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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I will start by saying that Oona (11 weeks) is totally normal in her mouthy behavior, and we are working with her on it and seeing some improvement (with some predictable backsliding). She is worse with me and my kid, I think because my husband's deep "hey!" correction got her attention early on. With me and my daughter, she does not seem overly sensitive and sometimes does not respond at all to our "hey" or "off" when she is really wound up. When a toy is at hand, I can usually distract her with it, but not always, and there are times when we get kind of trapped unable to distract/deter her and with her getting increasingly excited by the game of being "detached" or pushed back and then going in for more biting. I'm usually able to stay very focused and can get out of the situation with it's my clothes or hands, but when she bites my bare or socked feet I have a harder time keeping composure by not dancing around, pushing her off etc, that makes it extra exciting for her. I have tried standing totally still and ignoring her and that works about half of the time (she gets bored), but sometimes it is too painful not to react which can create more fun for her. Slippers are a possibility but the ones my and my kid have are furry and she finds them even more irresistable than bare or socked feet. What are your mental or practical strategies for keeping your head when your puppy is making it very difficult? Maybe we just need tougher, less furry slippers for the time being?
 

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I leave the room. Gentle mouthing is ok to me at that age, less gentle or painful biting and I go, walk to the bathroom, and shut the door, with the puppy outside. 30s later, I come back.I may make a pained squeak to mark the moment of too much teeth before I go. If it starts again, I willl go back to the bathroom. 3rd time, and I decide the puppy needs a nap, either a cuddle with me or some crate time. Tired puppies are bitey awful puppies, and lots of puppies don't know when they need to sleep, just like human toddlers.
 

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Peggy Sue, Standard Poodle Born May 2019
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Yep, quietly exit. That's why I loved Peggy's exercise pen during her landshark phase. It was so easy to remove myself from the situation.

I'd also say that having a toy within reaching distance at all times is also very helpful.

Most importantly, research "extinction burst in dog training." Keeping this in mind will absolutely fuel your zen.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I leave the room. Gentle mouthing is ok to me at that age, less gentle or painful biting and I go, walk to the bathroom, and shut the door, with the puppy outside. 30s later, I come back.I may make a pained squeak to mark the moment of too much teeth before I go. If it starts again, I willl go back to the bathroom. 3rd time, and I decide the puppy needs a nap, either a cuddle with me or some crate time. Tired puppies are bitey awful puppies, and lots of puppies don't know when they need to sleep, just like human toddlers.
Thank you! I've tried the leaving the room (I go into the mudroom since we have no bathroom on this floor). It seemed to help the first time. The last time I tried it she turned it into a game. Maybe I need to wait longer. I doubt I took 30 whole seconds before coming back. I'll try that next time. I have also noticed she sometimes needs a nap when she's extra bitey.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Yep, quietly exit. That's why I loved Peggy's exercise pen during her landshark phase. It was so easy to remove myself from the situation.

I'd also say that having a toy within reaching distance at all times is also very helpful.

Most importantly, research "extinction burst in dog training." Keeping this in mind will absolutely fuel your zen.
Our living space unfortunately can't accommodate an exercise pen, but if I can get to the mudroom without it being too much of a dramatic exit that should work. We have also used the crate a couple of times for a time out now that she likes it and goes in willingly
I love the extinction burst - what a great concept. I'm pretty good at not responding and/or walking away (even if she is attached to my pants or something) when it's not my feet. I should probably just wear non-exciting footwear to help me. I literally can't stop myself from squealing or yelling and quickly moving my feet around to avoid the teeth, which I think does exactly what I shouldn't be doing.
 

