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Author Topic: a question on dog raising
Member # 10242

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I have a puppy. Her name is Maya. She's a husky/malamute mix. She weighs 60 lbs right now, and she's just started losing her baby teeth.

The question: Is it okay to let dogs bite?

The situation: When I play with Maya, I let her bite, but not hard. As of right now, she is extremely gentle when she play-bites. If she get really really excited, she'll do this really fast jittering thing with her teeth while biting. It is still very gentle, and I think it's cute.

Now then, my mom was watching me play with Maya, and she freaked out, launching into a tirade about how you can't ever let a dog bite a person, because then she'll think it's okay to bite and if she gets angry or annoyed, she'll think biting is okay, and then she'll bite a stranger or some kid and we'll have to shoot her.

The thing is, from what I can tell, she is a nice dog. She is friendly with everyone she meets and she is very careful around my nieces and nephews (who are between the ages of six and two). She hasn't bitten or accidentally hurt any of them yet, and she sees them frequently.

But then, I don't really know much about raising a dog, so I'm wondering if my mom is right. Will play biting lead to aggressive biting? I don't think it will, but I'd like to hear some other opinions.

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Member # 2199

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Depends on how often you do it as well as how much you let her get away with.

I played rough with my dogs and they were fine, but there was always a firm line about who was in charge. With dogs a lot of stuff that seems like fun is really about dominance, and I made sure all my dogs knew when to stop. Ouch! was a key word....my dogs would always stop right away when someone said that, and they knew game time was up. So if they got a little bit worked up, saying OUCH cooled them off right away.

I think a lot fo it depends on the dog.

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Member # 7900

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Play biting, when done cautiously, may help prevent aggressive biting as an adult.

With our puppies, we also played rough with them. When they would nibble on our hands we would say "gentle, gentle" and if they hurt us at all by being too rough or trying to dominate, my mom would scream really high and loud and immediately turn away from them. As puppies they would kinda freak out at her reaction and be curious and she would play the part of being really hurt and not wanting to wrestle anymore. It was our weird way of teaching them boundaries.

So, I agree with Kwea that there's a way to let puppies teethe and be rough, while letting you control the situation.

And take this time to play with their mouths. Get them used to having human hands playing with their teeth. That way when they're older a vet and yourself will have an easier time examining their teeth and their mouths.

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Member # 5254

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It is entirely possible that Maya would never actually hurt someone when she play bites and that she would never hurt anyone down the road as a result of this play biting.

However, now is the time when you want to set some boundaries. It can be hard for a dog to understand the difference between biting just a little and biting hard enough to hurt someone.

I think the issue that you need to worry about are the legalities of allowing your dog to bite (however hard it may be). Case in point: A neighbor comes over with her child and wants to pet Maya. The child, not knowing any better, waves its arms around in front of Maya eliciting a play reaction. Since you taught her that play biting is ok, she gets excited and does this with the child. Now the child yells "the doggie bit me!" and you look at the child's arm and there are slight little bite marks. The mother is furious and she decides to sue you for your dog biting her child. You lose and Maya has to be euthanized for being dangerous. Some people are not tolerant of dogs and do not understand what constitutes play or aggression. We both know that Maya never intended to hurt anyone and in fact, the child was the one that initiated the playtime and caused Maya to play bite it. However, a court will never side with you/Maya because a dog that bites is something no one wants to deal with. This is a complete reality and it could happen. Especially because a husky/malamute cross is more likely to be viewed by the public as more dangerous than some other breeds.

I know you have heard "it may be cute now, but what about when she gets older?" It may no longer be cute and could have serious repercussions. I really think the best thing for everyone would be to teach her that biting, even play biting, is not to be tolerated. Institute the "ouch" policy and quit playing with her the second she bites so she learns that biting = a "yelp" and no more playtime. Good luck.

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Member # 8916

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I think a situation more likely than what RackhamsRazor brought up would be that the mother sees the dog bite her child, but you say, "Oh, that's no big deal, she's just playing." If, later your dog were to accidentally bite someone hard enough to hurt, there is now a witness to the fact that you KNEW the dog had a tendency to bite, and did nothing to stop it, making you more responsible.
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Member # 2968

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I have a friend who has an Alaskan Klee-Kai, whenever I play with her she often will attack my hand as if it were a chew toy, but not as hard as too cause damage. She's never hurt me, and we've never stopped her from doing it.
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Member # 5254

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Like I said, you may not mind, but someone else might. If they do, then you and your dog could be in a lot of trouble.
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Member # 4068

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I used to play with my dog the way you're talking about because it was sweet and playful. But then my dog would try to play with other people by playfully biting and it was highly unappreciated by my friends and family. When my sister had children, I decided it was time to stop playing that way.
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Member # 2314

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I don't think it's ever okay to let a dog play bite human skin in any way. A husky/malamute mix could kill a small child without even trying hard. Teaching that dog it's okay to bite people is highly irresponsible of you, IMO.

Teach her it's okay to mouth her toys, and that's it. Establish firm boundaries - anytime she touches teeth to human skin the game is over. She'll catch on quick.

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Member # 10242

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After thinking about it some, I've decided that even though I think the biting is cute (she already knows to be gentle), I should probably put a stop on it altogether. I guess the biggest reason is that I don't want her to annoy my friends.

I think it's very unlikely that she would ever attack someone, or that i would be faced with a lawsuit for her biting. That's based purely on probability and the behavior of the average dog, and the odds of the average dog owner being faced with such a suite.

As I mentioned, she plays with my nieces and nephews, and they're 2, 4, and 6 respectively. Their games consist of Maya licks them, the kids run around screaming and laughing to get away. She doesn't chase them, she'll just stand and wait. They eventually get closer and try to pet her, she licks them, repeat about a billion times. She hasn't tried to play rough with them yet, but she is also bigger than they are, and I think that has something to do with it. She sees them once or twice a week, sometimes more, since I live less than a mile from my sister. I've been very impressed with her behavior around the kids. I've seen large dogs knock little kids over, simply by wagging their tails or trying to move when the kids are standing right next to them. But she's been very careful around the kids and it hasn't happened yet.

I don't think it's highly irresponsible of me to let her bite, and I suspect it's healthy for her development and bonding, but I don't have any evidence on that. I'm not so worried that she'll be violent. I'm more worried that people will think her lack of manners is annoying. I also kind of think she would have grown out of it, but now I'm just going to make sure she has plenty of good chew toys.

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Member # 5633

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How old is she?
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Member # 3206

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DevilDreamt, I think you are going through the right sort of thought processes.

One of the things she needs to learn to distinguish is that humans are *not* some "different breed" of dog. They are humans. So while nipping and playing (as she does with you) would be ok within her species, outside of the species it should generally be discouraged, so she doesn't get confused about "changing the rules" in midstream.

Have you read any books by the Monks of New Skete? They have some excellent books on canine psychological development.

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Member # 1772

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It is a good choice to start to change her behavior now, rather than expecting her to "grow out of it". When I was a kid, we adopted a 1 year old German Shepherd whose previous owner had allowed him to playfully chew on her hand and arm. It took us months to teach him that this was inappropriate.
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My sister's name is Maya. [Smile]
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