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How to I teach my puppy not to bite my trouser-legs?


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#1 BNM1980

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Posted 07 December 2008 - 11:24 PM

Hello,

This is my first post. I am looking for some advice on dealing with a problem that is occurring during walks.

Blake is my 5-month old border collie. We live at the edge of the city (a two-minute walk from mountains and forest) and our dog is a family pet.

He is very sweet and clever and basic training is going well. He's doing all his sits, stays, downs, etc. and is also getting the hang of loose-lead walking and recall. He's very quiet at home, and so far has not shown any aggression whatsoever. So far so good.

But the problem is this: Sometimes, during our walks, he goes into what I guess is "herding mode". He starts by biting at the lead and when I say "No" he starts biting at my trouser-legs. He's not nipping or gripping my ankles, just tugging at the cuffs of my pants. When I say "No", he gets even more excited and the problem escalates. I am trying to keep negative input to a minimal, so aside from saying "No" all I have been doing (as stopgap until I get some advice) is stopping in my tracks, standing on the lead and waiting. I want him to make the connection: If he bites my trouser-legs, we stop. Some days are better than others. Today it only happened once, briefly. Yesterday I spent half the walk battling him.

I know he's still a puppy, but I feel that he should be learning that this behavior is not okay. I also know border collies have the herding instinct and that it can't be trained out, but I am from New Zealand and have also seen how things work on sheep farms. I know for a fact that no farmer on earth would tolerate his dogs going for his trouser-legs! So I trust that this behavior can be brought under control. As for outlets, he is getting hours of exercise (walks off-lead in the forest, jogs in the park, fetch, tug-o-war) and lots of attention and training. What I want to know is how to deal with this behavior. Do I wait it out? Distract him with a toy? Use a correction?

Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

Regards,

óBen.

#2 Root Beer

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 12:01 AM

Yesterday I spent half the walk battling him.


If I had this problem, I would end the battle, although I'd probably go about doing that differently from most folks. :rolleyes: I avoid "battles of wills" with my dogs by teaching them that to get what they want, they need to do what I want.

Since he knows a down, you could use that to settle him when he gets into this excited state and to give him the chance to earn the chance to walk with you.

Any time the dog started to grab at the leash and/or pant leg, I would stop, have the dog lie down (I chose to do this in a very matter of fact, neutral, or even quite pleasant tone) for a 10 second break. Then I would release and start walking again.

That would probably be my first course of action since I would expect that to be a pretty quick fix.

If that didn't do the trick, I would teach a very solid "leave it". Since your dog tugs, you could use the tug toy to teach a "give" and "leave it" within the context of the game. Once the dog knows the "give" and "leave it", I might try using those cues to stop the leash/pant leg grabbing.

I'd try the downs first, though.

I wish you the best. Treasure this time. They grow up way too fast!

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#3 Alaska

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 02:58 AM

"Leave it" is what worked for me. As Kristine says, train it first on things it's easier for the dog to give up, then apply it to this problem once the general concept is understood.

Unlike Kristine, however, I would not use "leave it" to stop a tug game. Tugging is a sanctioned game that I initiate (with "take it") and I stop (the word I use is "drop"). I use "leave it" to ask the dog to stop an activity that it has initiated but that I don't approve of. I believe it is less confusing for the dog if "leave it" is only applied to activities that are never sanctioned by me. That way if the dog hears "leave it", it knows that it wasn't supposed to be doing what it was doing. I certainly don't want the dog to think that about tug games in general.

While I was still getting the "leave it" cue established, I just froze if the dog started grabbing (shoes, in my case) while I was walking. This stopped the behavior temporarily, but I never managed to extinquish it until I was able to stop it with "leave it".

#4 Root Beer

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 10:11 AM

Unlike Kristine, however, I would not use "leave it" to stop a tug game.


Oh, I don't use "leave it" in my actual tug game. My word is "give". And I do teach "take" and "give".

My "leave it" isn't really a "not supposed to do it" per se. When I teach "leave it", I use food and sometimes I release my dog to the food that has been left alone and sometimes I don't - but I make the release very clear all along. So I might say, "leave it" . . . pause . . . "OK, get it!" Or, I might say, "leave it" and not release the dog to go get it, but move on to something else.

So to "proof" a "leave it", I might put the tug on the ground and say, "leave it" and have my dog do a training exercise (say, a tunnel) and then I will release the dog to the tug (the dog will then drive to the tug and bring it to me for the game). This is actually a tough, tough exercise for some dogs to learn (if tug driven, of course) but it is a very powerful self-control exercise. I've been working on this with Dean, too, and he really struggles to do two things before I release him to the tug! He can easily leave the tug alone and do one task, but it is really stretching his self discipline to do two things before going to the tug.