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Peggy Sue, Standard Poodle Born May 2019
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Our living space unfortunately can't accommodate an exercise pen, but if I can get to the mudroom without it being too much of a dramatic exit that should work. We have also used the crate a couple of times for a time out now that she likes it and goes in willingly
I love the extinction burst - what a great concept. I'm pretty good at not responding and/or walking away (even if she is attached to my pants or something) when it's not my feet. I should probably just wear non-exciting footwear to help me. I literally can't stop myself from squealing or yelling and quickly moving my feet around to avoid the teeth, which I think does exactly what I shouldn't be doing.
Plain slip-on shoes definitely help. Closed toe. Sturdy sole. Because yes—if you eventually succumb to that urge to squeal and quickly move, you're teaching Oona to keep at it until the human does that fun shrieky dance!

Ahhhh puppies.....

Lol.

Truly not for the faint of heart.

If it's any consolation, most of the injuries I've gotten from puppies have been caused by the act of pulling away. That's when you get those nasty scratches. So there's another good reason to stay calm.

Can you employ baby gates in place of an x-pen?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Can you employ baby gates in place of an x-pen?
There is one place where that might be possible in the front hallway but it would not fit her crate which only fits in one place. But I've been thinking about what options we have when we eventually transition to her being in the house, so that space might work. But it would obnoxiously require 3 gates. Thanks for the suggestion!
 

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Peggy Sue, Standard Poodle Born May 2019
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Slowwwwly granting access (and sometimes taking it away) definitely helps for a smooth transition to full freedom. I wouldn't personally be too bothered by three gates if they're the easy-open kind. We used massive pieces of cardboard, which were super ugly but did the trick.
 

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We are working through this same issue with our 10-week old standard. The two things that have worked for us are:
  • Using the command "gentle" to inform him he is biting me or my clothes too hard.
  • Putting him in "time out" whenever he is biting and not responding to the "gentle" command. Time out is putting him in his play pen and setting a timer for 3-5 minutes. We take him out only when he is calm and repeat if needed if he is still biting when we take him out.
  • Giving him treats and praise whenever he responds to "gentle"
  • Giving him treats and praise whenever he plays in a more appropriate manner. I.e. bringing us toys and being focused on biting the toys instead of us.
Things that didn't work for us:
  • Making a yelp noise and pulling away when he bites too hard.
  • Turning away and ignoring him when he bites.
  • Trying to redirect his biting to toys when he was biting us.
Its definitely still a work in progress for us, and I expect many more weeks of working on it. But I'm very proud of the progress he has made already. He will do this adorable thing where he looks at my foot then look at his toy. He will then pause for a second like he is trying to figure out the right decision. Sometimes he gets it wrong and still bites my foot, but the fact that he is even pausing to think about it is a huge improvement for him.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
  • Trying to redirect his biting to toys when he was biting us.
Yeah, this one is hit or miss for us. The pushing away/coming back to bite game is more fun than just biting the toy and Oona isn't that excited about most of her toys. We have one toy (actually a pair of shoelaces tied into a knot, so fancy, lol) that she really likes and which reliably distracts her but most of the others aren't as fun to bite as we are. The redirecting only works if I succeed in making the toy more enticing than us, and sometimes that means spinning or tossing it out of reach (which defeats the purpose if it fails to get their attention). I am trying to make a push/pull game with her tug toy so that she learns she can still do that fun thing with a toy and not with my sleeve or with jumping to get our hands.
We've also found turning away not so helpful and yelping pretty useless (except the handful of times it has REALLY hurt and she gets a genuine yelp/gasp of pain - we aren't good enough actors I guess). But, a lot of the time completely stopping/ignoring works, especially with shoes/slippers and pant legs. Of course, not every time if she's feeling really persistent. And it's still a challenge for my daughter to assert herself when she's become more of a target... anyway. It's a process.

The most helpful thing we have found this week is to anticipate the times when she is most likely to jump and bite (when one of us comes downstairs, when me our my daughter sits on the couch) and try to pre-empt it with having her sit and rewarding her. We haven't been able to pre-empt it every time and there are times, like when she comes in from outdoors and is feeling high on life, when she is unable to listen, but I feel like we are getting the hang of it and seeing her improve even though she's definitely still really into it.
 

