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Behavior / Training
9 week old puppy - is this normal?
I've read through a lot of the discussions re: puppy biting and mouthing, and still feel I want to post.... maybe just for support, I don't know. I need to know if a few behaviors are workable for a family with children, as our trainer (100% positive reinforcement school) is very concerned. If they aren't workable... Well, I can't even go there yet in my mind. I'm hoping this is just normal and that I'm tired and over reacting.
I haven't posted since my introduction. My family of four (my husband I and two kids, ages 6 and almost 9) just welcomed our boy home a week ago, after months of waiting and preparation. We've read so many books, so many training and body language videos (over two years), got a board game for the kids to learn dog language and proper behavior for children around dogs - all coming from a positive reinforcement viewpoint. Our kids are as well trained as any could be to be with dogs.
1. Our children do not pick up our dog, hold our dog, or spend any time with our dog if we are not right there with them. They don't reach over his head to pet him. they approach him from the side, don't stare at him and are generally (despite all our rules and his puppy mouthing) confident, calm and committed.... so I am confident in saying that they are doing nothing inappropriate with our pup. They are involved in clicker training sessions, handing him treats after I click for sitting, down, etc. He does *very* well with them in this focused setting, but in any other context, he will not leave their clothes, legs, and hair alone from biting, and it's getting more intense. He gets almost frenzied with it. We tried having them simply "be a tree" while wearing nothing but tight leggings and tucked in shirts and buns in their hair, but he starts going for skin. At first it was light, so we tried redirecting with a toy while they became trees, then we all leave the area to take away any attention from any family member for a bit. This worked well for a few days, but now he seems to have upped his game and immunities to our responses. He mouthed my six yr old so hard yesterday during a training session with our trainer, that the trainer said "you need to just pick him up and get him off of her when he does this. I don't usually recommend this, but she should not have to stand there and be bitten. She's going to be afraid to interact with him." Then after dealing with our next issue (see below), our trainer recommended that now our children not even be in his area unless he is calm and sleepy or that they only be involved with him during focused training sessions with the play pen gate in between them and our pup (to click and toss treats). Why did the trainer up her level of caution/concern in having him around our kids? read on.
2. First of all, our trainer is positive reinforcement only - ignore undesired behaviors, reinforce desired ones, no punishments. Our first week of training is to use no voice commands but simply "capture" behaviors (eye contact, sit, down, contact) when he does them naturally, click, then deliver treat. He's so smart and already has it down - he's amazing and it's so fun to watch him figure it out and interact with him in this way. Yesterday, we incorporated clicking into potty training and within one day of using the clicker for potties, there have been zero accidents indoors and he is consistently going to the door to ask to be let out to potty, rather than doing any of his previous puppy "I have to go!" behaviors like circling/sniffing ground - we are amazed by this. So the clicker is highly effective for him and he is a very fast learner. Our trainer is truly amazing, he loves her (she's been to our home twice), and she has experience with shibas. But she's concerned. He is "very resistant" to being handled or having a collar put on (even with constant treating/classical conditioning, breaks), and yesterday started turning his head backward to mouth my husband whenever he didn't like being touched. She thinks 9 weeks is very young to be seeing this type of reactive behavior, even in a shiba. She gave us gentle collar exercises to gradually get him more comfortable with his collar this coming week and asked that we not let the girls handle him at all (no petting) until we can see how the "handle while treating" method works for my husband and I this week. She also put us in contact with a Shiba savvy woman who is involved with a Shiba rescue (I know this woman from attending Shiba events - she's extremely knowledgable, positive training based, and just brilliant with shibas....truly) - she is *also* concerned by my trainer's descripstion of his aversions/difficulties at his age, saying that a part of a breeders job is to get him used to being handled in a positive way without force. They both suspect this was not done by the breeder and are very concerned about how our breeder socialized him with children (after watching videos of the puppies with children). So... they are both concerned about him being in a home with children. I am taking our pup for a playdate with the expert's own neutral shibas soon, so that she can assess our pup (which I'm so grateful for!) by watching him interact with her dogs and with her (I'm so hopeful it won't be as bad as we thought once she sees him in action, and that maybe he's just had some rough patches).
