Dear Miss Behavior: My Dog Bites When She Plays

Dear Miss Behavior, My Siberian Husky is a great dog. She only has one problem. Sometimes she gets really excited and starts biting my hands, my arms and even pulling on my clothes. I try telling her “NO!” but it doesn’t seem to make a difference to her. She is about a year old and we take long walks every day. Can you help?

missbehaviorI’m sorry to hear that Angel is trying to use you as a toy. This is a behavior that needs to stop. Not only is it dangerous; rips in clothes are definitely fashion faux-pas.

It sounds like Angel has had quite a bit of practice with the mouthing, so you’ll need some patience in stopping it. Whenever she starts to grab you, say “Ouch “in a loud voice with feeling. It doesn’t matter if she hurts you or not, we’re creating a word that she’ll learn means stop mouthing you and calm herself.

When you first say the word and she stops, you’ll quietly praise her. Tell her she’s a “gooood doooog” in a low and slow voice. You can give her a small treat if you have one handy but don’t pet her. Petting or touching her will encourage her to start mouthing again.

After a few times, she’s going to start testing you by trying to nip you again. When she does, you’ll move onto the next step. As soon as she grabs at you or your clothes say “Ouch,” and cross your arms and turn your back on her. When she calms down, verbally praise her as before.

Angel is quite smart, so she’ll soon figure out that mouthing you means you’ll stop interacting with her. The problem is she’s been rewarded for biting in the past. Anytime you pushed her away, grabbed her muzzle or wrestled her to the ground was probably viewed as a reward. Not only did you touch her but, in her opinion, you actually played with her.

So she’s going try to push you into ‘playing’ with her again. The next step requires her to have a flat buckle collar on and her crate nearby. You said you crate her at night so that’s great. When she begins chewing on you say “Ouch” but instead of ignoring her, you gently take hold of her collar and lead her into her crate. Close the door and leave her alone for a short time. Don’t get angry, don’t yell at her, or be mean when you put her in the crate. If her crate isn’t handy, you can take her to the laundry room or if you’re outside go inside without her. The end result is Angel spending a few minutes alone.

(I’ve been asked if that will make her hate her crate and I say no. Dogs learn to dislike their crates if they’re forced to spend too much time in them or if they’re frightened or teased while in the crate. I loved my cr—room as a child, even though I was sent there when I did something naughty.)

When you go back to her, be sure to keep it low-key when you let her out. Don’t encourage her to become excited. She needs to sit before the door opens. She’ll soon learn when you say “Ouch” to calm herself or she won’t have any playmates.

Remember, Siberian Huskies are very intelligent and have boundless energy. It sounds like you’ve got a good start with the long walks, but don’t forget to exercise her mind as well as body. Take an obedience class and train her every day, not only will she be better behaved but she’ll have less energy. Once you’ve taken her through a couple of obedience classes, the sky’s the limit. Consider agility, flyball, and/or even tracking to engage her.

Thanks to this feature goes to Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, who ran the Miss Behavior Dog Advice Column in their newsletter. Appreciation also is extended to Marcy Graybill, a trainer at GLOC and the expert behind this column. She also hosts her own blog, Dog Log, where she talks about training adventures with her dogs.

marcygraybillAfter Marcy adopted her first dog in 1988, she began to research about dog care. Research took the form of checking out books and videos to learn how to train Lady. Eventually, Marcy and her sister began taking their dogs to the dog run and taking formal dog classes. For about six years, Marcy volunteered for the Capital Humane Society, where she performed a variety of jobs, and took time to watch the dogs and learn about their behaviors. Currently, she’s an obedience instructor at GLOC. “I think the most important is to keep up to date on what’s going on in the field.  I try to read articles, blogs and  new books that come out, and watch any DVDs that are available.”

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