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I love that you are anticipating the situations when Oona is going to misbehave and redirecting her to another appropriate task. Continuing what you are doing will make everything happier and easier. Well done!
 

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Yeah, this one is hit or miss for us. The pushing away/coming back to bite game is more fun than just biting the toy and Oona isn't that excited about most of her toys. We have one toy (actually a pair of shoelaces tied into a knot, so fancy, lol) that she really likes and which reliably distracts her but most of the others aren't as fun to bite as we are. The redirecting only works if I succeed in making the toy more enticing than us, and sometimes that means spinning or tossing it out of reach (which defeats the purpose if it fails to get their attention). I am trying to make a push/pull game with her tug toy so that she learns she can still do that fun thing with a toy and not with my sleeve or with jumping to get our hands.
We've also found turning away not so helpful and yelping pretty useless (except the handful of times it has REALLY hurt and she gets a genuine yelp/gasp of pain - we aren't good enough actors I guess). But, a lot of the time completely stopping/ignoring works, especially with shoes/slippers and pant legs. Of course, not every time if she's feeling really persistent. And it's still a challenge for my daughter to assert herself when she's become more of a target... anyway. It's a process.

The most helpful thing we have found this week is to anticipate the times when she is most likely to jump and bite (when one of us comes downstairs, when me our my daughter sits on the couch) and try to pre-empt it with having her sit and rewarding her. We haven't been able to pre-empt it every time and there are times, like when she comes in from outdoors and is feeling high on life, when she is unable to listen, but I feel like we are getting the hang of it and seeing her improve even though she's definitely still really into it.
Your pup sounds a lot like ours. He is getting better, but isn't that interested in playing with toys. Redirecting didn't work because nothing was even close to being as interesting as my hands and feet. I'm working on teaching him tug and fetch, but it feels like we have a long way to go for those.

One thing that he does love is playing a "game" where he lies on his back and I wave my hands around then dive them in to rub his belly. Playing that and then putting him in "time out" when he starts biting to much has been a game changer.

Our guy also gets more bitey when he is tired. When he starts to go full, uncontrollable land shark, I put him in his pen and he usually is fast asleep immediately.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
One thing that he does love is playing a "game" where he lies on his back and I wave my hands around then dive them in to rub his belly. Playing that and then putting him in "time out" when he starts biting to much has been a game changer.
That sounds like a great game that Oona would like. I'm going to try it! I find Oona is very food motivated but haven't developed a lot of games/activities that are more attractive than biting us, so what has been happening is she either switches modes - into a training session, which is great but means we lose the moment by moment opportunity to practice inhibiting - or she doesn't, would rather keep playing the biting game. Rewarding her with treats when she brings a toy would also end the game, so we're slowly building up the fun of fetch and tug, like you. Sounds like you've found a happy medium of a game that brings the behavior out enough to teach him but which is still fun to play without escalating into too much biting.
 

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Peggy Sue, Standard Poodle Born May 2019
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Something to keep in mind when deciding whether or not a method works...

Sometimes the best methods actually take a while to click. It can seem counter-intuitive. Like, if it works, it should WORK. Like, NOW. But if you stick with this technique, one day your puppy will surprise you by employing it herself. That's a true breakthrough moment.

Since this can take a while (and it does take real commitment—you have to be consistent and you also have to make that toy seem positively thrilling) you do need a secondary method that helps in the short-term. That's where removing yourself (or removing puppy, if that's the only way you can do it) fits in.

My approach was to always redirect first with a toy and then (when that inevitably only worked for a few seconds, if at all) calmly remove myself and count to 30. Return. Repeat. This time, if it doesn't work, I remove myself for good. Time for a puppy nap!
 

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I haven't read the other responses but will add mine anyway... To be perfectly honest, Misha was a monster when he was that age. His sole purpose in life seemed to be sinking his teeth into everything around him. He ripped four pairs of pants until I stopped wearing unripped pants around him. Nothing flowy or dangly was safe. I would hide up on the couch where he had a hard time reaching me. Squealing only made him more excited and he bit harder. Redirecting with a toy worked but only as long as I was playing with him. When he was too much I had to pen him until he settled. The mouthing subsided a little during teething but then redoubled during the last stage of teething. He grew out of most of it by 9 months.

