Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Is My Dog Normal?: Getting Mouthy

Each week I plan to post about one of Athena's behavior "quirks" that B and I are dealing with or have eliminated.  This week I want to talk about Athena's mouthiness.

When we got Athena home from the shelter we began to notice that she plays rough.  She can be very pushy when she wants someone to play with her.  In the first week, we noticed that if we gave her a toy, she would play with it on her own for a few minutes, but would then push it at us to play with her.  Once we initiated play with the toy (say a ball), she would often get our hands with her mouth when trying to grab the toy.

During our second week of having Athena we began to notice that her mouthiness stretched further than simply wanting to play with toys.  One night Athena got ahold of her harness before going on a walk (more about harness biting to come!).  She ran around the house like a crazy dog, holding the harness in her mouth and whipping it around.  I thought that she was going to break something!  I was finally able to trick her into dropping her harness by trading her for some yummy treats.  But, once she figured out that I now had the harness and she didn't, she began jumping up on me and nipping at my hands and feet.

Since having Athena for almost a month now, we have began to notice more of a pattern.  Athena will get one or two extra bursts of energy each day which makes her turn into crazy dog.  Sometimes she will do zoomies around the house and then get so excited that she jumps up on us and nips our hands and feet.  Sometimes she will just decide that we are boring and she wants to play, so she will jump on us wherever we are sitting and attempt to bite at our clothing or limbs!

It is so annoying.

Because this is a behavior that needs to be eliminated ASAP I have done a lot of research online and we have also talked to two different trainers about it.  When it first started, we would do the high pitch yelp that many people suggest to help Athena's bite inhibition.  That didn't really work.  Then we combined the high pitch yelp with leaving the room for 30+ seconds.  That didn't really work.

Now we are onto saying a firm "UH-UH!" when she bites at us and then we leave the room for 30 seconds.  At first she seemed to get that "UH-UH!" meant that she wasn't suppose to put her mouth on us.  But, I think that she would rather continue trying to get us to play with her than respond to the noise.

Yesterday was our first day of introducing Bitter Apple with Athena's mouthy behavior.  Bitter Apple worked excellent for eliminating her harness/leash biting, so we thought that we would give it a try to get her to stop putting her mouth on us.  When Athena jumped up and put her mouth on me yesterday, I got the bottle of Bitter Apple out and sprayed my arms and legs in front of her.  She seemed to get the hint because she REALLY hates that stuff.  However, later in the day when the spray had rubbed off of my body, Athena attempted her jumping and biting again.  Yesterday was kind of a wacky day because Athena was doing this undesired behavior A LOT and I couldn't seem to get her to stop!

At this point B and I need to stay consistent in whichever action we plan to take to eliminate Athena's mouthiness.  Luckily we have a session with our trainer tomorrow so we can talk to her about Athena's progress since last week and get some more advice.  If Athena continues this behavior despite our attempts to change it, I think that we might have to get a behaviorist involved.

Pleassseeee let us know if you have dealt with a similar unwanted behavior and how you got it to go away so that you could enjoy your well behaved pooch!

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  1. We also had to do this with one of our fosters who was really mouthy. Sometimes we could also pretend to cry and the dog would feel bad and stop (though we've had others who didn't care). I do love the bitter apple.

    1. Athena is definitely the kind of dog who doesn't care if we cry (we have tried the yelp and an "uh-oh" and it just seems to fuel her desire to bite at us!). We have now moved on to completely ignoring her when she mouths at us. So, when she starts being crazy and bites at our ankles, we turn around and don't say a word. If B and I were in the middle of a conversation when she starts biting, we totally stop talking to each other so that it's silent. Athena seems to be catching on now that when she bites us she really gets no attention and things turn really un-fun! Her biting has seemed to be calming down from when we first got her, so I'm hoping that this behavior will be all done VERY soon!

  2. I just found your blog and am really enjoying it. Our Pittie, Chloe can be mouthy at times too mostly when she plays. The funny thing is we've had her for almost 7 months and she has gone from being an angel to showing us the real Chloe. She's not bad, just not an angel as we thought. I will definitely be getting some Bitter Apple. Thanks for the idea and your great posts. Kelli

    1. Athena's mouthiness really only occurs when she plays and gets too excited. She has pretty much stopped mouthing us too hard now which I'm so happy about. When she starts mouthing us we say "no bite, give kisses." She will stop her mouthy behavior and lick us instead! Our new trainer said it's a good idea to tell the dog what you don't want them to do, but also tell them what you DO want them to do instead! We also still keep the Bitter Apple near by, but haven't had to use it in quite a while!

      Good luck to you!

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