Tips from Buttercup – Desensitizing Techniques, The “Little Talk”

One of the top three complaints from new puppy owners is biting. The one story that comes to mind is from an older couple who came in with a little lab puppy that was only 10 weeks old.. The back of the hands,arms and chin of the owners where covered in bloody Band-Aids. The wife was in tears when she saw me and was at aloss on what to do.

During the evaluation, when we sit on the floor with the puppy, I asked the owners to show me what the puppy was doing that it was biting their hands so much.
The puppy was really tearing into them and every time the pup bit at them they would pull back their hands and as doing so the pup learned how to go airborne and snap, getting their hands, nose , ear, chin, what ever was in the way. I asked what toys they had and they said he chews everything up so they don’t give him toys anymore. Mind you this is barely a 10 week old pup. When I asked how old he was when they got him they proudly said six weeks. They wanted him as young as they could get him so they could bond with him.

Oh boy, I thought, this puppy never got to learn bite inhabitation with its litter mates and now they have created a little monster. I have got my work cut out.

First I strongly believe that pups should stay with their litter mates until they are nine weeks old. They learn so much from each other about play, give and take, plus a good lesson from their moms as to when enough is enough. I enjoy it, as I can learn so much by watching their development on how they will carry themselves with their new families and other dogs. As a breeder it is up to me to match these puppies properly to their new homes.

Through the years of working with lots of puppies that have left the nest too soon I have developed The “LITTLE TALK”.

I start the technique when the puppies are between four and five weeks old. This is also the age that the pups really start ruff housing with each other, biting, playing, learning when their legs are. They start hopping at each other, tugging on things, climbing, and some very fun stuff. When starting this be sure to fully support the pup by placing in your lap and have them face you, as they do try to wriggle their way out. This demo is with a ten and a half week old who has had the technique since he was four weeks old. At this age they a bit too big to fit into your lap so we will use a mat and it’s okay to let them rest their back legs on the ground, be careful though not to pick them up by the shoulders off the ground. Just support them.

First we are going to have a little talk. I usually say, “What seems to be the problem here?” (see figure 1). I turn the pup around to sit away from me. Remember if they are biting we want to disengage and not argue.

IMMMEDIATLEY start to massage the shoulders to calm them down. (see figure 2)

figure 1 figure 2 figure 3
figure 4 figure 5 figure 6

Demanding pups will want to squirm and will try to turn around and bite. If you keep your hands firmly massaging their shoulders and have a calming tone, they will settle.

The facial massage. Start to massage their ears as well. (see figure 3)

Move down the front leg, to the toes with your right hand while supporting the chest with your left hand so he doesn’t squirm away, we are not done yet. (see figure 4)

The other side (see figure 5)

Stand the pup up, again keeping both hands on the pup to keep him on his mat. (see figure 6)

Start at the shoulders and work your way down the back along side the spine three to five times, keeping the support as you switch hands. Mind you that if they haven’t had the technique early on, they are very demanding pups, and this will take some time for them to learn. (see figure 7)

Pick up the back feet. First the left then the right. (see figure 8)

And most important, do not forget the tail. You do not have to pull hard; it’s just to get him used to it being touched. Kids pull dogs tails, not sure why but they do. (see figure 9)

For the reward. Show them a toy and send them on their way with their release word “Okay,” ( it’s never too early to start that) and away they go. (see figure 10)

Since your puppy has had a good experience on the mat and now has forgotten about biting you, he’ll come back and settle with his toy on his mat. (see figure 11)

Good puppy. Baby Balooo “Ohkom’s Simply the Best”
As Always “Happy Training.”