When he was little and bitey I never played handsy games with him, but now that he is sensible he loves to play structured handsy games. The typical one we play is where I try to close his mouth with my hand around his muzzle and he tries to keep it open by holding my hand in his mouth very gently. If he bites down at all the game ends. I think this is helpful to refine his bite inhibition.
 

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I haven't read the other responses but will add mine anyway... To be perfectly honest, Misha was a monster when he was that age. His sole purpose in life seemed to be sinking his teeth into everything around him. He ripped four pairs of pants until I stopped wearing unripped pants around him. Nothing flowy or dangly was safe. I would hide up on the couch where he had a hard time reaching me. Squealing only made him more excited and he bit harder. Redirecting with a toy worked but only as long as I was playing with him. When he was too much I had to pen him until he settled. The mouthing subsided a little during teething but then redoubled during the last stage of teething. He grew out of most of it by 9 months.

When he was little and bitey I never played handsy games with him, but now that he is sensible he loves to play structured handsy games. The typical one we play is where I try to close his mouth with my hand around his muzzle and he tries to keep it open by holding my hand in his mouth very gently. If he bites down at all the game ends. I think this is helpful to refine his bite inhibition.
Very important mention there of handsy games. Remember that visitors or people you encounter while out and about won't know the "rules" of the games you play with your puppy. So never encourage behaviour that wouldn't be okay with a stranger. That's just setting your puppy up to fail.

@Raindrops, you were such a big help to me when I felt like Peggy's mouthiness would never end. She's at an age now where I can see the mental struggle play out. She knows she's not supposed to bite humans, but sometimes she gets soooooo excited. Dilemma! Teaching her how to manage these feelings was a big part of her puppy training. It was never about extinguishing the impulse. Poodles are a mouthy breed. It was about teaching her what to do with it.

Weekly playdates with her puppy class friend are also a big help. They are very good at letting each other know when the fun's gone too far. It's fascinating to watch.
 

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Very important mention there of handsy games. Remember that visitors or people you encounter while out and about won't know the "rules" of the games you play with your puppy. So never encourage behaviour that wouldn't be okay with a stranger. That's just setting your puppy up to fail.

@Raindrops, you were such a big help to me when I felt like Peggy's mouthiness would never end. She's at an age now where I can see the mental struggle play out. She knows she's not supposed to bite humans, but sometimes she gets soooooo excited. Dilemma! Teaching her how to manage these feelings was a big part of her puppy training. It was never about extinguishing the impulse. Poodles are a mouthy breed. It was about teaching her what to do with it.

Weekly playdates with her puppy class friend are also a big help. They are very good at letting each other know when the fun's gone too far. It's fascinating to watch.
Yes, I found it particularly frustrating when friends of mine would insist on playing handsy games with him. He absolutely loved it, but it made him want to immediately bite the hands of strangers who tried to play with him. Even though I tried very hard to never allow it. Now that he is an adult, I like to encourage a soft mouth (I think I've seen Lily cd re talk about this) by allowing a hand to be in his mouth as long as he is super gentle with it and not applying any pressure. This lets me teach him what the specific boundaries are. But they have to be mature enough to be able to grasp this. Until they are, it's just asking for trouble. I do try to take pity on him because he doesn't have hands and so they use a mouth like a hand. It's just important to teach them the boundaries the same way a child must be taught not to hit, punch, pinch, or grab with their hands.

With children, it's so hard because many of the "fun" ways of playing with a puppy encourage bad behaviors. It's important to explain to kids that if you let a puppy chase your hands or feet in one circumstance, you cannot be mad at them when they always want to chase your hands and feet.

