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It has been a whirlwind adventure since your Doberman came into your life. He’s everything you hoped he would be, tenacious, intelligent and full of energy. However, he’s also got a rather bad habit. You occasionally hear a yelp as your Doberman gets excited and nips one of your kids. He also gets snappy when you have guests over and you can’t think of anything worse than him biting the in-laws. Things are also getting a bit worrying when you go out for walks. Rather than sniffing and saying hello to other dogs, your Doberman gets aggressive and tries to bite them.
Training him to stop biting is essential for several reasons. If the biting continues he may become more aggressive and do someone serious harm at some point. If that happens he may have to be put down. You also don’t want to risk the health of your small children or have to worry when he meets new people.
If the habit has developed over many years, training your Doberman to stop biting can be challenging. The first thing you need to do is take a number of steps to deter him from biting in the first place. You will also have to channel his energy into something more productive, through the use of toys and stimulating games. As with most dogs, Dobermans respond best to positive reinforcement, so you will need to focus on that.
If he’s a puppy the habit should be relatively new and therefore easier to break. You could see results in just a week or so. However, if he’s older and the habit has developed over many years then you may need up to six weeks to fully stamp out the habit. Succeed and you can leave him unsupervised to play indoors with strangers and roam outside off his leash.
Before you start work, you will need to collect a few bits. A water spray bottle and a deterrence collar will be needed for one of the methods. You will also need some mouthwatering treats. Alternatively, break his favorite food into small pieces.
You will need to set aside 10 minutes each day for training. However, the more time you can spend being vigilant and reacting to his biting will speed up the learning process. If your Doberman's biting stems from aggression, consider consulting with a behaviorist or professional trainer to help you choose the best approach to training.
Once you have all that, just bring patience and a positive attitude, then work can begin!
The Deterrence Method
Whenever you see him bite or display signs of aggression, quickly rush over and give a stern ‘NO’. You don’t want to terrify him, but make sure he is aware of your disproval.
Water spray bottle
You can also give him a quick spray of water near the face whenever he bites. This will get him associating biting with negative consequences. Make sure you give the spray within a few seconds of him biting.
You may also want to consider using a deterrence collar. They can be bought online and when you hit s remote button an unpleasant burst of citronella will be emitted. This will make him think twice about biting next time.
Dobermans needs a safe space they can escape to. This is particularly important if you have young children as they can pester and frustrate dogs. So make sure his bed is somewhere secluded where he can spend some alone time.
Encourage gentle play
While you need to follow all of the deterrence measures above, it also helps to reward gentle play. Hand over treats and give verbal praise whenever he plays calmly and doesn’t get too worked up.
The Distraction Method
Make sure he gets plenty of exercise each day. Dobermans are big dogs with a lot of energy that needs using up. If they are kept inside they may get worked up, which could lead to biting. So give him a longer walk or throw a ball as you go. The short sprints will ensure he spends his time at home napping instead of biting.
Tug of war
Spend a few minutes each day playing tug of war. This is a fantastic way to channel his energy into something productive. In fact, if he does start biting, you can pull out the toy and encourage him to chew that instead.
Make sure he gets enough attention from you each day. Spend a few minutes in the morning and evening playing around with him and stroking him. If his biting is attention seeking behavior, this should stop it.
You need to make sure Dobermans have plenty to do, especially if you leave him at home alone for part of the day. So give him food puzzles and toys to keep him occupied. There he can vent some of his biting energy.
Until you get his biting under control, it could be worth fitting him in a muzzle. This is particularly important when you are out in public. Once his biting behavior subsides you can then remove the muzzle.
The Positive Reinforcement Method
Basic obedience commands
Teach him ‘sit’, ‘down’, ‘wait’ and any other useful commands you might need. This will instil discipline into him, making it easier to control him if he does start biting.
It can also be useful to enroll him into group training classes. This will help socialize him with other dogs and people. Here he will see what type of behavior is allowed and what isn’t, such as biting.
When you are about to meet a new dog or person, position yourself between your Doberman and the other person or pet. If you are in front he will think it is your job to protect him and not the other way around. This should help him relax and remove the pack mentality to defend.
Make sure he is comfortable when he meets new people and pets. Dobermans may look big and strong, but they can still be nervous and shy, just like humans. So have people approach slowly and if his tail drops or he looks nervous have them back away. Also have people approach one at a time and not in a big group.
Whenever he does stay calm and friendly when he meets strangers, hand over a tasty treat and give him some verbal praise. You can also give him rewards every now and then when he plays gently. Dobermans respond quickest to positive reinforcement and this will soon get him associating gentle play with tasty treats.
By James Barra
Published: 02/20/2018, edited: 01/08/2021