The cool thing about that is that it not only strengthens the leave it, but it doesn't inhibit tug drive - in fact, it builds it. This is one of those cool two for one training games.

I guess for me "leave it" means "leave it until/unless I release you to it". Sometimes that means the dog never gets the thing, but sometimes it does, too.

With the pant leg thing, in the initial stages of using the "leave it", I would still probably have the dog lie down and reward heavily for leaving the leg alone. Of course, I wouldn't release the dog back to the leg, but move on to walking.

Like anything, it doesn't confuse the dog if the rules are consistent.

Kristine
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#5 Ms.DaisyDuke

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 10:32 AM

I never really had that problem when we were on walks, BUT, if the phone rings and someone gets up fast to get it, you might just loose your achiles tendon! This is a bit different than your situation I think because, the fast movments of someone rushing for the phone would then put Daisy into a state of high arousal. Our solution to this was to either walk very, very slowly or if she started at our ankles, just stop dead in our tracks and turn our back on her.

I would try the down since it's a comamnd he already knows while working on a solid "leave-it", once he's got the leave-it and if your still having problems by that point, then transfer the leave it to your pants too.

#6 bc4ever

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 10:37 AM

Welcome to the boards! As you can see already, you're going to get lots of good advice.

We like pictures here too. Hint Hint :rolleyes:

I agree--five months old. Wow. Enjoy this time with Blake.They grow up way too fast! Scooter just turned four December 3rd. I miss the puppy days (99% of the time) LOL!

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#7 BNM1980

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 11:34 AM

We like pictures here too. Hint Hint :rolleyes:


Here you go. :D

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Posted Image

Thanks for your suggestions and advice everyone. I agree that it's a great idea to put him into a down when he goes for my pant-legs. The problem is, when he's one of these moods, he won't listen to a word I say. Believe me, I've tried!

But it's still a great suggestion. I just need to work on his consistency.

#8 Lenajo

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 11:34 AM

I take a pretty hard line on teeth touching any part of a human. I would stop moving, and give a sharp loud NO and follow up as necessary with a leash pop to get his attention. It sometimes also helps to follow up by walking into his space - basically "walking on his toes" if he doesn't get out of the way, chiding verbally all the way.

You don't have to be cruel - but you do need to sound and act serious. Make a mountain of a molehill...would be a good description of it. Act as if he's just bitten the neighbor's child in the leg instead of your work pants. It puts perspective on where this is going...

Heel biting/trouser tearing is a leading way that dogs get reported as "aggressive". Most often they aren't aggressive, just insufficiently informed at a young age that the behavior is never acceptable.

eta - I don't use down to correct a dog. The problem is not that he's standing, the problem is the use of his mouth in your space/on your body. And what will you do if he doesn't down? The further you get from the original problem, the least likely he is to associate what you are doing with what he was doing.

#9 BNM1980

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 11:52 AM

I take a pretty hard line on teeth touching any part of a human. I would stop moving, and give a sharp loud NO and follow up as necessary with a leash pop to get his attention. It sometimes also helps to follow up by walking into his space - basically "walking on his toes" if he doesn't get out of the way, chiding verbally all the way.

You don't have to be cruel - but you do need to sound and act serious. Make a mountain of a molehill...would be a good description of it. Act as if he's just bitten the neighbor's child in the leg instead of your work pants. It puts perspective on where this is going...

Heel biting/trouser tearing is a leading way that dogs get reported as "aggressive". Most often they aren't aggressive, just insufficiently informed at a young age that the behavior is never acceptable.

eta - I don't use down to correct a dog. The problem is not that he's standing, the problem is the use of his mouth in your space/on your body. And what will you do if he doesn't down? The further you get from the original problem, the least likely he is to associate what you are doing with what he was doing.


This is food for thought.

On the advice of an on-line trainer, I've been letting my dog mouth my hands and only saying, "Ah, ah" when he bites really hard. The idea is to teach him bite inhibition first and then teach him to stop biting altogether.

Do you think it's better to just come down on any kind of biting in a firm but fair way, even at 5 months?

This matter is especially important to me because I have a four year old daughter and there are a lot of kids where I live.

#10 Root Beer

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 12:05 PM

eta - I don't use down to correct a dog.


Just to clarify - neither do I. There were no corrections involved in my suggestions. You know, Lenajo, that I don't use corrections to teach my dogs, nor do I suggest it to others. (No judgment on anyone implied - I just don't want anyone to think I'm suggesting using a down as a correction)

Whether or not the OP chooses to handle this with a correction is up to him, but if he chooses not to, I have provided a suggestion that I have found to work, and work pretty quickly.