I have a bit of a time-out correction I have used with Misha where I hold his muzzle with my hand (not hard at all, just to hold him still and make eye contact) and hold his collar. I look him in the eyes and ask for a sit very calmly and firmly. After he sits and visibly calms down while giving me his attention, he is released. This has worked well to stop shenanigans when he is overly excited. But probably wouldn't have worked when he was baby-young. Nothing would have worked when he was little.
 

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With children, it's so hard because many of the "fun" ways of playing with a puppy encourage bad behaviors.
And men! Sorry guys, but you are notorious roughhousers. This actually became a point of contention with my father-in-law, and I don't think he ever really understood where I was coming from. He just assumed I was being an over-protective buzzkill.

There was also someone who liked to offer Peggy her leash to chew instead of their hands/clothes. Eeeeeesh.
 

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And men! Sorry guys, but you are notorious roughhousers. This actually became a point of contention with my father-in-law, and I don't think he ever really understood where I was coming from. He just assumed I was being an over-protective buzzkill.

There was also someone who liked to offer Peggy her leash to chew instead of their hands/clothes. Eeeeeesh.
Yes. I have friends that would be like "I know I'm not supposed to play with you like this but we're going to do it anyway" and it drove me nuts... like haha it's not my puppy so I don't have to deal with the consequences of this...
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Just coming back to report that Oona's mouthiness has improved so much since I posted this a few weeks ago! It's not totally gone, but when she does mouth or nip it's way more gentle and she's much less fixated/relentless about it, she sort of does it half-heartedly and then usually stops or can be distracted with a task or toy. She still likes our slippers but is likelier to try to steal them when they're off our feet than attack them when they're on. She has also gotten much better about the jumping and humping/biting my coat when out walking, though it does sometimes come out when she's excited or overtired.

I think it was a combination of things. I don't really know what helped the most, and it could just be a phase she's outgrowing. She had a lower canine removed that had been making a hole in her palate - so it no doubt feels better to close her mouth all the way now - maybe her biting had been exacerbated by her mouth issue. Two weeks ago I started a puppy class that encouraged us to use brief time-outs in her crate for undesirable behavior, which might have been one of the most helpful things for us - it seems to diffuse things better than leaving the room ourselves which became its own fun game for her. When she started to "get it" she also began to respond to my "ouch!" and stop mouthing right away. Now I can even exaggerate it and give her an "ow!" even when she's mouthing pretty gently and she looks at me like "whoa, humans are soooo delicate." We also got some new toys that like that she really likes to bite, (softer like sweaters and with squeakers and rusty plastic bits) so they're more enticing distractions than what we had before.

One thing I've noticed is that it still comes on when she's excited or has nervous energy - with us, and with others. From us, though, she loves pats and scratches and that is a calming reward that she hasn't really learned to seek from other people. She started out as somewhat shy with strangers and is coming out of her shell. When she's meeting new people she has gotten braver and friendlier and will approach with a wag and sniff and will now accept a few pats, and then sometimes she starts to bow and woof and may mouth at their hands or shoes or pants. It's still very playful and gentle, but it's not the best thing and I don't want it to escalate, especially since I believe it's partly out of nervous excitement. I'd much prefer to see licking and waggy wiggling than bowing and jumping and mouthing at hands. One of our close friends is very patient and has been able to help her work through a little mouthiness but not every person she meets will tolerate that or be able to hang around that long. She's been oh-so-gentle with the toddlers and babies she's met (very soft and likes to offer kisses) and the most excitable/questionable with older kids and adults especially once/if they stand up. Other than to give her time, any advice on nipping this in the bud (pun intended)? We are already giving willing strangers treats to offer her at the first encounter and telling people she's a little shy and to let her come to them and to wait for my ok to pet her. Maybe calling her away after the treat, before she gets the chance to get into an excited routine, especially with real strangers? Or, I feed her treats while she accepts pats from someone she is building trust with? Institute a must-be sitting or crouching rule? Other ideas? I don't want to keep her from meeting people but I also want to tread carefully.
 
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