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I have two 16-week standard poodles. They love to bite each other when they play, but the last couple of days, one of them has come in twice with blood on his face and my kids have gotten bitten when outside while the puppies were playing. How can I teach them to play without play biting or with just soft biting? The behavior has become so ingrained at this point that I don't know if they know how to play any other way. Would it be crazy to put muzzles on them to force them to find new ways to play? I don't allow roughhousing at all in the house, so this all happens outside where I'm not watching closely. I can keep a closer watch when they play, but where would you draw the line? No mouthing at all? And how do you teach them this?
 

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These pups are litter mates, right? Well that is just how litter mates play for the most part. It should be how they learn to give inhibited bites and this learning should already be solid not something where they are drawing blood. If you can make a video that may help us see where the triggers are that take it too high. My poodles play bitey face with each other every day, but nobody ever gets hurt.

I would also suggest not having your kids in the yard while the puppies are rough housing. In fact it may well be that the combination of running kids and inexperienced puppies is what makes it too crazy. It is important that your human youngsters be tutored in training the puppies to be able to settle, to respect personal space and to understand that all people no matter how small or tall can control dogs, but that no dog can control or intrude on the personal space of any person except on invitation and that the person gets to decide when it ends.
 

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These pups are litter mates, right? Well that is just how litter mates play for the most part. It should be how they learn to give inhibited bites and this learning should already be solid not something where they are drawing blood. If you can make a video that may help us see where the triggers are that take it too high. My poodles play bitey face with each other every day, but nobody ever gets hurt.

I would also suggest not having your kids in the yard while the puppies are rough housing. In fact it may well be that the combination of running kids and inexperienced puppies is what makes it too crazy. It is important that your human youngsters be tutored in training the puppies to be able to settle, to respect personal space and to understand that all people no matter how small or tall can control dogs, but that no dog can control or intrude on the personal space of any person except on invitation and that the person gets to decide when it ends.
Yes, they are littermates. It was actually kind of a blessing that one of my sons got bitten because he loves to stir the dogs up and loves to be part of the chaos when the puppies get overstimulated. I've lectured, scolded, put him in time out, but after that bite, he finally cares. I think the pups may have had the bite inhibition down initially but playing just with each other who tolerate the biting, they get rougher and rougher, also playing when they are overstimulated adds to it. I'll try to catch a video.
 

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Oh dear. I wonder if having them play with some well-mannered dogs might help? I suspect they'd learn quite quickly what's acceptable and what's not.

People here are going to get so sick of hearing me say this, but.....have you read Ian Dunbar's "Before And After Getting Your Puppy"? He covers bite inhibition quite thoroughly.
 

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Thinking about this some more....
My puppies have never been allowed to play unsupervised. I've always thought it important to be there to "referee" — to enforce very short breaks every few minutes, make sure everyone's playing fair, watch for any signs of "spinning out" (which happen often at that age, when the pup gets tired and loses all sense).

That's probably the easiest change you could make right now: No more unsupervised play. They should never be allowed to continue in an overstimulated state.
 

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Oh dear. I wonder if having them play with some well-mannered dogs might help? I suspect they'd learn quite quickly what's acceptable and what's not.

People here are going to get so sick of hearing me say this, but.....have you read Ian Dunbar's "Before And After Getting Your Puppy"? He covers bite inhibition quite thoroughly.
I just downloaded it and started reading about bite inhibition. They still have their puppy teeth so it sounds like I have a little more time to work with them! I've been discouraging mouthing people, but I guess I need to allow some of that right now so I can teach them that it hurts.
 

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I agree.
Thinking about this some more....
My puppies have never been allowed to play unsupervised. I've always thought it important to be there to "referee" — to enforce very short breaks every few minutes, make sure everyone's playing fair, watch for any signs of "spinning out" (which happen often at that age, when the pup gets tired and loses all sense).

That's probably the easiest change you could make right now: No more unsupervised play. They should never be allowed to continue in an overstimulated state.
I agree with no more unsupervised play. I can't get anything done because they require constant supervision! It's like having toddlers again! And newborns, because one of them wakes up every three hours to go out.
 

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I agree.

I agree with no more unsupervised play. I can't get anything done because they require constant supervision! It's like having toddlers again! And newborns, because one of them wakes up every three hours to go out.
It's a rough time, absolutely. I can relate and I only had one puppy to wrangle! And no kids! The owner of one of Peggy's littermates has two young children and feels her spoo is even more challenging than a toddler.

I think separate indoor exercise pens would be life savers for you, each attached to a crate. At almost 8 months, Peggy's getting more freedom. But during the puppy days it was: x-pen, tethered to me or to a fixed carabiner with a chew toy, crated for sleep, or watched like a hawk while dragging a light leash. No exceptions.

Sounds stressful, but it actually reduces stress in the long run. Puppy learns clear boundaries (including how to settle), and is given no opportunity to rehearse bad habits or even really make any mistakes at all.

I know this could still change as we navigate adolescence, but Peggy, for example, has never chewed on the furniture or destroyed anything of value. I credit this wholly to her exercise pen.