3. He's getting worse with my husband each night during his crazy time, and drew blood night before last. He gets frenzied, stops looking at the toys my husband is holding/using to train and redirect, and only looks at his arms/legs/etc and is determined to bite. He's biting hard and not letting go. Then he stops, humps his legs/arms, then more biting frenzy.
4. He'd never done *any* of this with me (rolls on his back and licks me while I scratch his tummy, comes and lies on my lap with a toy to chew it, rather than me) - until last night. He bit me very hard on the leg, and today has started turning around to mouth me (not playfully) if I pick him up, even though I treat him while picking him up and holding him (I'm picking him usually to redirect him if nothing else is working). I wonder if he senses my worry after hearing the trainer's thoughts and can feel that I 'm not as comfortable with him.
I should also say that when he's not doing these things, he's so sweet and loving. I love him. I want this to be a rewarding experience for all of us.
I'm just worried... rattled, even. My kids can't come into his space now, my cats can't come into his space at all without being chased, our legs are sore, hands are torn up, and now I have two patient, amazing experts telling me they are concerned - and they know much more than I do. I don't know what to do. To have waited and waited and put so much time and preparation in and then to still feel like I'm not sure what to do and that things may not be working out despite all of our efforts, training and preparations ... it feels pretty rotten. I feel like I'm failing my dog, my kids. I need to shower and cry and get my shit together now before he wakes up. Thank you for listening and any inputs.
Soo.. I'm sure others will have some sound advice for you here. But I will say this.. at 9 weeks, he is a baby. He's roughly the age of a 2-3 year old human. And from my experience, 2-3 year old humans don't listen and love to test their parents.
This is how both of my Shiba's acted at this age. They will bite/mouth, not listen, go after clothing and other things you don't want them to go after, have potty accidents every once in a while, chase the cats (I have 4 cats). Also at this age, when they do bite, they don't realize how hard they are biting, so they will draw blood and puppy teeth are SHARP. Like needles/knives. This is how they play with their siblings. I taught mine to not bite by making a loud YELP/OUCH sound when they would bite me. Eventually they stopped, because they didn't want to hurt me, they were playing with me.
Basically, you have to keep working with him. He will eventually calm down.. but don't expect him to REALLY calm down until he is a few years old. Our youngest didn't stop chasing the cats until just before his 2nd birthday (this last July). Heck, he still has his moments of running around being crazy. It happens sometimes. He's still young. They really calm down around 6yo. My 11yo Shiba is a nice mellow boy, but when he was younger.. oh man, people didn't even like to visit because he was a Shiba monster.
I'll also say this, because I learned it with my youngest.. anything you teach them now, be ready to re-teach at 6 months old. They go through a sort of terrible 2's at 6 months old. I didn't believe this when my trainer warned me, and then like clock work, on the day my youngest turned 6 months old, he acted like he didn't know ANYTHING we had already taught him. Walk nice, sit, come.. all gone like it never happened. So we went through class two where they re-teach all of this, but with fewer treats and it was obvious he knew all of these, but he just.. kinda didn't want to do them. He has them down now, but man was that tough.
Post edited by MoxyFruvous at 2016-09-17 18:48:42
Oh man,for at least the first month of having our boy home I thought I had brought an evil demon into or house and didn't know what I was going to do with him for the next 15 years of life with a dog xD He would even sometimes throw puppy tantrums where he would Shiba scream, growls and bite hard! He literally sound demon possessed and like he had every intention of taking my hands off. I cried about it lots of nights actually. There were times I couldn't wait for bedtime because it meant he could go in his kennel and I didn't have to manage him. I would agree that it sounds like normal puppy behavior, at least for a Shiba. He doesn't know how to listen yet and is still learning what is expected of him, which will take time. Honestly it's really only been in the last month or so that I feel like I have started to be less stressed about behaviors and really start to deepen our bond, I am defiantly now starting to see in his behavior how he is attached to us as well. Here are some things that have worked and are working for our boy....
