Biting and Car Rides

by Alanah
(Brantford, ON, CA)

From Alanah... Oliver is about 10 or 11 months old. I got him about 2 months ago from a shelter he was in for 3 WHOLE MONTHS! He was a stray before so we don't know much about his past or socialization or training.

We believe him to be a Collie/Shepherd cross but he may be any combination. He is red and white collie colour with Shepherd-like ears which he can put down and up and some darker hairs on his tail and forehead, a German Shepherd-like snout too.

He picks up tricks quickly! In 10 minutes or less I can teach him a new trick and he can remember it. He knows sit, lay down, sit up, stand, roll over, play dead (point fingers like a gun and say BANG!).

He is getting better with recall and we bring him for walks all the time and he heels nicely, sits when we stop and doesn't pull. We use a prong and own a remote collar that randomly shuts itself off (usually when we need it most)...

Oliver's Problems:

Car rides make him nervous! He pants continuously and is more prone to biting in the car. We have to have toys in the back for him and strap him to the seat belt or else he tries to climb up front in the way of the driver.

When we try to push him back and say NO! he bites. I received a nasty one not too long ago in this way.

He also bites sometimes (I think out of a want to be dominant) if you try to correct him by jerking his collar for taking a toy or item he shouldn't have.

He plays too rough and tries to jump up and bite arms and legs hard enough to bruise and pinch when playing. I try to push him down, say NO! and stop the game, but he thinks this is merit to continue playing.

He is NOT food aggressive (thankfully, because my boyfriend's nephew has selective hearing when we tell him NEVER touch a dog that has food). I don't know where to start with the car thing, the biting, or the rough play.

I socialize him at the dog park regularly and he learned pretty quick from the other dogs to play nicer... I just wish I could growl and snap like the dogs at the park so he would stop biting me! PLEASE HELP!

I want to maybe start attending a class in spring or summer when I have more time. Which class would you recommend?

Shannon Says...

Hi Alanah,

Thanks for your great questions! I love it when owners give me so much information to work with. And Oliver is such a gorgeous dog!

It sounds like you are on the right track with most of Oliver's training. I will start by saying that we aren't offering any training classes anymore (as is noted on our website), unfortunately.

If you have room for it, I would get a plastic Vari-Kennel (crate) for the car - this will keep him safe in case of an accident, and is also safer for you and any other passengers in the car. If there is no room for a crate, get a dog seat belt (pet store) for him.

These will keep him in the back seat and prevent you from having to correct him for trying to get into the front seat (prevention is always the best).

You can also give him some Rescue Remedy before going in the car to help him calm down, Gravol (children's chewables - 1 tablet for his size), or for last resort use Atro Vet from your vet.

You can work on desensitizing him to the car as well. Take him in the car for just a couple minutes at a time, say around the block. You can give him a kong with some peanut butter inside to keep him busy as well. Slowly build up the length of the car rides.

Dogs will bite when they are afraid, which is likely what is causing this behavior in the car.

Biting can also be caused by rough housing and rough play, or over-spoiling (you should always avoid this type of play) - even if you are not doing it, all it takes is one person that plays roughly with him for the biting to continue.

E-Collar Training for Biting

In order to correct biting, you need to catch him in the act each and every time. The best solution is to use the e-collar. I would call the manufacturer about the problems you're having with his collar, because you really do need it to be always working!

I recommend the Radio Pet brand of e-collar - very reliable and it is rechargeable. You can't find them at the pet store, so you would have to order it from their website.

If your collar comes with a "warning beep" option, turn it off. The beep will make him realize that it is the collar that is correcting him, not the behavior.

In the same way, do not say "no" or anything when you correct, as you want him to think the correction is coming from his behavior, not you.

For biting, press and hold the button on the remote for 1 second on the highest level - aggression is not something to be allowed as it's a liability.

Remember, say nothing. He should wear his e-collar all the time (as long as he has it off for at least 8 hours at night). This will prevent him from connecting the collar with the correction, and you will always be prepared to correct his behavior.

For correcting for picking up items, say "out" or "drop", wait 3 seconds, and then press and hold the remote button for 2 seconds on the lowest to mid level. Praise him immediately if he drops it. If he doesn't let go, don't repeat the command, but correct again on the next level up.

For rough playing, like I said, do not allow anyone to rough house with him. He should never be allowed to have his paws on you - this includes shake-a-paw. A dog can't understand why he can have his paws on you for this game, but not with jumping up.

Again, you can use the e-collar to correct the jumping and nipping - just be sure to correct no less than 1.5 seconds after the behavior occurs for him to understand what the correction is for.

You can also use a leash and collar correction for the jumping. Set up scenarios to teach him what you want: have his leash and collar on, and stand behind him. Have another member of the family or a friend stand in front of him and entice him to jump up (slap your legs, tap your shoulders, say "up up up").

When he tries to jump up, loosen the leash for a split-second, pop DOWN fast, firm, and on time, and loosen the leash again. Say nothing while correcting! You don't want him to know that you are the one who corrected him - if he looks at you, look the other way.

Praise him when he stops! This is called entrapment, and he will quickly learn to go where the advantage lies. You will have to repeat this exercise often to correct the behavior.

Your corrections will also be the most effective if his collar is pulled up high under his chin and behind his ears - a dog's "tender zone", where the leash amount of muscle is.

Sorry for the long-winded answer, but I really hope this helps. Don't hesitate to ask if you have any other questions or comments!

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Feb 15, 2012
Thank You!
by: Alanah Claus

Before this question was responded to, we purchased a seat belt for Oliver and continue to give him toys in the back seat so he associates rides with a positive thing.

We also have only ever taken him on rides to good places like a trail to walk on or the dog park, tiring him out also makes him behave better in the car.

So far, he is eons better, but will stretch as far as he can to be as close up front as he can... I think he wants to sit with us, but we will not allow this. I have only been snapped at once or twice since we have started using the seat belt and have been increasing the frequency of rides so it becomes a routine. These snaps could be corrected timely and an actual contact with my hand did not happen as I saw them coming.

This is a relief as the one bite he gave me probably would have merited stitches if it hadn't been Christmas Eve and I hadn't avoided hospital/clinic like the plague. I needed a butterfly to hold it closed and it bled a lot!

He is doing much better, now we need to concentrate on his separation anxiety (we crate him every night and when we are gone he is tied outside or crated because he is still in the eat everything stage. We will be moving to an apartment, we have a back yard... but his crying and barking every time we aren't near will need to be addressed so we don't get kicked out :) Any thoughts?

I talked to a trainer at PetSmart briefly and they suggested we put his food bowls in the crate to encourage him to go in and out... and to put him in it for short periods of time without actually leaving to go anywhere.

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