Wednesday, August 15, 2012

9 Weeks Progress Report and the Bean Bottle Experiment

Margot is 9 weeks-old today!  She’s growing like a weed, too.  She’s got another vet appointment this Saturday, and Justin and I are predicting that she has at least doubled her weight since her last check-up when she weighed 10.2 lbs.  Everybody says that “they grow up too fast, “and now I know exactly what they mean. 

Speaking of growing up, I tend to hold Margot to some pretty high standards in terms of discipline and training, which is why I get so frustrated and discouraged sometimes if I don’t feel like she’s “getting it” fast enough.  However, last night Justin and I were talking about Margot’s progress and all that she’s accomplished so far, and he mentioned that we’ve only had her for 2.5 weeks, which blew my mind!  It feels like we’ve had her for at least a month!  Not only that, but Justin also pointed out that Margot is JUST NOW at the age where most puppies are allowed to leave their mother and the rest of their litter to go home with their new owners.  That really put things in perspective for me.  Think about it; at the age of only 6 weeks-old, not only was Margot completely crate-trained and understood that “You gotta go pee?” means it’s time to go outside to use the bathroom , but she also mastered the “sit” command almost effortlessly by the age of 8 weeks!   I mean, come on.  That’s not bad for such a little pup, right?  Granted, she’s still not completely housebroken, but it is pretty impressive that she has only had a handful of accidents since we’ve brought her home, and she is still only 9 weeks-old.

I can’t say that this little revelation made me want to lower the bar for Margot, but it did help me appreciate the fact that she IS learning very quickly and actually doing quite well.  It’s easy for me to lose site of that when I’m busy pulling my hair out over the fact that Margot continues to play-bite, despite our consistent corrections since Day One.

The little Landshark when she was only 6 weeks old.
However, I may have some good news to report in that department.  At my wit’s end yesterday, I literally Googled “puppy biting nothing works,” and it pulled up an old post to the Puppy Corner forum.  A frustrated puppy owner had posted a story that sounded extremely similar to our situation with Margot.  This owner had tried EVERY method for correcting play-biting, but yelping /putting on a dramatic show each time the puppy bit only excited the puppy and made it want to bite/play more, turning his/her back on the puppy or leaving the room only made the puppy find something else to bite, such as furniture, giving a stern, “NO!” whenever the puppy bit barely deterred the biting, and redirecting the puppy’s attention to a chew toy would only distract the puppy for a few minutes before it eventually tried to bite the owner’s hand again.   Then, this owner read an article online that suggested shaking a bottle full of beans each time the puppy tries to bite while also giving a stern, “No bite!”  The owner was amazed by how effective this method was after trying it with his/her puppy and highly recommended that other puppy owners give it a try. 

So, last night, I did just that.  I filled an empty 20 oz. soda bottle with a handful of pinto beans (courtesy of Kristy) and kept the bottle beside me on the coffee table as I sat cross-legged on the floor playing with Margot.   As soon as she bit my hand, I said, “No!  No bite!” and put her Nylabone in her mouth.  She gnawed on it, for which I praised her, but seconds later she tried to bite my hand again.  Since she was choosing my hand over her Nylabone at that point, I decided this warranted a shake of the bean bottle and another stern, “No bite!” 

Well, THAT got her attention!  She immediately stopped biting and jumped off my lap.  I handed her the Nylabone again, which she gladly took and climbed back into my lap.  I praised her, but once again, after only about a minute, Margot decided she’d rather bite my hand than her chew toy.  As she started to go for my hand, I said, “Noooo…..”, but when she didn’t heed my warning, I gave her another shake of the bottle with a stern, “No bite!” and she immediately stopped.  This time, however, she decided to test me by immediately biting my arm instead of my hand, and when that also received a shake of the bean bottle, she then tried biting my foot.  When she received a shake of the bottle each time, no matter where she bit me, she finally gave up and starting playing with her Wubba instead, for which she received LOTS of praise.  Hooray for small victories!!!

To be clear, I’m not ready to declare that the bean bottle method truly works yet because I only used it last night and once this morning, but I can say that so far, so good.  The keys are to keep the bottle out of sight so that it surprises her when I shake it, to not shake it EVERY time she bites because I don’t want her to get used to it, and to always give a stern, “No bite!” as I’m shaking the bottle because I want her to associate that phrase with the scary sound.   (The goal is to not have to shake the bottle each time I say, “No bite!”)  Again, it’s too soon to say for certain that this method is working, but after I shook the bottle at Margot several times last night, I did see an improvement in her willingness to redirect after simply telling her, “No bite!”   

So, my plan is to first try to redirect Margot and praise her for chewing on a toy instead of my hand, but if she ignores the redirection or doesn’t chew on her toy for very long before trying to bite me again, she will receive a shake of the bean bottle.  After another night of trying this method, tomorrow I should be able to say with more certainty whether or not I feel that this technique is effective for Margot.  Keep your fingers crossed!


  1. I wonder if it starts to have less of an effect if you use a can instead of a bottle it might start working again. I figure they would make different sounds. Good luck! I hope it works!

    P.S. You're such a good dog mama.

    1. Aww...shucks. :) Thank you! And that's actually a really good suggestion about switching to shaking beans in a can if she ever gets used to the sound of them being shaken in the bottle.

  2. They're so smart, it is easy to hold them to super-high standards! I'm so glad that crate training has gone so well for you....there are definitely times I wish we'd crated Elka!

    I'd be worried about the bean bottle encouraging her to startle at sudden noises.

    1. You bring up a very good point in regard to the bean bottle possibly making Margot skiddish to sudden noises. The person who originally wrote the post I found about the bean bottle on also asked the other site members for their opinions about that. Everyone who replied said that the bean bottle is a safe and effective way of correcting a puppy's play-biting, and I didn't see any comments from anyone saying otherwise. Fortunately, Margot's willingness to redirect after I tell her, "No bite!" seems to have already improved a little and I haven't had to shake the bottle at her much since that first night.

      I'll look into it a little more with another Google search, though, just to be sure I'm not going to accidently do more harm than good by using this technique. I appreciate you bringing this up. Thank you!

  3. Hey, just kinda throwing this out there but there is a guy who has a bunch of dog training videos on youtube. They are very good and you can tell that they obviously work from how well his dog is. Maybe look him up? His videos include but are not limited to: No biting, Come when called, Stay, Heel, Close the door (wow), etc. His youtube name is tab289. I've been watching his videos because I'm training my puppy Nala and pretty much want her to be able to do those things. :) If you do check them out I hope it helps!!!