Mouthy Dog And Hand-feeding Treats

Discussion in 'General Dog Training' started by brodys_mom, Apr 18, 2013.

  1. brody_smom Experienced Member

    My 9 month old rescue pup is a bit of a mouthy boy, to say the least. We have tried most of the recommended techniques for curbing this behavior, but I am not seeing enough progress. Saying "ouch" or "yip" in a loud high-pitched voice only excites him, and he thinks it's part of the game, so he goes in for another bite. Standing up and walking away doesn't seem to impact him, as he quickly finds something else to occupy his little mind. I have heard and read that we should never allow the dog's teeth to touch our skin, but this happens so much when hand-delivering treats, especially when I am rewarding him for proper positioning on loose-leash training. I find it difficult to juggle the leash, the clicker, the treats and sometimes a full poop bag, so I end up holding a few treats in my hand and then trying to just feed him one treat out of the same hand. He often pinches my finger with his teeth as he takes the treat, which is reinforced by the treat he receives. I noticed kikopup places the treat behind her on the ground in her loose-leash walking video. I started doing this on our walk this morning, but I wonder if I should be delivering all his rewards this way, so that he will never be reinforced for putting his teeth on my skin. I know for some trick training, you can toss the treat away to reset before repeating the behavior. Would this work for basic obedience training, or is hand-delivery essential?
    MaryK likes this.

  2. Dogster Honored Member

    I don't think hand-delivery is essential. I throw Shivon's treats on the ground, even though she doesn't bite my hands. She gets more excited when I deliver the treat on the ground. Have you tried delivering the treat on the palm of your hand??

    Kikopup has a great video specifically for treat delivery:

    You could also try to teach Brody "leave it" to leave your hand alone:
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  3. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I do mostly deliver with a flat palm when we are just in the house or the yard. It's when we are walking that things get a little out of hand, if we are moving quickly or jogging and I want to reward him for a loose leash or for ignoring other dogs or people. Of course, if we are moving quickly, I'd pretty much have to stop to put the treat on the ground, so that wouldn't work either. I don't know if this is normal for young dogs (I've never had one before), but just as he seems to be improving in one area, he starts losing ground in another.
    MaryK likes this.
  4. blacknym Experienced Member

    I think he will even out. I tell Deja gentle when she gets to mouthy with me. I hold the treat she earned until she is gentle then she get the treat. So say i asked her to jog along with me, which makes her excited, and she nips at the treat she just earned, i hold it until she is gentle with my hand then she gets it. she still gets mouthy with me when excited but this makes her think and im hopsing she learns. She is still young as well.
    MaryK likes this.
  5. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I just came home from a walk. I usually walk him first thing when he comes out of his crate, but it was raining really hard and he is very reactive to rain. I couldn't hold out forever, so we went even though it was still raining, but I thought we might as well get some counter conditioning in. He normally really freaks out when we get to the gutter drains when the water is running in, so I have to slow him down and 'approach with caution'. He actually did really well, and I did what you were saying about telling him "gentle" before he got his treat. This worked so nicely, it seemed to calm him down even more, and he was actually able to put his front paws on the edge of the drain and eat his treats off the top of it. This is real progress for him. I am so pleased. I actually didn't realize how big an issue the rain was for him, because it was raining pretty much every day for the first while after we got him. He was so jumpy and mouthy on our walks I had bruises all over my upper arms from him nipping at me. I know now that he was so frightened of cars passing in the rain, as well as the water rushing down the drains that he would jump up and nip at my arms. I am really starting to understand what the experts mean when they say that dog training is more about training the owners. I need to get myself inside his lemon-brain, and expect less, but get excited about the tiniest steps in the right direction.