For his collar, what we did is he just had it on anytime he was out of the kennel, as soon as he came out he was put in our lap until the collar was on, and it didn't come off till bedtime.
For picking him up, we basically made handling his access to freedom. Meaning, anytime he wasn't able to be 100% monitored by one of us or if he was on a time out, he was in his expen. The only way he got out was if we picked him up and lifted him over. If he tried to bite us while he was being picked up, we put him back down and walked away, then tried again a minute or two later.
For the mouthiness, we also used the high pitch ouch. If he puts teeth on us, we helped and all play/eye contact/communication stopped immediately and for at least 30 seconds or until the biting stopped. If he didn't stop biting us we would the try walking away, and if that didn't work he went to a timeout spot (expen or puppy proof room) for one to five minutes until he was displaying more calm behavior. At first we only helped for hard bites, then over time do it for more and more gentle bites until you are at the point where play stops for any mouthiness at all. (Our boy is almost 6 months old, and this method has helped him be more gentle and to de-escalate more quickly, but he does still mouth us sometimes, so it will take time for it to work. I definitely wouldn't except total gentleness at 9 weeks.
Another method we are using is to spread peanut butter on our palm. As long as he is just licking it off we give him praise and repeat the word gentle or kisses. If he puts teeth on us at all we no mark, then stand up and take the hand away for 30 seconds before letting him try again. He figured out pretty quickly that using teeth meant no more peanut butter lol.
It takes a lot of time and a lot of consistency, but it does get better. Good luck with your puppy!
(Sorry, for some reason the first time I posted it deleted most of my post, here is the rest!)
Post edited by Kaiju at 2016-09-17 19:37:55
Sorry, in the bit about yelping it should say yelped instead of helped. My silly phone autocorrected it and I didn't catch the error until it was to late to edit.
My shiba is six years old so I kind of have forgotten the details of the puppyhood days. But I remember that she was very independent and feisty and mainly wanted to playfight all of her waking hours in the beginning.
I was eager to start teaching her tricks but she couldn't focus on anything apart from trying to get at the treats I had in my hand. So I gave up and thought I'd wait until the puppy classes started.
So I am always impressed when people write about everything they managed to teach their puppy that young. And it is commendable that you are working with professional trainers.
But at the same time I'd like to tell you to relax a bit. He has only been with you for a week and is still trying to adjust to the change. It is stressful enough without adding "obedience training" (I know it's not quite what you have done, but for lack of words).
Talk to your breeder and get some advice.
Focus on the most basic and important things now, like potty training, learning his name, getting used to the collar or whatever you feel is a priority. If he can't be around your kids right now keep them separate and then slowly introduce them. Get a lot of chew toys you can offer him when he wants to chew and nip.
They grow out of it.
I had to have my hair in a ponytail for like a month or Juni would attack it and chew and pull. Then one day she just wasn't interested anymore.
When she was too nippy I just calmly sat with my legs up in the sofa so she couldn't reach me and ignored her until she calmed down.
At night she would get over tired and therefor play even rougher but if I gave her some snack to chew on for awhile she would calm down. Licking especially but also eating/chewing is calming.
Thank you all so much. This is wonderful advice, and wonderful to hear that this behavior is pretty normal, even if there are some big concerns and things we need to address with a lot of attention. I think the rub for me is that we have a home with children, so I have to do everything I can to make sure our dog has no aggression. As I've heard said, a shiba in a home with children has to basically be bullet proof - so that's why we're starting ASAP with a trainer and really trying to avoid any problems before they develop (or work away any that have already formed before his arrival) while we can use this sensitive developmental period to our and his advantage.
