Sunday, 22 September 2013

Nipping, barking and chewing

Now if there is one tip that all sources of Border Collie expertise gives, it is that you MUST address any nipping, mouthing or snapping right from the word go. Puppies of all breeds are like human children in that they want to test out anything and everything they can. Unfortunately for the new owner, the puppy doesn't have hands. So the only way they can test things out is by putting them in their mouths. 

If such behaviour remains unchallenged, it can, over time develop into problem behaviour. It's one thing to have an 8 week old puppy having a bit of a baby chew on your finger. It's an entirely different matter when it is a full grown adult dog with much stronger jaws and bigger teeth.

So I've not tolerated any use of Ruby's teeth on us whatsoever. It is obvious that she is learning through playing (and pushing the boundaries) but she needs to get the message loud, clear and consistently. NO TEETH ON HUMANS.

Ruby cleaning her teeth

It has been trial and error up to now. I read somewhere that emitting a loud 'yelp' whenever her teeth touch skin and then withdrawing interaction for a minute is a very effective way. Didn't seem to work very well though.

Saying 'No', in a stern voice has little or no positive effect. In fact it seems to make her more excited. Commanding her to sit/lie down could be a good strategy and has 'kind of' worked. The problem with the command is that we've only had her a week and although she is picking the training up really well, she tends to ignore commands when she is focused on something else. So it sometimes works, sometimes doesn't.

Then, this afternoon I was reading an Internet forum where one of the contributors advised that any jumping, barking, nipping behaviour should be met by standing up and walking slowly at the puppy, invading it's space. Although I was a little skeptical of this, I tried it. It had an immediate effect. In fact the second time I did it, Ruby didn't even get as far as a bark. She made a half hearted attempt to carry on the jumpy, nippy stuff then just stopped and calmed right down. I followed this with praise and hey-presto, she was fine. 

So there we go. That is how we will continue to deal with her pesky puppy over-excitedness. If she gets the message drilled in at an early age, we will have a very well socialised dog. She has already proved that she can cope with a house full of people without fuss. I am just keen to ensure that as a bigger dog, her way of coping with visitors does NOT involve herding them into a corner and imprisoning them until I come to the rescue. Unless of course, I tell her to...hehe