Monday, August 13, 2012

Socializing, Sitting, and Still Play-Biting

Miss Margot had quite a weekend!   It started on Saturday morning when Justin and I decided to take her with us to Petco.  I wanted to buy her some Nylabones because HOLY CRAP does she want to bite everything right now (more on that later).  So, I grabbed the little blue harness that Margot wore just one week ago when she went to her first vet appointment, but when I tried to fasten it around her it was short by at least a couple of inches!  Our little baby is getting so big so fast!  So, we had to lengthen the harness straps as far as they would go, and then immediately added “New Harness” to our Petco shopping list.

Accidental photo taken on the way to Petco
I will admit that I was a little nervous about taking Margot out to such a public place since she hasn’t yet received all of her vaccinations, especially since I often see other dogs inside Petco; however, I’ve also been reading about how important it is to socialize your puppy between the ages of 8-12 weeks, and she is scheduled for her third round of shots this coming Saturday.  So, Justin assured me that Margot would be fine, as long as we kept an eye on her.   I should also note that this was Margot’s first experience with being walked on a leash, and she did great!  We took her for a mini-walk up and down the sidewalk to get her used to it before we finally got in the car and headed to Petco.

Margot was pretty scared when we first arrived at the store, and I had to pick her up half-way across the parking lot and carry her in.  Once we were inside, though, she decided she wanted down, and I was happy to oblige.  A few customers stopped to compliment her, and she was more than happy to allow them to pet her for a moment.  Then, as we were getting ready to check out, Margot spied one of the most adorable little puppies I’ve ever seen standing by her owner on a leash.  (The owner later told us her puppy was some kind of a Bulldog mix, but she had one brown eye and one bright blue eye, so there may have been a little Husky in her, too.)  Margot and the other puppy were a little unsure of each other at first, but after some preliminary butt sniffing, the two started wrestling a bit, and I thought I was going to die from the cuteness!  Then, after Margot’s new playmate left, an older lady asked if she could hold her.  Justin told her that she could, but warned her that Margot is in a bit of a nipping phase.  Thankfully, Margot was a perfect angel and just smothered the nice lady with face kisses as she held her.

Margot left Petco wearing a pretty fancy new ID tag, and we had a bag full of new Nylabones, a couple of chew toys, training treats, and a new harness for her.  From there, we drove to Justin’s parents’ house, as his parents are planning to pet-sit for us in a couple of weeks and we’re trying to get Margot used to them, their older dog, Samantha, and their house.   She had fun exploring the back yard and really seemed to enjoy their screened-in porch, but she was so exhausted from her adventures that morning that it wasn’t long before she was completely passed out.

Later that evening, I took Margot over to visit my friends, Susie and Shane.  I’ve been a little worried lately about Margot play-biting my friends (she actually drew blood from Kristy’s ear the other day), but I was pleasantly surprised by how well she behaved while we sat on Shane and Susie’s porch.  She just played with her toys, but also REALLY enjoyed sitting on the loveseat with Susie and watching the birds and people passing by.  Later, we took Margot inside to meet their cat, Pete, who happens to be one of the sweetest cats I’ve ever met.  Pete and Margot got along just fine, although they mostly just curiously followed each other from room to room. 

Then, the highlight of Margot’s day had to have been when we took her out into Shane and Susie’s backyard.  She had a BLAST running all over their little yard and especially through their landscaping.  In particular, Margot discovered that if she ran full-speed into the small, grassy plants that line Shane and Susie’s walking path, then she could BURST through to the other side!  We laughed so hard as we watched her plow through those grassy plants over and over again, as if she had just discovered the greatest thing on earth!  Then, Shane started playing with Margot, which was really sweet, but at the same time it made my “motherly” instincts kick in, as Shane was playing with Margot a little rougher than she’s ever been played with before.  It wasn’t that I was afraid he was going to hurt her, because Shane loves dogs and I know he knows how rough is too rough, but it was just the fact that Justin and I are currently trying SO HARD to break Margot from play-biting, and yet here she was rough-housing with Shane, which obviously included some play-biting, as that’s just the nature of an 8 week-old puppy.  I didn’t want to ask Shane to ease up, though, because, like I said, he really wasn’t playing THAT rough with her, and I didn’t want to sound like an uptight, overly-protective dog owner who won’t let her puppy have any fun.   They actually only played for about 15-20 minutes, but after Shane ended their games, he pointed out where Margot had “gotten him pretty good” with a few play-bites.  I felt bad and apologized, but Shane insisted that he had asked for it and that it was no big deal.  Needless to say, after such a fun and exciting day, Margot slept like a BABY that night.

