well.

As for teething and biting, 1)you WANT bones! femurs are great or knuckles. I feel like I should have ordered a lifetime supply of bullysticks since my dogs love them! If they bite me while playing they get a firm "No!" and I turn my back and walk towards the house. If they continue I keep walking and in their crate they go. I would also suggest socializing her with a well socialized middle aged dog or 2 (not at the same time but it doesn't always have to be the same dog). But don't be surprised or upset if they "let her know" that her behavior isn't acceptable because they will. At 5mo. old my bitch still has to tell the puppy to back off.

Personally I use the word "NO!" for big things like biting,growling, to get my point across.... I also use "ack" or other words for telling them to not chew on something, or if he's heading in the direction to chew on something of mine.... That's just what I like to do but whatever works for you.

Are you taking the puppy to obedience classes? If not, I highly suggest doing so.

· Registered
43 Posts
When she has the bone approach her with a high reward treat you know she would prefer. When she drops the bone, say "good girl" and give her a treat, then when you take the bone away say "good girl" again with another treat. Then give her the bone back and repeat for a few minutes several times a day.

I would not hold a dog down and calmly speak to her. Calmly speaking is reinforcing that what she is doing is ok.

I actually wouldn't hold a dog down on the ground at all for a few minutes. If you do corrections, it has to be at the exact moment she does something wrong, and must be quick. And probably nothing as extreme as holding a dog to the ground.

· Registered
4,565 Posts
I grabbed her collar to correct her and she went nuts! Snarling and acting really aggressive. I put her on her back/side and held her mouth (not tight just closed with my thumb and index fingers) and she continued to snarl and growl. I was talking to her calmly and telling her to calm down and she went on like that for 3 minutes. I finally let her up. She went back to her toy. After awhile (5 minutes or so) she came over with the bone/toy and was close but by this time i was scared to reach for it.
Somehow I missed reading this part. Did a trainer tell you to do this? This is nuts! How would you like it if a 2 year yelled at me and I flipped them on their back and held their mouth shut? Sounds crazy huh? That's exactly what you just did. As you can imagine, if I did that, the 2 year old would go hysterical! You just made the situation probably twice as worse for the next time this will happen and it most probably will because you just pissed the dog off.

Listen to my advice, also, you have a BABY puppy and should not be scared of anything they do.

After reading this part, not sure how I missed it, I HIGHLY Suggest you reach out to a trainer and do continuous weekly trainings with a trainer or class AND do at least one or two trainings per day with your puppy.

Also, can you tell us who your breeder is or what your puppy's lines are? That will help us with giving you advice.

· Registered
307 Posts
Hi, this sounds like resource guarding. Since she is still a puppy, you have to quickly nip it at the bud as RG can progress to be very serious especially you have a young daughter.

I wouldnt try to approach her at the beginning as she is guarding her resource and u want to avoid her displaying this behaviour as it will enhance it. more free meals. Practice for a solid sit when you are offering food or treats...this should be fairly easy...means when she sees u have food...she will automatically offer a sit to get the food. Once u get this, try handfeeding her. In this excercise, try to sit on a chair so she cant nip your face if anything happens. Offer her lunch dinner bit by bit by hand. Use one hand and bring more food with other other hand...rinse and repeat for her entire dinner. This is to let her know...when a hand comes near her face...its to give her more food. Once u can tell she is very comfortable with this, bring out the food bowl. Hold the bowl and not place it on the floor. Hold the bowl with your hand and add food bit by bit into the bowl while she is eating. If she growls, remove bowl and ask for a solid sit that u have practice before. Rinse and repeat. This is to tell her, if she goes away. If she doesnt growl, try introducing more.movements around the bowl...changing hands..move slightly left or.right with her head in the bowl (never take the bowl away when she is behaving). This is to tell her, movements around the bowl doesnt mean food gets taken away. Then try to repeat the same exercise with bowls on the floor. U can also choose to add higher value stuff to the bowl when ure using your hand to tell her...hand means higher value stuff is coming.