We use this one: Frisco Dog Exercise Pen with Step-Through Door, Black, 36-in - Chewy.com
 

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Actually I just realized I missed something important in your original posting which is your question about mouthing (which is different from biting). We have trained our dogs to be mouthy and to accept having our hands in their mouths. It is super useful to be able to safely be able to have your hands in your dogs mouths to check for dental issues, do dental care, to take away forbidden objects and to give medications. To sort of comprehensively exlain some of that, here is Dr. Dunbar himself. Teaching Bite Inhibition
 
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I agree with allowing ONLY gentle mouthing on humans so they can continue to learn how to regulate their bite. Only soft mouthing works to get you to play with them. The slightest bit too much, makes you walk away and end the game.

As far as the two puppies playing together, I would just leave them play. I would not want to prevent them from play biting for many reasons. They'll figure it out. One will at some point yelp if it hurts and will ask for a time out, which the other one will likely "respect." (they usually do) They'll work it out as their bite inhibition or regulation gets more sophisticated, which it will. I raised two same aged puppies and they figure out their own system. I would avoid putting a muzzle on them. That could open a whole other can of worms.

I would, however, discourage your son from getting them overly stimulated and being in the middle of them...not a great idea.
 
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I also would tend to let puppies play as long as they are supervised (I agree on separate x pens when not supervised) and only stop them if you think one of them is not enjoying it. If you think this is the case, you can restrain the "aggressor" and see if the more submissive pup comes back and asks him/her for more play. But I would also make sure they get exposure to older, well balanced and behaved dogs who can teach them that not every dog wants to engage in that play.
 

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Bite inhibition is a skill that puppies need to practice in order to master. It's no different from a little human needing to practice throwing a ball in order get perfect aim. Their bodies are changing and growing in strength. Sometimes they make a mistake. The puppy bites too hard. The kid beans another kid with the ball. It's part of learning. They won't master the skills if you swathe them in bubble wrap and put them on a shelf.

I do think you are right that your kids and the pups might be spinning each other up to the point where everyone's brain turns off. Self control is also a lesson practiced in play, both for humans and puppies.

I would not use a muzzle at this age, because it will warp and distort the lesson. The puppies need to learn an appropriate response to provocation. The kids need to learn the consequences of behaving thoughtlessly. It sounds like both pups and kid got a lesson when you son got bitten. I expect your son responded by pushing the pups away while retreating to inspect the bite for at least a few moments. Your son learned that puppies bite hard when you aren't careful. The puppies learned that humans turn boring and anti-social when you bite them. Good things for everyone to learn.

I feel for you when you say it's like having toddlers again. For sure! (Although at least you can lock the puppies in crates when you want to murder them for throwing up on the couch.) Something you might want to do is keep a diary of your progress. Then, when you get discouraged by each new stage, you can look back through it to see how much progress you are actually making.
 

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I think your just allowing them to get over stimulated. My dog is mouthy its how he plays, so are my neighbors poodles, they play the same way. Anytime we see one getting over stimulated we just clap, getting the dogs attention and say enough. Renn and our boxer play, the boxer does not mouth at all and Renn does so I have to watch them and when Renn wants to play mouthy I tell him no bite, then he usually goes back to bouncing. I've never left any of my dogs unsupervised while playing and I think that helps.
 

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Here's an image of Tonka, a mature dog at the time, playing with his buddy Champ, a two year old Cane Corso. Women and their dogs would leave the park, scared of the racket, unable to realize that these two are 'playing'.
DSCF3820.JPG
 

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Here's an image of Tonka, a mature dog at the time, playing with his buddy Champ, a two year old Cane Corso. Women and their dogs would leave the park, scared of the racket, unable to realize that these two are 'playing'. View attachment 463966
Fearsome indeed! The magic is that they can play like this and not draw blood. It's an awesome dance to watch.

I like this short video I saw recently on "the play bow":

 

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Neat video. Watch the lips on some of the dogs, especially the Aussie. Several times you'll see an exaggerated open mouth with the lips relaxed and still covering all the side teeth. Snarky used to make that exact bitey face expression when he was playing.
 

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Good news: I've been putting my hands in the dogs' mouths today and they've been very gentle, so I think the bite inhibition is there, but I need to try it when they're hyper. I've also been watching them play and they both seem to enjoy it. When it looked a little rough, I called to them and they stopped and sat and looked at me, then the one that looked like the underdog turned and pounced the other one. So I think it was just a matter of them getting overstimulated the other nights. I've been reading Ian Dunbar's book about raising puppies, and he talks about having them go into a down/stay or settle in the middle of play and then resuming play after a little break. I'll work on teaching them this. They're great at coming when I call in the middle of play because they know there's chicken on the other end. It shouldn't be too hard to teach them to stop and go down, as long as there are treats!
 

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Good news: I've been putting my hands in the dogs' mouths today and they've been very gentle, so I think the bite inhibition is there, but I need to try it when they're hyper. I've also been watching them play and they both seem to enjoy it. When it looked a little rough, I called to them and they stopped and sat and looked at me, then the one that looked like the underdog turned and pounced the other one. So I think it was just a matter of them getting overstimulated the other nights. I've been reading Ian Dunbar's book about raising puppies, and he talks about having them go into a down/stay or settle in the middle of play and then resuming play after a little break. I'll work on teaching them this. They're great at coming when I call in the middle of play because they know there's chicken on the other end. It shouldn't be too hard to teach them to stop and go down, as long as there are treats!
I think you "got it". lol good luck with the pups. I'd really like a 2nd st poodle as a playmate. They really know how to play well with one another as their in the same mindset. Maybe one day Renn isn't quite trained to the point I want but we are getting there. If I do take in a second it will be a rescue, as we have a great rescue local.
 
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