    I am also so thankful for this forum where I can share things like this with people who not only understand, but maybe were where I am once, and can be excited with me. We are a family of seven, but nobody but me is putting much faith in Brody's improvement, so I don't feel like I can really share these accomplishments with anyone here at home without getting negative comments. Thank you to Jean for this site and for all of the members and moderators who make it such a great place!
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  6. 648117 Honored Member

    You could throw the treats on the ground, especially with tricks at home.
    But I would be careful with throwing the treats when teaching loose leash walking as I believe it made Holly a much more "sniffy" dog then she migh have been if I hand fed her. I'll explain...
    When Holly was a puppy she was very nippy (she still likes to play mouthy games) and when I started to train her loose leash walking she basically shredded the ends of my fingers with her sharp little puppy teeth, it looked like they were covered in paper cuts :( .
    So then I thought I would drop the treats on the ground to save my fingers (with the added bonus of not having to reach down (Holly is very short)). It worked great and she would walk with a loose leash, but it had consequences..... it meant that Holly would stop to get the treat and if she missed it she then wanted to pull backwards to get it (she sometimes stopped suddenly), she also started to walk with her head down waiting for/searching for the treat, she is also now an expert at picking up small items without even slowing down O_o.
    So even though she could loose leash walk I had to start retraining her to put her head up and pay attention to me more. Holly was probably going to be a very "sniffy" dog anyway (she is very food motivated) but I do think that dropping the treats made her connect food with the ground and made her more interested in the environment.

    But it will depend on the individual dog, that's just my experience with Holly
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  7. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I can see how that could become a problem. I think the kikopup video showed Emily (the trainer) calling the pup back when the leash became tight, then she placed the piece of food on the ground behind her back foot, so as to train the dog to stay behind (ie, where the food is) rather than pulling ahead. I actually tried this on one fairly long walk, but I was having to do it so often that my back got sore from bending down so much. Sometimes Brody is so good on a walk, he is pretty much in heel position, looking right up at me the whole way, even though we are not working on heeling, and I haven't given him a command at all. Other times, it's like I'm not even there!
    MaryK likes this.
  8. MaryK Honored Member

    I know where you're coming from Brody's Mom on two counts. A nippy youngster and no-one else in the house interested in either your challenges or triumphs and I too and so thankful for this forum and all the wonderful people who both help and applaud(y):D

    First, Ra Kismet was VERY nippy/mouthy as a puppy. I had more scratches and bruises than I've ever had, even out blackberrying, I was smothered in them.

    What I did with the mouthing/nipping inside, was to just quietly walk away (trying also not to pull faces dogs read those too) and ignore him. He did finally get the message that nipping/rough mouthing just got him totally ignored.

    Same problem on his walks. I used the flat palm, which is tricky but can be done if you keep just the edge of the treat under your thumb, holding my hand back or at my side. You may still get the odd nip on the thumb, but it's an improvement over totally shredded fingers as Holly's Mom suffered.

    It does take a while with a nippy dog to get them to realize we're human and have tight skin and are not, as a whole, hirsute.

    That he's nipped when confronted with rushing water etc. is due to the fact he's actually trying to protect you from something he perceives as 'dangerous - avoid - danger Mom". He could also be a little afraid too as to him it's a dangerous situation and therefore best avoided. Grabbing, i.e. nipping, is the only way he knows how to warn you, but it does hurt!

    For example, my late German Shepherd was in the garden (back home) with my late Mom. She was burning off leaves and he perceived this as 'danger'. He grabbed my Mom's arm and literally dragged her away from the fire danger. Fortunately she knew dogs and thanked him even though LOL she wasn't in any danger.

    Nipping can sometimes be a way of the dog warning you of perceived danger. It is also, like human children, a way of exploring their new world, albeit a painful one to the recipients.:rolleyes:

    Broyd's a smart dog, he'll 'get it' though it can take time and of course, you already use loads of love, treats and patience:)
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  9. blacknym Experienced Member

    I'm so glad it had helped.

