Friday, December 28, 2012

How to Stop Ankle/Leg Biting, Jumping, and Leash Chewing

My Mini Aussie just turned 2 years old.  By 1 year old, I can tell you that a lot of the annoying things he did as a puppy that I thought he'd never stop doing (and was very persistent about) had completely faded.  At two he is different dog in many ways. When you're going through the process, you really start to wonder, "Is this ever gonna get better?"

Well, it does. You might feel like your training isn't working, but as they age they get better and better.  Puppyhood is one of the hardest things to get through.  Things will work for a while, then not work, then work again and they will remember and forget stuff.  But it must be sinking in somewhere because I stuck with it and all of a sudden we came out the other of the tunnel and he is a fantastic dog!

Allow me to make you feel better...My story:
Let me tell you, my Indie was baaaaaad when he was 8 weeks-11 weeks old. Oh my god. He was so vicious about tearing at my pant legs when we walked. And if I was wearing big slipper-boots (like Ugg boots)? Fah-get about it! It would make him go extra nuts. We couldn't walk an inch with those fake lambs on my feet (must have been his DNA).  I spent a lot of time those first two weeks yelling "No! Stop it!!" and giving him a little swat when we tried to go for leashed walks and man, oh man, I was worried because getting super angry and yelling didn't seem to do anything.

I remember thinking, "Damn, this dog is so stubborn. What have I done!!" Then, at the behest of my breeder, I started sticking my finger in his mouth or yelling OW! every time he tried to bite my pant legs and that worked, though it was quite difficult to coordinate since he is fast and his mouth is tiny. I also tried squirting with water, but remembering a bottle and walking with a giant bottle were a hassle.  Honestly the best thing was talking in low, growly voice. That's how other dogs correct each other. If you need to loose your temper and yell, it shows you are not the alpha.  Alphas get respect, they don't have to force it. With the leash biting and flailing, soap was the charm. I put soap on the leash and that put an end to leash biting for at least a few days after each time I did that.

Okay, so an important thing I want to note is that these things worked in spurts.  As soon as it seemed like Indie was over the behavior and it was all working, he'd start up again. Le Sigh. You hang your head. A false peak. The road makes you feel like what you did has disappeared into the ether of the universe like a fart in the wind.  But lo, it sinks into their little doggie brains and eventually pans out somehow, you just need to keep trucking.

Cheater version: Important things to remember:
1) It DOES get better with age, but only if you keep up the work on your end
2) Even when it feels like what you're doing isn't working, KEEP DOING IT
3) Stay consistent and always reprimand or distract them during unwanted behaviors

What to do for Leash Biting (in no particular order, just things to try)
  1. Cover bottom part of leash (i.e. part closest to their mouth) with gobs of dish soap RIGHT BEFORE you start your walk.
  2. Bitter Apple, sold at pet stores could be sprayed on as well as per above
  3. Squirt them in the face with a water bottle or toy gun every time they bite at the leash
The dish soap worked very well for us. One taste and he would lay off the leash biting for at least a few days and then eventually not at all.

Ankle Biting/Pant leg tearing up
  1. Squirt them with a water bottle/ squirt gun
  2. Jam your finger in their mouth/throat super quick. Like In n Out super fast. (My breeder's suggestion, but I found it hard to actually do. It did work though!).
  3. Stop moving and Yell or Yip in a shrill, high pitched voice "OUCH" or "YIKES".  This is what other dogs do tell each other "Ow, that hurts"
  4. Negative reinforcement: Grab their collar and Saying "Nooooo" in a deep, low voice
  5.  If they are biting you in the house, put them on a time out.  This means the second they do something you don't like, grab them and put them in their kennel or play pen and walk away for 30 seconds (i.e. eternity for puppies). If you don't own anything like that, put them in an empty room and close the door. Then come back, let them out, and repeat if they keep doing it.
  6. Spray a blast of PetCorrector spray --very effective, but not good for tiny puppies as they are sensitive. Depends on the dog though. See my post here about how to use PetCorrector Spray
We worked on training for EVER and it really paid off. Indie is under complete control now and we barely have to do any training any more except for tricks. For a long time I wasn't sure if what we were doing was working because Aussie's can be so dang stubborn and persistent, but let me know, it does sink in there some how. Just never give up.


  1. Our Birdie is 17 weeks and has put holes in many of my 8 year old's clothes! She will walk up and sink her teeth into a leg or arm even when she is not all worked up and excited! Your words of encouragement are helpful. It WILL get better (right?)! We have been keep up with training and it seems fruitless. Hopefully soon we will see some more improvement!

    1. It can definitely take a while...however, by 4-5 months you should be starting to see improvement. If not, you may need to be more strict with your punishment for the biting! Indie was a terrible biter. I thought he would never get better and I worked so hard at being good about punishing him for it. Suddenly, one day, he was more into playing that chasing my moving limbs. At any rate, if you are not experiencing that I highly suggest you do one session with a private dog trainer. It is SO helpful! They are better able to asses as they can be right there with you and your dog and catch something small you may be doing wrong. It's easy to mess up training. You think you are giving your dog a clear signal, but you might not be. If the dog is biting you, it's not because she's bad and won't get better, it's because somehow you are still letting her know it's okay.

  2. Can you help me with keeping my mini from running across the street? He is 5months old now and is very good with cammands like sit, down, stay but once he sees another dog across the street he bolts. I have been trying to keep him on leash at all times outside but its hard to be consistent with the leash.

    1. I know, it is so hard to be consistent with the leash.Sadly, that's the best answer here. I mean, getting dogs to not chase after distractions like other dogs or squirrels is very, very hard and takes a lot of training. I wish I had a quick fix for you! What you need to do is keep treats on you all the time during this training phase, you must be more desirable than the other dog across the street and keep your dog's attention on you when you see him slipping. If you give him a treat everytime you call him back to you, he will come or potentially be stopped more quickly. However, dogs will be dogs...anyways, sorry I can't be more help on this one!

  3. Our mini is already 4 months old and I feel like I have been going about his training all wrong. I let him bite when we play - not hard but still teeth to skin, he's unruly on the leash with me but not my husband :( , still barks in his crate, etc. And last night he took off through the front door when my sister was leaving and I had to chase him down and he would not listen to me at all. Scared the crap out of me. First spankin' I've ever given him (we have been trying the ignore bad behavior and reward good - CLEARLY not working) I'm about to change up my training to your style but do you think I am too late and need to do an obedience class?

    Thanks for any help you can provide :)