My friend Jenn said, “Puppies are what you survive to get a dog.” I grok this statement completely.
Cats are SOOOOOOO much easier. Cats do not turn you into a fangcushion, i.e., a pincushion, but for teeth.
Grizz reached his 3-month birthday today. I celebrated with bandaids and Neosporin.
Grizz bites. A lot. Thanks to Grizz, my bandage consumption rate now exceeds levels achieved with (a) all 7 leg surgeries, (b) sorting broken glass in the studio, and (c) that time I decided to make a mummy costume entirely out of bandaids. (While unsuccessful as a costume, it proved remarkably effective as a depilatory. Johnson & Johnson’s “no-tears” bandaid removal nonsense is just that.)
Grizz and I have what I’d call a gingerly relationship. I absolutely adore that damn dog, and he loves to cuddle and play Tug of War and Kill Mr. Stick with me. We have a wonderful, loving relationship until about 8:30 PM every night.
Before then, Grizz lies companionably at our feet, gnawing on a stinky treat, occasionally asking to play with a toy or be cuddled. The Resident Carpenter-Blacksmith and I will settle in to watch a movie, talk about the day, whatever. Then, almost as if the dinner bell rang, a wild gleam will enter his eye, he bounces to my side and lunges, grabbing my hand. (Grizz, not Nathan)
Ouch. There’s absolutely no malice in his bite, you can easily tell that Grizz is just having fun, but his teeth are big and SHARP. I spend the rest of the evening playing dodge-teeth, mopping up blood, and taking bets on whether Grizz will reach his 4-month birthday.
I put the odds at 50-50.
“The problem,” my sister the dog expert says, “Is you don’t speak Dog.”
“The problem,” says Cesar Milan, The Dog Whisperer, “Isn’t the dog, it’s the human.”
“The problem,” says the RCB, who must have doggy dominance in his DNA, “Is you’re not forceful enough. You need to be louder, pitch your voice lower, and grab him with AUTHORITY.”
Grizz worships Nathan, who is clearly the pack alpha and grabs and yells with enough authority for an entire platoon of riot police. When he says, “STOP!!!” I stop, too.
Mea culpa. Ego sum reus. Unfortunately, ego autem no sum canis, too, so would somebody please teach me how to speak Dog? Forcefully and with authority?
I have watched Dog Whisperer and Dog: Impossible shows until I’m practically barking. YouTube and I have created our very own “How to Train Your Puppy” channel from literally hundreds of “stop your puppy from biting” videos.
I get that puppies play-bite as part of their development. I understand that Grizz is just a baby. I fully agree with the notion that this is my fault because dogs require pack leaders or they become all insecure and thuggish, so if Grizz is biting me, I am the only one who can fix it.
The problem is, nobody seems to agree on HOW I fix it. Grizz is a very smart dog; he’s already learned “sit,” “OFF,” “treat” (he’s really good at that one), “timeout,” “lie down,” “fetch,” “shake,” “gentle,” “STOP,” “up the stairs,” and “kennel.”
He brings me toys, offering one end to play tug of war, or fetch, or whatever. When his food bowl is empty, he picks it up and brings it to us to be filled. Last night he picked up the entire empty water fountain and brought it to Nathan.
So we know he CAN learn, but how? There are just about as many opinions on how to stop puppy biting as there are dog trainers. Cesar Milan says you ZZZST at the misbehaving dog, lightly tapping his side to get his attention. When Cesar does it, the dog instantly stops eating the toddler, bandages the kid’s stumps, and looks anxiously to Cesar for further instruction.
Tried that. Grizz simply switched to eating my wrists.
One video said Grizz was just trying to get my attention, so I was rewarding him even if I whapped him upside the head with a 2×4. If I tucked my hands in my armpits and completely ignored him, shut him OUT of the pack, he would realize his faux pas and stop.
Maybe that works for stupid dogs. Grizz cleverly decided that my ankles were an acceptable substitute.
A different trainer said to tap Grizz on the nose and say “OFF,” when he tries to bite, so next night, I did.
Grizz grabbed my finger, clearly appreciating having the target in closer proximity.
Use a clicker, said the guy at work with six Rottweilers.
Grizz ate it. (well, he didn’t actually CONSUME it, but it’s no longer able to click)
No, no, said another video. If you just say “NO BITE!!” the puppy will get the idea through osmosis or something. And it does sometimes (only sometimes) work for the RCB, so I tried it.
Grizz interpreted it as a helpful suggestion: “This hand has bled out. Try the other.”
Another YouTube trainer explained that I should NOT stop Grizz from biting. If I do, Grizz will never learn to control the force of his bite. At this age, he is learning what is and is not acceptable mouth play, so I should instead concentrate on getting him to mouth softly instead of biting hard. Grizz won’t be able to control FREQUENCY of biting until he’s about nine months old.
O. M. G. NINE MONTHS OLD?
Apparently, if I don’t let him bite me for the next six months, adult Grizz won’t know the difference between licking and biting, and will chomp off the toddler’s arm.
But it kinda made sense. The trainer suggested that I calmly leave my body part in Grizz’ teeth and scream a very sincere OUCH!! Grizz would accept this as bite force feedback, and either back off on biting so hard or stop biting entirely. Then I was to praise him. “Good boy!”
Well, I did MY part. I left my hand impaled on Grizz’ teeth and screamed the most sincere OUCH!! in the history of womankind. No acting required.
Grizz stopped, released my hand…and grabbed my wrist.
“Really?” said the RCB, with some disgust, “You’re just going to sit there screaming with your hand in his mouth? GRIZZ, LEAVE HER ALONE!!!”
Grizz backed off and nodded at Nathan. Satisfied that he’d obeyed, he latched onto my forearm. I returned to the video while he chewed.
“It says if this doesn’t work, I simply leave the area for a few minutes. Grizz will feel abandoned by his pack and learn to mouth instead of bite.”
“Lemme know how that works out,” Nathan grunted, returning to his video game.
I wasn’t entirely clear on how I was supposed to leave the room with a 32-pound puppy attached to my arm, so I gently pried Grizz’ jaws open, left him snapping on the floor, and went into the next room for about 15 minutes.
When I returned, Grizz lunged and grabbed my arm, tail wagging fiercely in welcome. Nathan rolled his eyes.
So far, the only real way to win the bite wars is to put Grizz in timeout, i.e., drag him to his kennel and lock him inside. All that really does is put my appendages out of reach, though, and putting Grizz in the kennel for the rest of his life clearly isn’t a great solution.
Grizz’ breeder said not to put Grizz into any kind of puppy training until he’d finished all his shots, i.e., when he reaches four months old. I’m thinking if we wait that long, I’ll exsanguinate.
In the six weeks we’ve had him, Grizz has more than doubled in size, to about 32 pounds. He steps over the simple cardboard barriers that formerly confined him. There’s a real chance that, given my less-than-able leg and his growth rate, I’ll soon have trouble even putting him in timeout.
I say he’s ready now. I’ve signed up for the next puppy obedience class next Saturday. Stay tuned.