I Make a Visit to Doggy Day Care to Stop Batman’s Nipping

By: David Codr

Published Date: January 15, 2016

Batman

Batman is a one-year-old Beagle / Bull Terrier / Bassett hound mix who bites or nips the neck and heels of the dogs at his daycare as they are getting picked up.

I started out the session at a doggy day care in Omaha so that I could observe the behavior for myself.

Pick up and drop off times at doggy daycare can be hectic. When the dog that is getting picked up recognizes his or her guardian, it’s common for them to get over excited. I wanted to see if this overexcitement was a factor in Batman’s behavior.

When I first arrived at daycare, up until someone came to pick up their dog, Batman’s behavior and energy level was in the normal range. I did notice that a few of the dogs at the daycare had a higher energy and were more excitable than the others. Not surprisingly, the facilities manager explained to me that these were the dogs the Batman had the most reaction too.

The first time I saw Batman biting another dog, it was after one of these higher energy dogs was picked up. As that dog, a black lab, was heading towards the door to the lobby, Batman did start to move towards him in an aggressive manner, pseudo body checking the lab as he ran by

At the end of the video you can see Batman taking out a little bit of his frustration on Gus, a dog that he lives with. At first I thought this may be a case of misdirected aggression. However after reviewing the video multiple times as well as the other footage I shot, I believe Batman’s behavior in the situation was more in line with him being frustrated.

In multiple occurrences prior to the one chronicled in the above video, Batman only nipped or bit the other dogs when they were in an overly excited state. Now I just don’t mean excited, I need very very excited – bordering on unbalanced.

When dogs are in a group, they naturally try to maintain a calm, balanced energy for the pack. As soon as a dog starts to engage in an unbalanced behavior, it’s natural for the other dogs to converge on that dog and let him or her know that the behavior is unacceptable. This is often done by barking, nipping and biting the offending party. Pretty much exactly what Batman was doing.

This is a lesson to anyone reading this session write up on how important it is to immediately disagree with a dog as soon as it starts to engage in an unwanted action or behavior. The sooner you disagree, the easier it is for the dog to determine what it is you disagree with.

I offered the facilities manager a few tips and suggestions on how he could disagree with the dogs over excitement to prevent them from getting in this overly unbalanced or anxious state. Eliminating that energy will go a long ways towards getting the other dogs to remain calm.

While Batman was attempting to disagree with unbalanced behavior, he showed a little bit of it himself when his guardians mother arrived to pick up her dogs who also stay at the same doggy daycare.

It’s subtle, but you can see a difference in the way that Batman was biting gas in the above video contrasted to the bites that he gave in the first video on this session write up. In the second video, it appeared that Batman was biting his roommate as a way of releasing a little bit of his energy as he was overexcited seeing one of his handlers arrive.

This was an issue that I knew I had to address with his guardians and the people that interact with him frequently

After their guardian picked up Batman and Gus, I followed them to their home so that I could observe the dog’s behavior in that setting.

As soon as we sat down to discuss the situation, I noticed that his guardian was petting and stroking the dog quite a bit. Just about anytime the dog came within an arms reach, she was petting him. On the few occasions where that wasn’t the case, Batman used his nose to nudge her to tell her she should be petting him.

While petting a dog is always a positive good thing, you have to take into account the dog’s energy, mindset and surrounding factors. Over time, petting a dog whenever it demands it can lead the dog to becoming petulant or upset when it doesn’t get its way. To help the dog better process wanting without demanding, I went over a technique that I like to call Petting with a purpose.

By asking Batman to sit, come or laydown prior to receiving attention or affection by his guardian, we can help the dog learn to develop self restraint and control. After all asking a dog to sit, come or lay down isn’t much of a challenge. But each time that the human engages the dog this way, they are very subtly reinforce a healthy leader follower dynamic.

To better equip Batman’s guardians with techniques to lead and control him, I went over a set of escalating consequences that I like to use anytime a dog is doing something I disagree with.

Because these nonverbal communication cues were derived from the way that dogs communicate and interact with one another, most dogs get them immediately.

It’s likely going to be more difficult for Batman’s guardians to adopt the nonverbal communication cues than it is for the dog to pick them up. But if the guardians make a concerted effort to do so consistently over the next week or two, these methods will quickly become second nature. Once that is the case, they will be able to communicate to their dog more effectively and with far less effort.

One of the situations that caused Batman to get the most excited was the arrival of his guardian’s mother; a passionate animal lover who the dogs love fiercely. His guardian had arranged for her mother to drop by near the end of the session so I could see this behavior myself.

As soon as he heard her at the door, Batman took off immediately, rushing the door and jumping up on it as he barked excitedly. I used this opportunity to demonstrate how Batman’s guardian can apply the escalating consequences to control the door answering ritual.

By claiming the area around the door and waiting for the dogs to move away and return to a calmer state of mind before opening it, we put the dog in a position to succeed with the behavior that we want from them. Calm, balanced energy.

Batman is by no means an aggressive dog. He is slightly more excited bowl than average but that in itself is not that unusual. My only real concern about his behavior at doggy day care was another black lab who cowered in the corner any time Batman was there. This shows that there is some unbalanced energy in Batman.

Petting him with a purpose, using the escalating consequences and immediately disagreeing with Batman when he engages in unwanted actions and behaviors will help his guardians communicate what it is they do and do not want from their dog.

By incorporating some additional rules and structure at home, Batman will be better equipped to deal with the excitable, unbalanced energy that sometimes happens at daycare. As his ability to control himself at home improves, his reaction and reactivity at doggy day car should lessen and eventually stop unless the the other dog’s unbalanced behavior gets too high to ignore.

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