Dealing with Bouncy Biters

Dealing with bouncy biters is a challenge, but they can be some of the very best dogs. Learn how to help these confident, active and smart dogs behave.

You know the dog – maybe he’s your dog or maybe he’s your friend’s dog – but he’s the dog who greets you teeth-first. Not because he’s angry or mean, but because he just has to taste you to know you. He jumps up on you and grabs your clothing. He rams into your kids and bites them on the fly. He seems to be part shark and you can hardly believe he’ll ever stop with the teeth.

Dog Play Biting

I know this dog, too. I’ve been a professional dog trainer and canine behavior counselor for a few decades and I’ve worked with thousands of these crazy canines. I’m here to tell you – they’re not actually crazy! Honest!

Here’s a few tips to get that dog to settle down, holster the weapons and be a little nicer to grandma when she visits.

  1. Check the diet. Believe it or not, nutrition impacts behavior. If you are feeding cheap dog food filled with grains, food colorings, chemicals and preservatives, expect out-of-bounds behavior. Give this a try – visit WHS in our pet supply store and check out our new grain-free options. Try your dog with it and no other changes for 3 weeks and tell me whether he settles down. I think you’ll find training a lot easier when his blood sugars are better balanced.
  2. Stuff it. Dogs with oral tendencies need to chew. They need to carry things. They need to use puzzle toys. Have toys available in every room and when your dog approaches you, encourage him to pick up a toy. Let him work a puzzle toy for food. Let him carry something every where he goes. If his mouth is full and busy, he cannot be biting.
  3. Brain games. Seems unrelated but trust me on this – most of these bouncy biters are adolescents who are simply desperate for stuff to do. Invest in some training classes – check out our Gamers Group series – and learn fun things to do with your dog to wear him out, mentally. Things like scent games, agility, clicker training and tricks can go a long way to settling down a mouthy dog.
  4. Do Nothing. I don’t mean don’t do anything. I mean, teach your dog that doing nothing is actually possible. Sue Sternberg developed this exercise and we use it with great success for our rowdiest shelter dogs. It actually works quite quickly. Check it out.
  5. Head Halter. For the extremely mouthy, slightly pushy dogs, nothing beats a head halter for quick control and getting the dog to a rewardable behavior with little conflict. My favorite is the Gentle Leader because I work with a lot of dogs that mean business with their mouth contact. I like the streamlined GL, that it’s easier to keep on the dog and gives me exquisite control. If you have never used one before, I strongly suggest meeting up with one of our staff to get a brief lesson and fitting to avoid common pitfalls. The session is about 30 minutes and includes a new Gentle Leader  with personalized fitting and instruction for just $45. Contact us at behavior@whs4pets.org to schedule.

Bouncy biters can be some of the very best dogs. They generally are confident, active and very smart. It’s not difficult to turn them around, but it does take some effort. A little bit of work is worth it, though because these kids can excel as family pets, performance competitors and playmates. Let us know if you need more help or a personalized approach. We offer group training classes and personalized sessions for even the most difficult pets.  Shoot me an e-mail or give me a call at 503-585-5900 ext. 318.

Catherine Comden, CPDT-KA

Behavior Program Manager at Willamette Humane Society
Named “the dog lady” by peers in grammar school, Catherine Comden, CPDT-KA first became a California licensed veterinary technician, then finished a BA in Psychology while doing undergraduate research on the human-canine bond at the University of Montana. After that, she was recruited by the Purdue University Veterinary Teaching Hospital to develop the ABC puppy school, to assist during veterinary behavior consultations and to help create and instruct the Purdue DOGS! behavior modification course for veterinary staff. Catherine is now an adjunct faculty member at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Oregon and instructor for the state’s only community college level professional dog trainer certification preparation program which began in Fall 2014.
Catherine Comden, CPDT-KA