    Keep going lady!! You will see break throughs even if they small. :D Brody is lucky to have you. :)
    MaryK likes this.
  10. jackienmutts Honored Member

    You've already been given lots of good advice, and it sounds like you're doing a great job with him so far. I did have one suggestion for when treat-dispensing when you're working on loose-leash walking .... cuz you need one more thing to hold. :ROFLMAO: While he's still in "nip-mode", you may want to try using something like a "lickety stick" or something like "Easy Cheese" (or something like it - human cheese you squeeze out of a can onto crackers, not a dog treat) - that way he could lick his treat rather than snatching it. Two things happen: your fingers are safe, and he gets to lick his treat (and licking helps to calm some dogs). It may be a win/win. You'd only have to give one tiny lick. I sometimes use Easy Cheese, depending on what we're working on - and only give maybe 1/4" of cheese to my big guys, just a tiny taste, and they're very happy (and they LOVE licking that nozzle!).
    Dogster, MaryK and brodys_mom like this.
  11. ackerleynelson Well-Known Member

    I don't think that hand delivery is necessary as you can give the treats on ground also and pets love to have it on the floor also but if you think that your furry friend is not giving good response then you can also get him trained from a good trainer.
    MaryK likes this.
  12. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Interesting. I'll look into those. I was also just reading Jean Donaldson's "Culture Clash" today. One of her recommendations for teaching a soft mouth is to not use a flat hand to deliver treats, but to hold it between a finger and thumb and insist upon gentleness. If there is any pressure on the fingers at all, the treat gets pulled back. I've been trying this a bit as well.

    I'm starting to feel a little paralyzed... I have so many things I need to work on with Brody, I don't know what to focus on first, or how long to spend on one thing before moving on to something else. My family is getting fed up with the fact that Brody is so reactive to new people, it is embarrassing to bring friends over because he growls and barks like crazy. My adult son brought a friend home "unannounced" the other day, a fairly tall young man with a deep voice and a beard. Brody went nuts, released his anal sacs and stunk up the house. The poor guy was so upset because he is a dog lover and has never had a dog react to him like that before. He also continues to react to my adult son and daughter when they come home in the evening, or when they come down from their bedrooms first thing in the morning. He's been with us for almost 10 weeks now. Shouldn't he be used to the people who live in the house with him?:eek:
    MaryK likes this.
  13. blacknym Experienced Member

    That is very frustrating!

    I think a good idea is to sit down and make a plan. Are your family members willing to help you and work with Brody? If so that would make things so much easier for you.

    Just a suggestion... When ever your kids come in contact with Brody they should give him a couple treats. Also they need to start feeding him in turns. This way he will learn they can be trusted and are bringers of good things. Maybe remind them of połite doggy language for these excersise as well. :)
    MaryK likes this.
  14. MaryK Honored Member

    Poor you, nothing worse than when a dog releases their anal sacs.

    Does sound like he's had a really bad time in the past with people in the house. He may have been kept outside and now considers he has to 'guard' you from strangers. Is it just with men?

    One thing which works well is to have any strangers, family, friends etc. just quietly drop treats near him, no talking to him, just a casual treat dropped down for him. Also as Blacknym has said, you need to remind everyone of what is polite doggy language too. Kikkopup has a great video on doggy language.

    Allow him to come to you, or other people. Ask people not to try to 'make friends' with Brody at this point. He still needs his space.

    Just take it one step at a time. Work on the worst problems first, don't try to do it all at once. Taking on a rescue dog is challenging but the rewards are doubled when you get that breakthrough, even a small one, you'll be dancing with joy and so proud of Brody.

    Depending on his history, a lot of dogs just shut down even when they're in a loving home, past traumas can take a while to go, so give him time, he'll make that breakthrough eventually and surprise you.

    And LOL if the family get too impatient, just remind them of their little foibles, everyone has them!
    blacknym likes this.
  15. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Maybe I should change the name of this thread to "Let's fix Brody". I don't know that there was much trauma in his past. The SPCA record indicated he lived with a woman for his entire life, his littermate sister as well and possibly his mother (that's my guess, otherwise how would a person have 2 puppies for their entire lives?). The woman who brought them in to the pound was not the owner, but a close friend who had known the dogs well their whole lives, but did not live with them. The staff at the pound said that there were "too many dogs in the house", so maybe there were more than the mom and two pups. They also said they had had very little socialization with people outside the home. You take a shy/reactive dog and keep him away from people during his puppyhood and what do you get? A fearful adolescent dog who barks at every person he doesn't know, and even some he does know!