We went with a breeder who breeds for temperament and talked to people who got their dogs from her - all raved about the exceptional temperaments of their dogs. Both parents do well in shows and have wonderful temperaments with lots of time around kids, so genetically I think there's solid ground there, but again, my trainer was concerned in watching some of my breeder's videos (she sent to us) with the puppies and children interacting in a less than ideal manner. I will definitely dig more into this and put further discoveries about this in the correct post, though - so I don't want to say much more about this here in this post.
I think more than anything knowing that my feelings are pretty normal is just so helpful. I even tend to panic about panicking. So thank you for sharing *your* internal experiences during puppy time.
- I really love the idea of letting him know that being picked up means freedom!
- I am glad to hear about experiences with the developmental regressions (much like sleep and attachment regressions with babies!) so that those are not shocks to us - somehow books don't quite get at it like hearing personal accounts!
- I'm doing the peanut butter hands saying "kisses", which is really going great, so thank you! He's already licking more when he's tempted to use his mouth. We were doing this with our kids, so that he associates children with with yummy nice things happening to him (per a book recommendation specifically addressing raising kids and puppies together), but we weren't *saying* "kisses". Adding that verbal component and having all of us doing this on our hands, rather than just our kids, seems to be having a positive affect on how he mouths already in a pretty short time.
We got the collar on today using the highest value treats in my husband's hands and me doing the collar, then rewarded with his favorite kong stuffings and a fun clicker session - then collar came off. This was all after a session where we show him the collar + treat, touch him with collar + treat, have him poke his head through + treat, lay collar on him + treat, etc. We were able to do it all again later with much more comfort in him.
I hope also that sharing our progress in raising a shiba puppy specifically in a home with children can be helpful here, so I can update here on this thread or start a new one addressing this with the resources we've used, what worked, what didn't, etc - some time down the road, of course, when we can even know these things.
Anyway, thank you, thank you for listening and sharing - so comforting to hear from real folks who've had similar experiences.
Yeah, Shiba puppies are like little Gremlins, except they don't require water to activate their evil.
Just don't give up, persistence is really key with this breed, and so is consistency - just keep your family working together on the same page and you'll have a wonderful family pet eventually lol!
One thing we've done with our Shibas since they were puppies is to pick them up, hold them like babies, and touch all their paw pads, nails, their belly, ears, eyes, and teeth (followed up with lots of rewards after touching each area). We wanted them to be comfortable with having all of these things touched so we could trim nails, clean ears, look in their mouths, etc, etc.. We had read about how Shibas aren't fond of having their paws touched and this has worked wonders for us - both our Shibas are content to let us do as we please in regard to touching any of those places now. We worked it in to be part of their bed time routine since we discovered it also seemed to help them calm down.
Not sure if you mentioned it, but puppy class/socialization with other puppies is hugely helpful for the crazy biting....Much better to do it to each other (puppies) because they better than us teach each other that biting hurts and isn't acceptable -
My Koji was completely vicious, drew blood on me, made me cry and I despaired, this was at 7 weeks old and up...I have to disagree with the person who said "9 weeks is early to show this aggression"...(though I'm so happy she is all positive reinforcement )
I think you have to tell yourself that it is not "reactivity" or "aggression" just pretty typical Shiba brattiness - They are kind of known for this...
I feel pretty confident Koji (now 6) is bombproof as far as biting...has never bitten anyone or another dog...super chill, but like you I spent a lOT of time being consistent and socializing first two years...
I started a journal with him and kept track of his behaviors that I liked and didn't like...It' felt like an eternity for him to mature, but read back a week or two and you should realize you are making progress...
Hand it to you and your family for putting in the work...
occasionally dogs are psycho, but it's rare, your puppy is just a crazy Shiba puppy in all likelihood...You said you did lots of research and Im sure you read about it, but it's hard to believe the demon puppies till you see it yourself -
PS went on a side rant there, but my point was get your puppy in to puppy socialization class ASAP...you can find classes that start before vaccines all done if in a clean environment...
I put Koji in two classes so he was going twice a week and it was the biggest help..he got so much energy out and I feel that helped a lot with "softening" his mouth till he got older...
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