Yesterday, we decided to take all three girls for a walk together for the first time, which went really well.  I made sure not to let Margot walk ahead of me, which wasn’t that difficult, and Jocie and Sam didn’t seem to mind having Margot along on the walk.  So, the “puppy-free walks” idea may have turned out to be short-lived, which I actually consider to be a good thing, and we’ll probably start taking Margot for walks with us from now on.

Other highlights from this past weekend included catching Margot and Sam cuddling while taking a brief nap together and seeing Margot tilt her head for the first time when she heard a strange new sound on the television.  Of course, I was also very happy that Justin and I were able to capture both of these melt-worthy events with our phones. 

The only downside to this weekend was dealing with Margot’s nipping and play-biting.  Justin and I are trying to be vigilant with discouraging mouthing and correcting her whenever she bites, but I swear none of the “tried and true” methods I’ve read about are working very well (see previous post).  One minute I’ll think that it’s working and that Margot is starting to understand that we don’t want her to bite us, but then the very next minute she’ll go into full-on Landshark mode and won’t stop nipping, no matter what we do!  As I’ve said before, though, I don’t REALLY expect an 8.5 week-old puppy to stop biting, especially since she hasn’t even started teething yet (or perhaps she’s just now starting?), which is why the constant corrections and discipline feel very disheartening sometimes.  I know that eventually she’ll be old enough to understand, but for now it just feels like we’re constantly yelling and trying to discipline a wall. 

Last night, for example, while Margot was playing on the couch between me and Justin, out of nowhere she leapt onto my lap and bit my nipple!  OMG OWWWW!!!!!!  It freaked me out and hurt SO badly that I didn’t even think about performing the usual corrections, such as letting out a loud yelp or telling Margot, “NO!”  Instead, my knee-jerk reaction was to immediately pick her up and toss her back over towards Justin, and then I quickly walked into the other room so that I wouldn’t just go OFF on her.  Justin wasn’t even sure what had just happened, but he knew enough to give Margot a very stern, “NO!  No bite!  Bad girl, Margot!”  After about a minute, after I calmed down and realized that she hadn’t drawn any blood and the pain subsided, I returned to the living room to find Margot curled into a tight, little ball on Justin’s lap.  I sat down beside them, and then I instantly melted when I saw the pitiful little look on Margot’s face.  It actually brought tears to my eyes because she looked SO sad!  I think it was probably the first time Margot had truly realized that she had done something “wrong,” and our reactions must have really scared her.  Obviously, I tried to make up with her immediately by asking if she was sorry, and then I coaxed her over to my lap so that I could pet her and show her that I wasn’t upset anymore. 

At first, I thought this little incident may have finally prompted a breakthrough with Margot, as she certainly seemed remorseful for what she had done, but then, as soon as she realized I wasn’t angry anymore, she started biting my hands again!  I’m telling you guys, I consider myself and Justin to be extremely patient people, but this play-biting phase is seriously challenging both of our sanities! 

On a much more positive note, I think I can officially say that Margot has mastered the “sit” command, although I don’t feel like I should take much credit for teaching her because I swear the Puppy Genius has just figured it out on her own.  Margot learned early on that Justin and I won’t bend down to pet her if she jumps, so now she immediately sits as soon as she runs up to greet us in the morning or when we get home from work.   Also, I usually give the girls their treats in the kitchen, so Margot ALWAYS sits anytime she’s in the kitchen with me and/or Justin.  Because Margot had already figured out that the act of sitting would bring her a reward, all I really had to do was give the action a name and lots of praise, and in no time she figured out what “sit” meant. 