    Funny thing, we didn't see this at all when we met him at the pound. Brody and Shayla (his sister) were outside in the play yard the first time I saw them. They were barking like crazy, but in an excited way, not scary at all. They settled down on their own, and when I went into the yard, they were a little shy at first, but warmed up quickly and took treats and let me touch them. No barking or growling once I was inside the fence. I then brought my two youngest kids in, 10 year old girl and 13 year old boy. Both dogs were fine with the kids, and got to be friendly after just a few minutes. We went back the next day with my husband and 17 year old daughter and took them for a walk on a busy industrial road (isn't that where all dog pounds are located?) and they were very attentive to us, running along side the kids, taking treats, no sign of fear or reactivity even when large trucks thundered past us. We all fell in love with those dogs and had a really hard time choosing just one, but we agreed that Brody was the one who connected with everyone best. Shayla was always looking at Brody when we separated them (ie, walked them in different directions),whereas Brody looked at the person holding the leash.

    When we decided to adopt him, we had to wait for him to be neutered. When I called back a few days later to find out when we could bring him home, the lady (a different one than was there when we visited) expressed concern because he had "issues". I asked what she meant, she said "barrier aggressiveness". What's that? He tries to bite your hand when he's inside his kennel and you are on the outside with the gate between you. Hmm. We went back in to check this out and she tried to demonstrate it to us. I didn't see anything that concerned me, just a young dog that wanted to be free. He doesn't do this at all at home when he's in his crate. If he is outside when the dog next door is barking, he rushes the fence, and if I try to grab his collar to pull him away, he will go for my hand. Same thing with the neighbor's kids jumping on the trampoline right next to the fence and looking down into our yard. Or if we are on a walk and pass a dog barking behind a fence. Big time lunging on the leash and barking.

    It's really hard to work on these because I can't really set them up. I don't know when they are going to happen, and I have yet to find the food that is more enticing than the thing behind the barrier. There are four places on our street with dogs he reacts to, one being right next door. I have taken him outside when I know the other dog is out or when the little kids are on the trampoline. I kept him on his leash and fed him treats when we were at a distance where he could stay calm. I moved a little closer and a little closer, and he could keep calm. But then there is that invisible line where he goes nuts. I would love to be able to work on this on a daily basis, but I can't control when the other dog is out, or when it is on our side of it's yard, or when the kids are playing on the trampoline. I just have to capture those moments whenever I can. The other places in the neighborhood are even harder to anticipate.
  16. blacknym Experienced Member

    It is difficult for sure. :nods

    Deja can be a reactive dog as well. It all takes time. Deja used to lunge and bark with all her 5.5 pounds of fury. LOL. We eventually worked thorough that. We are now working on paying attention when she sees other dogs as she still becomes stiff and stares with all her might. I think she believes she can wish herself over to the other dog. LOL

    Like you said take those moments and capture them as best you can. What kind of treats do you use? Also...sometimes all we can do is click and not treat when they are not able to eat. Ive done that with Deja and it has worked. The click just tells them it is alright and they are doing as you asked. Remember thresholds as well if you hit that invisible line back up so you help him succeed. :)

    ok i'll stop now as you probably already know all this. :)
  17. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I should say that I have noticed some improvement over the last couple of days with the dog next door. If I let Brody out to do his business, and Cola ( I think that's the name I hear them yelling at her!) is out, he will rush over, bark a couple of times, then turn around and run back to me. This happened when we were out playing "soccer" with a basketball this morning. She approached the fence, he ran up and barked a couple of times, then came back to me. He even was able to resume play/training and only looked over at her a couple of times, even though she stood there breathing loudly through the fence! It's a shame, really, as she is a lovely young girl, and they might even get along. I wish the owners were more friendly, then we might even be able to let them meet without the barrier!

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