Playful behaviour is a great way for dogs to explore the world around them and make new friends — but sometimes an overexcited puppy can take it too far and nipping can be painful and dangerous. Expert dog trainer Ben Randall explains how to stop your dog from biting during play
We all love watching our dogs having fun with their toys and it’s tempting to join in with their excitement, especially when they’re puppies. However, by doing so and allowing the dog to play in an uncontrolled and overexcited manner, he or she can consequently develop bad habits and unwelcome behaviour, such as nipping and biting, something we certainly don’t want to encourage.
‘We have a four month-old bichon-poo, who is tugging on rope toys to the extent that if he begins to lose the games or pulls on the toy too enthusiastically, he comes at our hands with his teeth,’ [writes L.S. via email.] ‘I could definitely use some help as to how to tackle this, please!’
By participating in this game of tug of war, you’re only encouraging this type of aggressive behaviour and creating a competition in which your dog thinks he needs to tear things away or snatch them from you. I would much prefer to teach my dog the ‘leave’ command and encourage them to search out the rope toy and retrieve it, then bring it back to me in a calm and relaxed manner, before I release it so that the dog has another fun opportunity to repeat the game.
I’ve been perfecting my BG (Beggarbush) foundation methods for nearly 20 years now —you can ask me your own question by emailing email@example.com, or see more about me @beggarbush on Instagram — and know the importance of interacting with your dog in a fun and trusting way, so that they look to you for positive, playful experiences that build a strong relationship between the two of you.
Four steps to teach your dog to stop aggressive behaviour during play
1. Use the ‘leave’ command
Teach the ‘leave’ command by holding the rope toy close to your dog and if/when he or she goes to grab it, quickly remove the rope from the area and give a sharp, firm ‘leave’ command. Continue to repeat this until you’re able to hold the rope toy in front of your dog without them going to grab it.
2. Start a new game
Once you’re happy that your dog is a lot calmer around the rope and they are not attempting to bite or tug the toy, you can progress to having some fun games. As we do with the BG foundations when teaching your dog to sit and wait patiently for their food — thereby asking them to sit and wait with a distraction — tell your dog to ‘sit’, then show them the rope toy. Walk to an area in the house and place the rope out of sight, then return to your dog, point in the direction where you’ve hidden the rope and give the ‘fetch’ command.
3. Retrieve and recall
When your dog has found the toy, recall him or her back to you, ask them to ‘sit’ again and remove the rope toy using the ‘leave’ command, then reward with lots of praise and/or a piece of kibble.
4. Progress to the great outdoors
Once you’re happy with all the above, you can progress to doing this exercise outside, especially during the summer months. Hide the rope in various locations around the garden, teaching the dog to use its nose to seek out the rope and bring it back to you. By doing this, your dog will no longer be bored and then get over excited when playing with you — consequently, they should stop play-biting.
For more detailed advice about Ben Randall’s positive, reward-based and proven BG training methods, one-to-one training sessions, residential training or five-star dog-boarding at his BGHQ in Herefordshire, telephone 01531 670960 or visit www.ledburylodgekennels.co.uk. For a free seven-day trial of the Gundog app, which costs £24.99 a month or £249.99 a year, visit www.gundog.app/trial
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