Once the above is achieved...then try with the lowest value toy she has. She still likes it but not too crazy about it. Hold the toy in your hand and get her to chew on it while u are holding it (not on the floor). Hand comes with yummy treats...just like the above practice. Change hands...move a little once u think she is comfortable. Keep feeding treats and give the toy back to her. This is to tell her hand is coming to give treats..not to take the toy away...and even if she drops it no one is going to take it away. Rinse n repeat. Again...when u feel she is very comfortable with it...give her the toy and release your hand completely from the toy. Hand comes to give treats...pick the toy up ( maybe start with 3 inches away from her face) and give it back. As she progress u can move the toy further and further and always.give it back to her. Then slowly u can progress with higher value toys and more abrupt movement when u know she is ready. When u have to keep the toy...always exchange with the highest value treat at the end.

Hope this helps.

· Super Moderator
23,789 Posts
I recommend teaching trading for high value items rather than holding a mouth closed or pinning a puppy - that will just teach them to guard from you even more. Pick up a copy of Jean Donaldson's book, "Mine! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs." It's a step-by-step guide and is really helpful and easy to follow.

· Registered
2 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks so much KitaTanya this sounds like great advice and totally do-able. We have already been hand feeding her (per the trainer's recommendation) He has said to do it for the first 30 days, which we are past but I kind of liked the connection so I am still doing it for a least one meal a day. This will help the transition. I had been doing it out of the measuring cup but now I will introduce her bowl so that makes a lot more sense. She is young still so I hope we have caught it early. Any advice for the biting? We have tried to walk away and ignore but she bites the back of our legs and my arms look like I self harm or have been trimming rose bushes. She seems to get MORE excited when I say NO Bite in a firm voice and is not super interested in the toys I provide to get her to chew on instead of me. PLUS if we are outside there are no toys. Another doberman forum had owners that held their mouths closed with their thumb and fore finger while saying no bite. That stops the biting but I didn't know if that was correct. We start our puppy class in July but I am not sure my limbs will survive until then. Thanks again for the kind and practical advice I really appreciate it!!

· Registered
234 Posts
I recommend teaching trading for high value items rather than holding a mouth closed or pinning a puppy - that will just teach them to guard from you even more. Pick up a copy of Jean Donaldson's book, "Mine! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs." It's a step-by-step guide and is really helpful and easy to follow.
I agree with meadowcat on this one. I would start with some kind of treat that she really loves and only gets when you play the trade game. My dogs go crazy for chunks of poached salmon.

· Registered
12,081 Posts
Toy/Chewy Aggression - got to train it away, in some pups.
I have outlined my soft bite/muzzle control training / see link below.
- all pups should be taught, to be hand fed / to start with
- mom &/or dad can always hold toys for pup to play with & hold high value bones anytime, etc.
I even suspect, this pup even eats its kibble too fast / slow it down, with cup muffin tin as food bowl.
- she is in survival mode / you have to be firm with quick timing
And you can't be scared, she is only 14 weeks old...still a baby.

I've had 3 dobe puppies, since 1977 and all from excellent breeders:
- one girl growled & baring teeth at 7 months, in sexual maturity stage...but never at Dad
- one girl never ever showed aggression, on any family member
- one girl starting growling at 10-11 weeks puppy young / she had high prey drive

I dealt with it only way I knew, with a quick / confident / firm correction.
- whether strong verbal &/or physical, as the situation warranted

traceeyeager ^^ Sounds like your dedicated in leaning much and stepping up in leadership.

I've had 3 dobe puppies, since 1977 and all from excellent breeders:
- one girl growled & baring teeth at 7 months, in sexual maturity stage...but never at Dad
(all because it had to stay home, when Dad was headed to car for work...a temper tantrum moment)
- one girl never ever showed aggression, on any family member...becoming a Therapy dog
- one girl starting growling at 10-11 weeks puppy young...high prey drive pup...all behind us now, those earlier challenging times
To me, one of the most important things to train is a "soft bite/muzzle control" on each dobe.
- so regardless of a ramped up moment, dogs K9's are fully safe to family skin

I dealt with it only way I knew, with a confident correction in a split second.
Regardless of your chosen method, important to have a solid plan to implement, before next incident, with consistency from all family members.