Yesterday, I decided to start teaching Margot the “lie down” command, but that one is obviously going to take a little more work.  After all, she has never automatically received any rewards for lying down before like she did with sitting, so this will probably be the first command that she actually has to learn.  I’m hoping she picks it up quickly, though, because that will also give me hope that Margot does have the ability to understand, “No bite!” 

In the meantime, if anyone out there has any advice regarding correction/discipline methods (other than the ones I’m already using), which you have successfully used to end puppy play-biting, or if you would just like to share your own experience with this frustrating phase of puppyhood, please feel free leave me a comment below.  Any and all feedback will be greatly appreciated.  :)


  1. I just want to reiterate that the ear thing was sort of my fault. I should have known better than to lay down and let a puppy who likes to bite crawl all over me, and the only reason she drew blood is because it hurt SO much (like the nipple thing, haha), my knee jerk reaction was to pull away while she was still biting.

    I think puppies just bite. I'm going to look around on Google, although I'm sure I won't find anything you've already seen, I know you're an avid Google'er

  2. Ugh. We have this like 10-11 week old puppy, Nala, and she is also in the biting stage. It really is annoying. The whole yelping thing doesn't work either because she just wants to then jump up and bite at your face...We also got her when she was 6 weeks old.

  3. Thinking back, I'm trying to remember how much play biting we had to deal with. Oh yeah, and jumping, because I couldn't get it through ANYBODY'S heads not to let Elka do that. Nobody.

    With the play biting, we did a combination of immediate, high pitched, over the top drama queen "ouching" and such, and an immediate withdrawal of attention. Hands up, stand up, turned away. No reaction to the puppy for X amount of time (typically, I waited until she stopped being a freak and sat to look at me), be it talking to her, looking at her, facing her, or touching her. Then we would redirect to a toy, which was appropriate to bite, and continue to play. Elka did not (and still doesn't) have a whole lot of drive, depending, so this ended up working. For some puppies, the squeals just encourage them to KILL harder! With those puppies, it's redirect redirect redirect.

    Nowadays, I can play fight with Elka without the slightest fear of her mouth. Now if only I could teach her paw inhibition as well as her bite inhibition worked out...she steps on us like a horse!

  4. My puppy is mixed with Pit Bull so I don't know if that's why she wants to bite all the time but I've recently started trying something different. Because she knows what "NO" means, when she licks me, I'll tell her "Good girl!" and keep on until she bites and then I give a quick and firm "NO" and she usually will go back to just licking and not biting. So I think that will work for me. One can hope.

  5. I too did the whole overly, dramatic NO with all 5 Dobermans I have had in my life. The redirecting to one of her toys is the key (at least for all of mine). They quickly realize that biting is meant for their toys and not their mama! ALWAYS have a toy with you when you allow Margot to sit in your lap for cuddle time, etc. When she decides to start the biting, yell out a loud NO and put the toy in her mouth instantly. You may also want to tug on it, and play with her at that moment. Play biting is a sign that the puppy wants to play, so make sure she knows that "playtime" is with toys!! See if this helps any. I know this stage is really rough on the skin, but so well worth it in the end!! Much luck to you! I just love her already!! :)

    1. I already do exactly what you have described here. I ALWAYS have one of Margot's toys, preferably a Nylabone, within reach or already in my hand whenever I sit on the floor to play with her. I will say that sometimes the redirecting seems to be working a little better, but that changes from day to day. Sometimes it seems better, and other times, no matter how much I redirect her to bite on a toy instead of my hand, she will bite the toy for a few seconds, then actively try to get around the toy in order to bite my hand instead.

      Last night, I started trying the "beans in a bottle" method, which I am actually getting ready to blog about, and so far that seems to be effective. Although, like I said, Margot's discipline fluctuates from day to day, despite our consistency. I'm sure that's mostly due to her young age (9 weeks today!), so we're just going to keep at it and be patient.

      Thanks for the advice! :)