And what will you do if he doesn't down?


I'd make a mental note of it and work on it separately. Regardless of whether you choose to use it as I would to teach the dog to settle and move on in this case, it's a pretty important skill to take time to teach solidly.

Kristine
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#11 Lenajo

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 12:11 PM

Ime I don't find mouthing hands as the same as grabbing pants legs.

The flappiness of trouser legs is the problem here - basically is rewarding even when you stop moving. If you are having good result with the squeal/stop moving if you bite my hand game, I'd try a more definate (louder and shriller) verson on the pants. The goal is that he stops and goes "wow, that was not good". You need to act like the cloth is skin.

Can you get a local trainer? There really isn't any substitute for that online. I can't see your pup, but yes, my own pups have long since stopped mouthing hands by 5 months. Trouser leg swinging is never allowed to get started at all.

#12 BNM1980

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 12:14 PM

I would stop moving, and give a sharp loud NO and follow up as necessary with a leash pop to get his attention. It sometimes also helps to follow up by walking into his space - basically "walking on his toes" if he doesn't get out of the way, chiding verbally all the way.


I'll give your suggestion a try and let you know how it pans out.

Thanks again everyone.

#13 BNM1980

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 12:24 PM

Lenajo, your pups stopped mouthing by five months? Wow! How did you achieve that? Does that mean your dogs are especially well-trained, or that my dog is behind in his training? I thought it was normal for dogs to mouth right up until adolescence.

He's not biting hard, just mouthing, chewing on sleeves, zippers, etc. I say "No," of course, but I've been pretty tolerant of it because I thought it was just what puppies do. Do you think I should take a stronger stance?

No, unfortunately, there are no trainers available where I live. That is why I have paid for an on-line course and am joining forums such as this one.

#14 Ninso

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 01:04 PM

I'll just add my 2 cents, since you said when the pup gets into pants-biting mode he stops listening so you can't really down him. I have a dog kind of like that, though not as bad, since she's about a year old, but she definitely gets into puppy play mode once in awhile and goes a little crazy and won't listen to commands she usually knows well. I usually just use a time-out in these situations--your puppy is still young and won't always be able to use self control, so a time-out is a good way to teach some. If I was in your situation and my pup didn't listen, I would probably just pick him up, walk home and stick him in his crate for awhile. It looks from the pics like he is still small enough to pick up. Then, I might also limit the length of walks until he was able to control himself. For example, if I was fairly certain he could control himself for a walk down the block and back, I would start with that and gradually increase distance as he was able to remain good. I also think that if he did get out of control, I would probably do exactly what you're doing. Just stop and hold his leash really short and make things as boring for him as possible until he calmed down. Then when he is calm, praise him and continue the walk. If he still couldn't calm down after a couple of tries, I'd just end the walk there, pick him up and carry him home for a rest in his crate.
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#15 Bo Peep

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 01:23 PM

Hello,

This is my first post. I am looking for some advice on dealing with a problem that is occurring during walks.

Blake is my 5-month old border collie. We live at the edge of the city (a two-minute walk from mountains and forest) and our dog is a family pet.

He is very sweet and clever and basic training is going well. He's doing all his sits, stays, downs, etc. and is also getting the hang of loose-lead walking and recall. He's very quiet at home, and so far has not shown any aggression whatsoever. So far so good.

But the problem is this: Sometimes, during our walks, he goes into what I guess is "herding mode". He starts by biting at the lead and when I say "No" he starts biting at my trouser-legs. He's not nipping or gripping my ankles, just tugging at the cuffs of my pants. When I say "No", he gets even more excited and the problem escalates. I am trying to keep negative input to a minimal, so aside from saying "No" all I have been doing (as stopgap until I get some advice) is stopping in my tracks, standing on the lead and waiting. I want him to make the connection: If he bites my trouser-legs, we stop. Some days are better than others. Today it only happened once, briefly. Yesterday I spent half the walk battling him.

I know he's still a puppy, but I feel that he should be learning that this behavior is not okay. I also know border collies have the herding instinct and that it can't be trained out, but I am from New Zealand and have also seen how things work on sheep farms. I know for a fact that no farmer on earth would tolerate his dogs going for his trouser-legs! So I trust that this behavior can be brought under control. As for outlets, he is getting hours of exercise (walks off-lead in the forest, jogs in the park, fetch, tug-o-war) and lots of attention and training. What I want to know is how to deal with this behavior. Do I wait it out? Distract him with a toy? Use a correction?

Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

Regards,

óBen.


I'm jumping in here late, but have you tried just using your voice with a simple uttt- then keep walking with him on your pant leg- not fun for the pup. He'll soon realize that walking next to you is much more fun than hanging onto a pant leg going down the street. Sometimes when bad behavior is ignored, it clears itself up. Just my 2 cents here. Does he just do this on walks? Is it in the house also?

It sound like you are doing wonderful with a young pup. He's so cute it (almost) wants me to get another puppy.

Also a BIG welcome to the boards!
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#16 bc4ever

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 01:58 PM

Here you go. :D

Posted Image
Posted Image
Posted Image



AWWWW...HE'S ADORABLE!!! Fluffy puppy fur...so sweet. Thanks--I needed my fix for the day! :rolleyes:

Good luck! You'll find lots of suggestions and help here, and eventually you'll figure out what works for you and Blake. :D

#17 Lenajo

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 02:44 PM

It's really not good to compare pups - it's like comparing kids. Everybody else's always seem to be "different" :D You and your pup are on your own journey, and will find what works best of the suggestions you've been given. First and foremost though, you have to define you own limits - then once you've got it clear, figure out what it will take to get the pup to live happily within them

Regarding my own pups.....I'm very fortunate that I've grown up in a dog savvy home, and now train myself, so lots of experience is on our side. Since no one here tolerates mouthing, it goes away very quickly. We don't like it, and also it must stop because we have seniors and babies with fragile thin skin in the family, and a mouthing pup can cause lots of damage!

I've read and listend to lectures a great deal about the "soft mouth" concern you've discussed here. I think some things are valid (yes, people can come down to hard on normal puppy inquisitiveness, resulting in a puppy with poor mouth control) but the learning process is often allowed to go on, and on, and on sometimes unnecessarily and to no valid point.

As I've told my students - torn clothing and bloody scrapes are not ever acceptable. His mother and littermates would never tolerate it that long.

eta_ just saw the pics :D Got quite the hair-do doesn't he :rolleyes: Looking forward to seeing him grow up.


Lenajo, your pups stopped mouthing by five months? Wow! How did you achieve that? Does that mean your dogs are especially well-trained, or that my dog is behind in his training? I thought it was normal for dogs to mouth right up until adolescence.

He's not biting hard, just mouthing, chewing on sleeves, zippers, etc. I say "No," of course, but I've been pretty tolerant of it because I thought it was just what puppies do. Do you think I should take a stronger stance?

No, unfortunately, there are no trainers available where I live. That is why I have paid for an on-line course and am joining forums such as this one.



#18 urge to herd

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 05:19 PM

That last pic makes him seem a little Lyle Lovettish, don't you think? He's adorable!

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#19 AliciaB

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Posted 08 December 2008 - 07:21 PM

My puppy, now almosy 4 months did the same thing. It drove me crazy. I wouldn't be able to get through a walk without him doing that the majority of the time. I don't know if this is commonly recommended, but I talked to a woman with two dogs who taught them not to bite by holding the dog's mouth shut, looking into the dogs eyes, and saying, "No bite." Obviously, don't hurt the dog or act mad. Then you continue on the walk and if he does it again, stop and do the same thing over and over. My dog doesn't do that anymore and when he's tempted, I tell him "no bite" before he does it. When he doesn't bite, I praise him. He hasn't gotten aggressive on me or anything. He's the happiest dog ever, but that worked for me.
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#20 BNM1980

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Posted 09 December 2008 - 01:00 PM

It sometimes also helps to follow up by walking into his space - basically "walking on his toes" if he doesn't get out of the way, chiding verbally all the way.

You don't have to be cruel - but you do need to sound and act serious. Make a mountain of a molehill...would be a good description of it. Act as if he's just bitten the neighbor's child in the leg instead of your work pants. It puts perspective on where this is going...


Lenajo, I'm very grateful for your advice. Today I did what you said. When he went for the bottoms of my pants, I just kind of stepped into his space, making him back up, and chiding him like I really mean business—and it worked. I didn't step on any toes, but I think he got a bit of a fright. I only had to do it once and then we had a trouble-free walk for the first time.

I guess the problem was that stopping in my tracks was a neutral response. He stopped out of boredom, but it didn't tell him that what he was doing was wrong, and so the problem kept resurfacing. And my "No! No! No!" must have been just a lot of senseless barking to him.

It must be the combined use of body language and tone of voice that got the message across. Whatever the reason, your suggestion worked like a charm!

Thanks again!


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