Sunday, July 11, 2010


It's one of those mornings when I woke up way too early and worries have been gnawing at the edges of my brain. Today I'm mostly bothered by Kyo's biting problem. I've talked about this before, but the issue was brought back up this past week when he bit Jetta while trying to play with her at the park on Wednesday.
As I mentioned before, Kyo is staying with my parents while Glacier and I are in Michigan. My mom is doing a really great job of making sure Kyo gets the proper amount of exercise and stimulation and he seems to really like her. Just the other day, she was lying on the couch and he climbed up beside her and laid his head in her lap. He's a great snuggler! That said, in his excitement and puppy playfulness, he bit Jetta on the back of the leg at the dog park and made her yelp. This concerns me for the obvious reasons-like how he should not be hurting dogs-but it also may mean that I'll have to give him up. I really don't want to, but I can't figure out how to get him to stop. It seems that after he gets comfortable with a dog, he is likely to bite them while trying to play with them. My mom says it looks like puppy play, but because he is so big, he accidentally hurts the other dog. Again, he's not biting other people's dogs: just the dogs he knows like Jetta and Glacier. He doesn't bite roscoe, but I think it's because Roscoe tells him "no" just by looking at him. If humans nd dogs alike draw boundaries for him, he seems to respect them. My other parents' dog Flash, is a bit grumpy and doesn't like other dogs in her space and all she had to do was growl at him once and he leaves her alone. When I've been doing obedience with him, he picks it up quickly and is eager to learn. He has separation anxiety (as many Great Danes do) and this makes him a people pleaser.
Part of me doesn't wonder if the biting is out of anxiety. I got him in March and things weren't quite stable. Mr. K would be visiting us for a couple of weeks and then he would be gone again for another couple of weeks. Now, Kyo is at my parents' house in a strange city with two new dogs, which isn't exactly stable either. I'm hoping with more consistent living conditions and more obedience training this biting problem will stop. If not, I will have to find a new home for Kyo and that pains me grately. Everything I've read about dog misbehaviour always makes comments about dog owners giving up on dogs when their problems can be fixed. They talk about how dogs end up in shelters all of the time because they are not given what they need to thrive. I don't want to be one of those people-but when is enough enough? Why can't I seem to get any help for this behaviour? I can't seem to find any literature that addresses this particular problem. When I talked to the dog trainer about it, she didn't really know and just suggested that I distract him with something else like a toy. She didn't really explain how to perform this or the logic behind it. I thought that if I gave him a toy while he's biting Glacier then I am rewarding him for biting? I'm at a loss. I've thought about getting another dog trainer when I'm back at home to see if they can help me solve Kyo's biting problem. If anyone out there has any ideas, please send them my way. My heart breaks to think that he may seriously injure a dog and/or I'll have to find him a new home. He's already been through the surrender/adoption process I really don't want to do that to him again. :( I just feel like I am/have failed him somehow.


L^2 said...

It sounds to me like it's just play nipping, only Kyo doesn't realize is big-doggy strength.

I'm not sure what would be helpful for this, unless you can catch him in the act and correct him for it. When Stella was a puppy she was a big play-biter. The advice I was given that worked best for her was the "yelp and shun" method. When she bit, we would say "Ouch, no bite!" or something like that loudly and then turn away and refuse to play for a while. Supposedly, this mimics the behavior that pack-mates would use when a puppy gets out of line. So, it's supposed to teach the puppy that they will not get attention from others if they use their mouth on them. I'm not sure how well that would work for Kyo though, if he's only biting the dogs, unless you can catch him in the midst of doing it.
The other technique I used for Stella was after saying, "Ouch, No bite!" I would redirect her attention to a more appropriate outlet for biting. I'm guessing that's what the trainer you spoke with meant when they suggested giving Kyo a toy. They don't view the toy as a reward, but as a distraction or a redirection - it's okay to bite the Nylabone, but not okay to bite Jetta's leg.
Good luck in getting this problem resolved. Have you Googled the phrase "play biting"? I'm sure there's tons of stuff out there on it - there was when I was dealing with this with Stella. Hopefully you'll find something that suits your situation.

Just Jess for now said...

Thanks-I did basically what you are suggesting when he was "mouthing" me or Mr. K. He doesn't put his teeth on us anymore, but it seems like he is lacking "bite inhibition" when it comes to his brother...or just whoever he is comfortable with. He doesn't really do it inside because I can stop him and give him a "time out." But when they are playing off leash, he gets carried away. I have thought about restricting his play off lesh with Glacier, but then how do I socialise him to play with dogs? Everything I've read says that other doggy play is important too...there is an obedience club in my home town so I've thought about joining it in order to get him exposure to other dogs-that way I can keep him from "play biting" Glacier. I just don't think he was ever taught that his teeth hurt: everything I have read says that puppies learn their "bite inhibition" between the ages of 4 and 5 months and if he wasn't socialised with other dogs then he probably didn't learn this important behaviour. His former family really didn't teach him anything or exposed him to anything. He used to run away from trucks when I took him for walks because he was afraid of them-he's good now. Sometimes I wish I could have talked to them so then at least I know where he's coming from. The Humane Society even had his breed wrong! lol Anyway, thanks. :)