More reading:
- My Dog is Dog Aggressive: What Can I Do About It?
Leerburg | My Dog is Dog Aggressive: What Can I Do About It?
- Beaumont67 Posts #7 & 9

· Registered
12,081 Posts
Weloveharper - Few more reads:

I don't tolerate any form of early aggressive dobe growling, at a family member / unless its play growling, while we are occupied with a tug toy.
- if called for, a swift correction will be forth coming...under no if and's or butts
- the shock factor, is very powerful with low force / but takes confidence & good timing

I've seen large breed pups, that growled in the house, and one lady thought it was cute.
When the mastiff matured, she was jealous of the kids and wanted mom all to herself.
- once I bent over to pet its big head & it lunged up and clocked me in the side of the cheek, with its boney head
- it just missed breaking my nose & left me with the headache of a life time
Two months later, I was visiting & slightly bent over to bait it...Mastiff tried to hurt me again, and I clocked it in the rib cage, with a firm knee.
- 15 minutes later, lady said that her and I was the only 2 people in the world, that the dog would listen too
- but the dog was already drawing blood on the kids ankles, when they came home from elementary school
A month later, the expensive dog was euthanized, as Vet said it was the only safe option.
^^ I saw that Mastiff puppy first growl at my therapy dog Amy, during early socialization.
The mastiff was 4 months old and never corrected / age and maturity, only compounded the problem.

Out of 3 dobe puppies, our current girl Kelly would growl over her sucky blanket...her high value treat, and she was corrected for it.
At 5 months old, she once tried to harm our sons YorkiePoo Trevor / now they periodically nap together, can share food and toys.
I practice my own method of soft bite/muzzle control, starting from week1 home, with new puppy.
- Kelly has amazing & gentle control of her K9's teeth now / we can take anything away, if need be and pry her mouth open, at any time
- all my dogs, can even take half a peanut off my lips, with ease / and could care less, if I pet them while eating kibble or they have a marrow bone

+25 years ago, we had a lady babysitting our grade1 son after school.
Everything was going fine, until first week ended, I went to pickup our boy and heard her son cursing his mom:
- 6 year old boy, calling his Mom "a F...inB...h in the kitchen, in a yelling tone
Lady says, "Johnny - don't say that, you try and be nice".
I fired the adult baby sitter that night / and the little brat, also needed some form of corrective persuasion.
I wrote my perspective on mouthing, at the puppy age.
Thinking outside the box some & sharing my personal experience while having eliminated associated risks.
a) my dogs are personally trained to only mouth me one else
b) my dogs are trained to not break my skin or ever come close, as their leader / 100% guaranteed
c) our 2nd pup (former Amy) enjoyed many elderly patient visits in local hospital (dying ward) and interacting with seniors in nursing home
- as a certified therapy dog, she become the star Doberman and breed ambassador in the program, everyone loved her...she was always most sweet and very compassionate
- one guy (95 y/o) even stole cookies out of the kitchen for Amy...he would hand feed her, and she was extremely well mannered & loving to others

We all have goals for our dogs, and my methods have never jeopardized mine...that's the beauty of a dog forum...share what works & implement strategies based on your belief system and comfort level.

· Premium Member
8,050 Posts
Please be careful do not Alfa roll your puppy it will make everything worse it is a very old method which they have found is not good to train dog/pup. Please teach'' drop it'' and ""leave it"" it will always come in handy. Trading up for a high value treat usually works well.
When a dog or pup growls your first reaction is to punish which is not good unless the punishment is like a time out nothing physical. The reason I say this you do not want the pup/dog to stop growling it is their way of saying they are not happy about what you are doing to them. You need the growl because if you do not have it next time might be a bite with no warning. From Whole Dog Journal

Message Body
ay biting is pretty common in puppies. Dr. Ian Dunbar has a pretty good article that I like called The Bite Stops Here. It's pretty much how I curbed play-biting in my dog as well as puppies that I used to work with. The catch is that you have to be patient and persistent. Some dogs take longer to pick up the hint than others. Dreizehn got it in only a few days but I've worked with more hard-headed pups who took a lot longer for it to sink in.

Puppies bite, and thank goodness they do. Puppy biting is a normal and natural puppy behavior. In fact, it is the pup that does not mouth and bite much as a youngster that augers ill for the future. Puppy play-biting is the means by which dogs learn to develop bite inhibition, which is absolutely essential later in life.

The combination of weak jaws with extremely sharp, needle-like teeth and the puppy penchant for biting results in numerous play-bites which, although painful, seldom cause serious harm. Thus, the developing pup receives ample necessary feedback regarding the force of its bites before it develops strong jaws – which could inflict considerable injury. The greater the pup's opportunity to play-bite with people, other dogs and other animals, the better the dog's bite inhibition as an adult. For puppies that do not grow up with the benefit of regular and frequent interaction with other dogs and other animals, the responsibility of teaching bite inhibition lies with the owner.

