How to Teach a Rescue Dog to Stop Nipping People as they Pass By

By: David Codr

Published Date: January 16, 2018

For this Santa Monica dog training session we worked with a pair of dogs; 1 year-old Pomeranian Tiny (left) who likes to bark and 1 year-old Shepherd mix Biggie rescued as a street dog in Tanzania, (right) who has been nipping people after they pass by.

Because of Biggie’s hand nipping problem, his guardians had him in a muzzle when I arrived for the session.

When I sat down with Biggie, Tiny and their guardians, I learned that they had few rules, Tiny was spoiled and both dogs could tell their humans when to pet them by nudging, jumping up, barking or pawing at them.

I offered a number of positive dog training tricks and dog behavior tips that will help the dogs start to see the humans as authority figures. This lack of structure could be a big contributing factor for Biggie’s nipping.

Dogs probe to determine boundaries and limits and whoever enforces them is looked upon as being an authority figure. Its not about correcting, punishing or dominating a dog to get it to listen and respect you. Its all about how the dog see’s you and your actions play a big part in that perception. The more we consistently enforce rules and boundaries, the more the dog sees us as their leader.

Fortunately the dog’s guardians weren’t physically correcting them. They were using a few old out date methods for a few problems, but once I explained why they were problematic, they jumped on the new all positive approach with abandon.

But being good leaders through their actions is very important for anyone who wants to stop a dog from nipping people. The dog needs to see and respect people as having more rank or status. Dogs nip to correct but generally only think its appropriate for them to correct those they see as having less status or rank than they perceive themselves as having.

After going over the importance of proper exercise, I turned my attention to the dog behavior problem Biggie’s guardians were most concerned about; nipping people’s hands as they pass by on walks.

There could be a few different reasons why Biggie nips people’s hands as they pass by, but my solution to this dog behavior problem is usually to redirect its attention to stop a dog from nipping. To accomplish this I went over a Focus exercise with his guardians.

Biggie picked up on the exercise with his guardians better than he did when I first worked with him. Sitting is a more subordinate position and Biggie only felt comfortable sitting farther away than is best for this exercise. Here is a video of me teaching a dog to focus who didn’t have that problem.

While nipping is an undesirable dog behavior, in this case it didn’t appear aggressive. By redirecting their dog’s attention when they are about to pass, they should be able to stop dog nipping fairly quickly. But first, they will need to practice the focus in progressively more difficult situations at home.

To help the guardians remember the dog training tips and secrets I shared with them in this in home dog training session, we shot a Roadmap to Success video you can check out below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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