Dog Behaviour Advice - Dog Advice Articles
DIY Puppy Training Part 9 Example of Error Tuition
I wrote last week about using the 8 to 14 weeks of age training period to good use as dogs see the world as a friendly place and most lack the power to bite with any real effect. I wrote that this is the best time to contrive to make future incidents happen now but in a controlled way in which it is then possible to correct. This week I would like to give you one important example concerning biting.
All over the world, we do have a problem with machismo. Here in Spain is a country where this is part of the culture and even extends into many others areas like car driving. We see macho humans try to pit their prowess in agility skills against animals. We see so many pictures of such people racing down streets followed by young bulls that are intent on escape yet capable of retaliation against any humans it meets.
Whilst it may look skilful to keep clear of a bull so often we see them make mistakes. How many pictures have we seen where a bull has successfully impaled a human onto its horn, tossing the human about like a rag doll. Does this then change the participators mind about such dangerous actions in the future providing of course that he lives?
For our dogs and this does not just apply to puppies we find macho persons love to tease a dog like slapping the side of its mouth to encourage it to try to bite their teasing hands. Fortunately, the dog lacks the agility skills to catch the hand so the human feels proud that the dog looses.
Unfortunately, dogs are very able to improve and adapt their agility skills. Not only this they can learn to read the human’s body language that informs the dog the direction where the attack is likely to come from and with this the dogs reactions become even faster.
For protecting Police dogs, it is necessary to pretend to kick them, lightly tap them with sticks, or they see us holding some weapon that may cause it harm. By teaching a dog to evade these, we hope to train the dog to find another safer approach in order to detain a real criminal that is willing to attack the dog and cause it harm.
Many years ago we had a competition where the judge wanted to fail a dog that did not bite the criminal’s arm because he successfully kept the dog away by swinging a stick. The discussion with the Trials Manager and the Judge was to agree the dog would have still detained the criminal. This was because even in wielding the stick he could go nowhere and was therefore successfully detained with neither dog nor criminal being in anyway harmed.
When training for such actions we have seen a dog learn to anticipate an attack as soon as we lighten our stance from one leg to another so the dog learns which leg is about to kick. The same is true with our arms. Dogs soon learn to perceive danger in the way we begin an attack and so the dog will choose another safer approach.
Many macho humans do similar types of movement in using their agility skills against dogs until the dog becomes faster and it is then our macho person looses interest.
Of course, the problem is they have taught a dog a dangerous skill without teaching the dog how to apply it. So often children will make sudden moves where a dog thinks they are playing the same game but by then they are far faster than the child. The consequences of such Macho games are easy to see yet when it happens our macho person will never think they were responsible for such an attack.
We are full aware of the consequences of when a child is badly hurt in such an attack even if we know the dog only thought it was a game. If it does this, once or even twice it can loose its life yet our macho person walks away feeling blameless.
We must teach our dogs not to bite humans plus any other species it may meet but how do we achieve this?
In these early weeks, dogs cannot bite hard enough to cause us much harm. If needed we can initially use gloves for added protection whilst we play with our dog in such a roughish way that naturally makes them wish to bite at your hands, arms, or feet in normal puppy play?
You maybe thinking that this is just the same as what are macho human was doing. It may look the same but the difference is when the dog bites us we immediately stop moving. Instantaneously we give a gruff bark/cough whilst moving our face rapidly towards the face of the puppy and it backs off instantly. We can change our sound gradually to the sound of a deep and gruff sound like “ARRRRGH”. This sounds a little more polite when friends are nearby. To the puppy, this is the instinctive sound and it understands this as the “Stop” command that says such conduct is unacceptable.
By playing such rough games or anything else that you find your puppy uses to attract your attention like nibbling your hands to get you to play with it then you give the same command and head moving action to say this is not acceptable.
When the puppy does stop biting you then with your fingers you should nibble their skin on their neck or back or on the top of their head. This is the natural reward that every puppy and even older dogs expect to receive from other dogs when they have done something correctly.
Many people will think that such training is actually encouraging a dog to bite but it is not. Dogs in natural puppy play will use their teeth and jaws as part of the natural instinctive games. If it bites your leg and you run away then the puppy thinks this is only part of a good chase game. For puppies, most games of chase and tag use soft biting but for humans, having a dog biting us we find unacceptable.
If a puppy bites and you withdraw your hand or run away then it will only think this is just part of the game and encourages it to continue biting to play the game. A puppy also sees our pushing it away in order to protect ourselves also as part of the game and so the puppy will only come back again with renewed vigour. The more you push it away the more the dog comes back for more.
By allowing dogs to naturally bite us in their game when its bite is weak is so as soon as it bites we stop the game. This means for the puppy when it bites the game will stop. We are effectively changing the rules to their natural game. This results in it learning that if I bite the game stops.
As most dogs love to play games, they must achieve some fun or they will not play the game again. Humans must teach dogs that we will play games but any sign of biting and the games will stop.
If we make these bites happen now when it does not hurt us, we can teach a dog that biting humans achieves them nothing to further any games it would wish to play and it will learn to stop. All we are doing is playing non contact games.
When humans learn we need examples that include practice in order to improve our skills. More practice the better we learn. As biting progressively hurts as our dogs become older then stopping biting at this young age is imperative.
Let’s be careful out there.