Certainly, puppy biting behavior most eventually be eliminated: we cannot have an adult dog playfully mauling family, friends and strangers in the manner of a young puppy. However, it is essential that puppy biting behaviour is gradually and progressively eliminated via a systematic four-step process. With some dogs, it is easy to teach the four phases in sequence. With others, the puppy biting may be so severe that the owners will need to embark on all four stages at once. However, it is essential that the pup first learn to inhibit the force of its bites before the biting behaviour is eliminated altogether.

Inhibiting the force of bites
No painful bites.
The first item on the agenda is to stop the puppy bruising people. It is not necessary to reprimand the pup and, certainly, physical punishments are contra-indicated, since they tend to make some pups more excited, and insidiously erode the puppy's temperament and trust in the owner. But it is essential to let the pup know when it hurts. A simple "ouch!" is usually sufficient. The volume of the "ouch" should vary according to the dog's mental make-up; a fairly soft "ouch" will suffice for sensitive critters, but a loud "OUCH!!!" may be necessary for a wild and woolly creature. During initial training, even shouting may make the pup more excited, as does physical confinement. An extremely effective technique with boisterous pups is to call the puppy a "jerk!" and leave the room and shut the door. Allow the pup time to reflect on the loss of its favourite human chew toy immediately following the hard nip, and then return to make up. It is important to indicate that you still love the pup – it is the painful bites which are objectionable. Instruct the pup to come and sit, and then resume playing. Ideally, the pup should have been taught not to hurt people well before it is three months old.

It is much better for the owner to leave the pup than to try to physically restrain and remove it to a confinement area at a time when it is already out of control. If one pup bites another too hard, the bitee yelps and playing is postponed while the injured party licks its wounds. The biter learns that hard bites curtail an otherwise enjoyable play session. Hence, the bite learns to bite more softly when the play session resumes.

No jaw pressure at all
The second stage of training is to eliminate bite pressure entirely, even thought the bites no longer hurt. When the puppy is munching away, wait for a nibble that is harder than the rest and respond as if it really hurt: "Ouch, you worm! Gently! That hurt me you bully!" The dog begins to think "Good Lord! These humans are so mamby pamby I'll have to be really careful when mouthing their delicate skins." And that's precisely what we want the dog to think – so he'll be extremely careful when playing with people. Ideally, the puppy should no longer be exerting any pressure when mouthing by the time it is four to five months old.

Inhibiting the incidence of mouthing
Always stop mouthing when requested.
Once the puppy has been taught to gently mouth rather than bite, it is time to reduce the frequency of mouthing behaviour and teach the pup that mouthing is okay until requested to stop. Why? Because it is inconvenient to try to drink a cup of tea, or to answer the telephone, with 50 pounds of pup dangling from your wrist, that's why.

It is better to first teach the "OFF!" command using a food lure (as demonstrated in the Sirius video*). The deal is this: "If you don't touch this food treat for just two seconds after I softly say "Off", I will say "Take it" and you can have the treat." Once the pup has mastered this simple task, up the ante to three seconds of non-contact, and then five, eight, 12, 20 and so on. Count out the seconds and praise the dog with each second: "Good dog one, good dog two, good dog three…" and so forth. If the pup touches the treat before being told to take it, shout "Off!" and start the count from zero again. The pup quickly learns that it can not have the treat until it has not touched it for, say, eight seconds – the quickest way to get the treat is not to touch it for the first eight seconds. In addition, the regular handfeeding during this exercise helps preserve the pup's soft mouth. Once the pup understnads the "Off!" request, it may be used effectively when the puppy is mouthing. Say "Off!" and praise the pup and give it a treat when it lets go. Remember, the essence of this exercise is to practise stopping the dog from mouthing – each time the pup obediently ceases and desists, resume playing once more. Stop and start the session many times over. Also, since the puppy wants to mouth, the best reward for stopping mouthing is to allow it to mouth again. When you decide to stop the mouthing session altogether, heel the pup to the kitchen and give it an especially tasty treat.

