My plan when I get a pup is to build a friendship, partnership, confident dog who will be with me for the next 10 to 15 years. This is a long-term engagement. When I’m training someone’s dog I still am looking at relationship first and always in each choice I make.
Starting with a young pup who is biting (which all pups do – some harder than others) how to choose what to do about it?
A common choice is to grab their face, apply pressure to tongue or hit or pinch or yell.
Where does this get me on creating a confident dog around hands? It may create a scared or quick dog, but not confident. Where does this get me on friendship/partnership and willingness to learn from me? Definitely going backwards and losing ground.
Another choice is going completely still (if you’re not moving, you’re not fun to bite). Then when they release offer an appropriate chew item and make it dance/move to draw attention. This choice also achieves the long-term requirements of confidence and friendship.
Have I ever had to take their mouth off because they didn’t release? Yes if they had a hold of clothing or hair and were having fun tugging. I quickly and silently stop them from tugging by holding their collar and releasing the tension, usually this is plenty to get them to let go. Or if not, manually, but not roughly, remove their mouth and trade for something else or turn them away so they can’t re-grip. If they are in a grabbing frenzy I’ll put them in their exercise pen for a cool down (likely they are too wound up and/or too tired).
Each other issue has these same kinds of choices. But it comes down to what will build the relationship. Whenever I’m training something I test by questioning is the technique building the confidence and friendship and willingness to learn from me or is it tearing it down? Is it helping to make them more or is it scaring or threatening and making them less?
Great dogs are more, and I know my choices can make or break a potentially great dog.