we just got an 8 week old (may 4th) golden retriever puppy. he's wonderfully sweet. but when playful.. he doesn't no the difference between mouthing and biting. does anyone have any tips on how to break him of this habit?
There are a number of different ways in which this can be taught, so remember the method I'm describing here is not the 'one correct method'. I've taught other dogs "no bite" in just a couple of weeks or less... however not our Golden... but more on that later.
This method was told to me by a breeder many years ago. Whenever your pup bites, regardless of how soft or hard, you should over-react with an "Ouch!" or even a high pitched yelp if you're up to it, and immediately give the puppy a smack with your open hand under his chin. Its important that it come from underneath the chin, that way puppy does NOT associate the unpleasantness with you or with human hands (and so as to preserve the pup/owner bond and never create a "hand-shyness" problem). The key is the severity of the smack... if its too light, he will become even more excited thinking it an invitation to play... if its too strong, well then that's just cruel and could cause your pup physical harm. The idea is to make it unpleasant for him to bite. At first your pup will think it play and come right back to nip again but if you keep it up the correction at just the right intensity, somewhere around 4 to 10 nips later he will finally get the idea and stop... temporarily. However next time it will not take as long, etc....
The method that I've just described above has worked within 2 or 3 weeks with all our previous dogs... however none, except Sidney, were Goldens... yes, Sidney caused us to rethink things.
With Sidney we use the above described method from 8wks to 10wks without much reduction in his biting... then our vet told us to let him bite and yelp only if he bites too hard, that would teach him bite inhibition (as he would have learned from his mom and litter-mates had he been allowed to grow up with them around). Some people on another forum suggested to just let him bite, he will out grow it as their dogs have. Well, we tried the vet's way for all of about 4 days and Sidney's biting intensified so much we HAD to go back to the 'chin smacking' method. It seemed to just keep his biting down to a manageable level... for weeks the biting went on. Finally right at around 14 weeks of age, we began seeing definite signs of some self-control being used to resist the biting urge. Alas, after more than a month (but it seemed more like a year) of 'chin smacking' improvement was finally happening and it continued until today, at one year of age, Sidney never bites though he will occasionally very gently mouth your sleeve or arm to get some attention... just simply saying "release" is all that's now needed. (Since then a number of other Golden owners have told me they agree that its about week 14 when the self-control first begins to emerge.)
So now this is what I've come to believe about all retrievers in general (Goldens and Labs)... For a pup, their mouths are like hands are to a human baby, its how they grasp things and explore their world (okay, human babies will also use their mouths too)... however, retrievers seem especially orally fixated, they can't help it, they were breed to be that way... RETRIEVER, get it? It appears to me that these breeds are also very slow in brain development, especially the part linked with self-control. So a lot of patience is needed. If you take the "do nothing" approach, I believe your pup will not develop proper bite inhibition or the self-control necessary to prevent easily provoked biting as an adult... I believe this because, after 6 months on that other forum, I noticed numerous complaints of biting adult goldens... and a couple of those people were the same ones who 6 months earlier suggested the "do nothing" approach. BUT KNOW THIS... there is one danger in using the method I described above... once you have found just the right amount of force to use for the smack do NOT escalate. There will be a very strong tendency to do this, since it will appear to not be working fast enough (remember it will take until about week 14 to begin to see the first definite sign of self-control being used)... If you intensify the level of your corrections, you will only succeed in teaching your pup that humans play very rough and as your pup grows he may try to meet the challenge and you will have unwittingly created a dangerous monster. (This is exactly what one impatient Golden pup owner tried to do on another forum, and then got rid of the pup at 12 weeks of age because he could no longer safely handle him... the puppy was drawing blood with every owner/human encounter). Just remember, by the time the puppy teeth have all fallen out (around 20 weeks) his jaw muscles will be powerful enough to easily snap your finger in two and as an adult he can easily crush a leg or arm bone if that is what he chooses to do.
The bottomline here is: DO correct him for every single incident of biting... you must be consistent and persistent... and have some patience, you've got about a month and a half to go to begin to see some real improvement... so go ahead and mark your calendar as a reminder to you that one day it will improve.
Oh, and another method many people use is to grab and hold the mouth shut until the pup has quit struggling... I personally do not care for this method because there is a chance for real physical damage to occur (to the nasal area) and I believe it destroys some of the puppy/owner bonding that should be taking place because it is readily apparent to the dog who is cause all this discomfort.
Anyway, I hope I've given you something to think about... good luck!
I was really surprised when i first got Cooper about the amount of biting he done. I was very worried as i had two children and had expected a totally placid child friendly dog. However I had also read about the above method of making a lot of noise when he did it, although i did not smack him, every time he bit us I yelled ouch and put him in his room for a little while. Now he still uses his mouth when he is playing, but he has understood that he was hurting us and plays gently. I also read that if you can put up with a golden retriever puppy for one year you will have a dog for life. Cooper was hard work, but i would say that after about five months he turned into that wonderful golden retriever i had expected. I think when he grows up i will really miss his puppy ways!
I do agree that Goldens and Labs use their mouths for everything. But I can't condone striking a dog anytime anywhere. I know many methods call for this, and they don't require a hard strike, but I would never do it.
I describe a method I was taught to stop jumping in some forum here. I think in behaviour. Read that and substitute jumping for biting, it works the same way since often they jump and bite the same time anyway.
after we got Austin, there were certainly times when i wondered "what have we done?" he was definately biting, nipping a lot. in our situation it seemed that it was mainly with me: jumping up and biting at my shirt was his big thing! I tried many things(this was 7 years ago so i don't remember all) i do remember that if we were playing and the play got aggressive i would immediatly stop the play and walk away- puppies really do want your attention so i think once they learn what is good play (with lots of praise) and bad play (ending play and walking away- not giving the attention they want) it will get sorted out. I did hear about putting pennies into an empty coke can and shaking it to distract the dogs attention from biting- but i don't remember this being affective at all for me. things did get much better after starting "puppy kindergarten" at around 18 weeks old i think- after all vaccinations. it was well worth the $75.00, i would do all of the homework myself and the repetition paid off! within a few weeks austin was listening to me and he really seemed like he liked to please.(also b/c the rewards-treats!) his biting had ended- we learned a command "settle and sit" where we would get the puppies all riled up and then say the command - they need to know what sit is though- this taught austin (and myself) that whenever he got super hyper , which is okay, it could still be under control by the settle and sit command- he would instantly sit for his treat(we kept many on hand to praise any good behaviour we saw.) Good luck, it's worth all the trying times!