If ever the pup refuses to release your hand when requested, shout "Off!", rapidly extricate your hand and storm out of the room mumbling, "Right. That's done it, you jerk! You've ruined it! Finish! Over! No more!" and shut the door in the dog's face. Give the pup a couple of minutes on its own and then go back to call the pup to come and sit and make up. But no more mouthing for at least a couple of hours. In addition to using "Off!" during bite inhibition training, the request has many other useful applications: not to touch the cat, the Sunday roast on the table, the table, the baby's soiled diapers, the baby, an aggressive dog, a fecal deposit of unknown denomination… Not only does this exercise teach the "Off!" request, but also to "Take it" on request.

Never start mouthing unless requested.
By the time the pup is five months old, it must have a mouth as soft as a 14-year-old working Lab; it should never exert any pressure when mouthing, and the dog should immediately stop mouthing when requested to do so by any family member. Unsolicited mouthing is utterly inappropriate from an older adolescent or an adult dog. It would be absolutely unacceptable for a six-month-old dog to approach a child and commence mouthing her arm, no matter how gentle the mouthing or how friendly and playful the dog's intentions. This is the sort of situation which gives parents the heebie-jeebies and frightens the living daylights out of the mouthee. At five months of age, at the very latest, the dog should be taught never to touch any person's body – not even clothing – with its jaws unless specifically requested.

Whether or not the dog will ever be requested to mouth people depends on the individual owner. Owners that have the mental largesse of a toothpick quickly let play-mouthing get out of control, which is why many dog training texts strongly recommend not indulging in games such as play-fighting. However, it is essential to continue bite inhibition exercises, otherwise the dog's bite will begin to drift and become harder as the dog grows older. For such people, I recommend that they regularly hand-feed the dog and clean its teeth – exercises that involve the human hand in the dog's mouth. On the other hand, for owners who have a full complement of common sense, there is no better way to maintain the dog's soft mouth than by play-fighting with the dog on a regular basis. However, to prevent the dog from getting out of control and to fully realize the many benefits of play-fighting, the owner must play by the rules and teach the dog to play by the rules. (Play-fighting rules are described in detail in our Preventing Aggression behaviour bookelt.*)

Play-fighting teaches the dog to mouth hands only (hands are extremely sensitive to pressure) and never clothing. Since shoelaces, trousers and hair have no neurons and cannot feel, the owner cannot provide the necessary feedback that the dog is once more beginning to mouth too hard. The game also teaches the dog that it must adhere to rules regarding its jaws, regardless of how worked up it may be. Basically, play-fighting teaches the owner to practice controlling the dog when it is excited. It is important to refine such control in a structured setting, before a real-life situation occurs.

In addition, play-fighting quickly becomes play-training. Starting the games with a training period, i.e., with the dog under control in a down-stay, produces utterly solid stays at a time when the dog is excited in vibrant anticipation of the game. Similarly, frequent stopping the game for short periods and integrating multiple training interludes (especially heel work and recalls) into the game motivates the dog to provide eager and speedy responses. Each time the owner stops the game, he or she may use the resumption of play as a reward for bona fide obedience. Everything's fun!

Potential problems
Inhibiting incidence before force
A common mistake is to punish the pup in an attempt to get it to stop biting altogether. At the best, the puppy no longer mouths those family members who can effectively punish the dog but, instead, the pup directs its mouthing sprees toward those family members who cannot control it, e.g., a child. To worsen matters, parents are often completely unaware of the child's plight because the pup does not mouth adults. At worst, the puppy no longer mouths people at all. Hence, its education about the force of its bite stops right there. All is fine until someone accidentally shuts the car door on the dog's tail, whereupon the dog bites and punctures the skin, because the dog had insufficient bite inhibition.

Puppies that don't bite
Shy dogs seldom socialize or play with other dogs or strangers. Hence, they do not play-bite and hence, they learn nothing about the power of their jaws. The classic case history is of a dog that never mouthed or bit as a pup and never bit anyone as an adult – that is, until an unfamiliar child tripped and fell on the dog. The first bite of the dog's career left deep puncture wounds, because the dog had developed no bite inhibition. With shy puppies, socialization is of paramount importance, and time is of the essence. The puppy must quickly be socialized sufficiently, so that it commences playing (and hence, biting) before it is four-and-a-half months old.

If a puppy does not frequently mouth and bite and/or does not occasionally bite hard, it is an emergency. The puppy must learn its limits. And it can only learn its limits by exceeding them during development and receiving the appropriate feedbacks.

From DT.
1 - 11 of 11 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.