Biting at the park

Discussion in 'General Dog Training' started by bellapup, Nov 11, 2008.

  1. bellapup Well-Known Member

    I know I've mentioned this before, but I've noticed something a bit different now when Bella and I are at the dog park. When she gets excited wrestling and playing with the other dogs, she also becomes more "bitey". After a heavy play, I'll reach down to pat her and she'll bite my hand. I know part of it is because of the excitement around her...but I wonder if it's because in play the dogs have been biting her that hard, so she thinks it's okay to do it.

    Bella's gotten pretty good now with the no bite command at home, and I use the same principles at the park, but for some reason the more hyper she gets, she more she feels she wants to bite, and it's harder than she does at home. She's never bitten hard enough to draw blood, but she did once jump up to bite my elbow with no provocation...and bruised my arm in the process. She's never done this with anyone else at the park, thank goodness...but why is she doing it to me at all?

    Is there a reason why she does this only at the park and only when she's been playing hard? What can I do to stop her at the park?

  2. snooks Experienced Member

    Excitement and stress are two reasons that she might be doing this. My shy dog gets very snarky taking treats and that's when I know that even if I don't see anything she does. So we stop and practice some calming exercises and she chills out and we continue. I suggest if she touches teeth to skin at home that you walk wordlessly and calmly from the room and close a door or step over a kiddie gate. Teach her that teeth get her ignored.

    Watch how you play with her. She doesn't get to do teeth then either. People that playfully reach in and grab the dog’s nose to shake them then pull away the hand are actually exciting prey drive. This is also one way people training dogs for bite work agitate them. So watch what you're teaching when you play. I would avoid petting her while she's playing at the park. Could you toss treats or do some mini obedience lessons for a few seconds at the park with really yummy treats. Anything you can do to reward calming down like a down or a sit etc will encourage calmer behavior.

    Two books I recommend are Calming Signals, On Talking Terms with Dogs, by Turid Rugaas. There is a version that comes with a book and DVD. I also very much recommend Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt. Leslie's book is geared toward the reactive dog, which your dog certainly is. It's my favorite most thumbed book and my bible. I have a shy reactive dog and it has been invaluable in helping her be confident and calm. Leslie's book is a lot of detail but very valuable. Turid's book is short, has very brief examples and helps tell you how to read your dog's body language and calm them in turn with yours.

    With a clicker and some treats you ought to be able to start on the road to no bites. You may need to control distance and be sure your experiences at the park are positive. Maybe set up play dates with known calm dogs for a while. Just try to set up for success and make sure she's well-exercised and tired when you go to the park. A dog park is no replacement for interactive exercise and training. You might in general increase her exercise. A tired dog is a lot less likely to be reactive and bitey.

    If your dog bites you at home I might snap on a leash or let her drag one for a while with the loop cut so it doesn't get caught. Go do a mini obedience training session that is up and fun and has treats. This enforces that dogs in the house do as you say but that it is fun and positive and rewarded.

    Pick up all the toys for a while too and give her toys periodically when you want her to play with them. If you control all the resources and are the giver of fun things then you have a little more power in the relationship. This can be temporary until you feel you have things on the right track.
  3. bellapup Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the pointers, snooks. At home, Bella gets lots of reinforcement concerning biting, so once in a long while she'll forget herself but when I do the ah-ah bit, she's good about letting go immediately and looking like I just spanked her, even though I've never done so.

    I'll just have to make sure not to try to get affectionate at the park, then. I just can't help it sometimes, she's so cute!
  4. snooks Experienced Member

    You are very welcome. I hear you about it being hard to resist a cute puppy face. Esp when they're all excited and waggy. Notice I made no claims of being perfect. It's a work in progress. :msngiggle: My nippy girl sends her best wishes to yours.

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