Biting, nipping, mouthing, growling, snapping.
You little alligator you!
What on earth is going on?
All of these behaviors are really just a dog being a dog. It is one of a dog’s ways of communicating with other dogs. Most of the time it means the dog is anxious, nervous and feeling that it is threatened.
Buster has found this works to give him the safe space he feels he needs.
In order to deal with this I am including him in some group work with different dogs from my pack. Unfortunately sometimes when we remove a dog from its siblings early in life we also remove a chunk of their education. So dogs coming through rescue who may have been somewhat isolated or purebred dogs who are removed from the litter at 7 or 8 weeks do not have some of the skills they need.
This is the first lesson of a progressive systematic desensitization program to help Buster cope calmly with touch, hugs, restraint, paw holding, nail clipping, grooming and more.
Here is a lesson by Professor Marcus the Pit Bull.
So my pups are about 10 weeks old now. Mom has pretty much kicked them to the curb now when it comes to nursing, but she loves to play with them. They are old enough that I let them out with the other dogs when I’m home. Mom and the other dogs often hold the pups to the ground by the neck or throat. I’m getting this is a good thing?
Kris, thank you. Good question.
Yes! That is absolutely correct.
The more “parenting” they get from different well adjusted dogs, not just mom, the more well adjusted they will be in the long term. Also the more they get used to being pushed around a little bit, having their paws held, or their neck held or their scruff held by dogs the less likely they are to react when humans do the same thing. It is not a direct correlation, sometimes it does not transfer well, but it is a start! Once they are able to take this advice from dogs then we can develop the skill by getting them used to humans doing the same.
The other thing they learn is the same skill you see here with Marcus, they learn to control their reactions, using just enough energy to match the energy of the other dog, they don’t use rage and it is not a switch where they are either winning or losing. Learning self control. If Buster tries to use a pissy attitude to score points he won’t get far. He can use gentle, peacemaking communication and Marcus backs off.
Systematic Progressive Desensitization is the official term used in Psychology because it takes the general idea of “getting used to it or getting over it” and defines that it is a structured, well thought out, plan aimed at careful monitoring, feedback and definite progress.
It is not just exposure. People hear that they need to socialize their dog and take a leap that more is always better. Not necessarily. That can lead to sensitization where they become more fearful instead of desensitization where they become less fearful. Think of it as if we wanted to get a person over a phobia of snakes or spiders for instance. Too much exposure too soon might be counterproductive!