How to change the bad habbit of biting
Impulse control isn’t naturally most dogs’ strong suit, and we are responsible for training our dogs for the sake of manners and safety (both his and others, human, dog or anything else!). There are some things you’re already doing that will be a good basis for Judah’s training, but it needs to be mentioned that the “alpha roll-over” – which is what you’re describing with “putting him in a submissive state, and when I do he just struggles on his back” – is very dangerous.
This antiquated idea of gaining status with a dog by rolling him over and pinning him down until he shows submissiveness came from some bad science and has been debunked in countless scientific journals, articles and books. Another negative aspect of this method is that it deteriorates your relationship with Judah. And as mentioned, it’s extremely dangerous;Judah may decide he doesn’t like this practice and bite you. It also exacerbates the exact behavior you’re trying to modify!
Because, as you mentioned, there is potential danger with Judah’s too-rough play, it’s necessary for you to work directly with a professional trainer who has a great deal of experience with this, and can give you an honest assessment of the situation. There are subtleties in a dog’s posture, movement, etc., that, unless you’ve studied that field in depth, you’ll need to learn from a professional, and they need to work with you and Judah, and the rest of the family, continuing to monitor progress as the training continues.
Biting is especially painful when your dog is in pain or is afraid, for example your dog might bite you when you try to trim its nails. Check this article on how to make this difficult procedure a child’s play.
A trainer who employs science-based, non-violent, positive, reward-based methods is who you need, and a great place to start your search is to go to the Association of Pet Dog Trainers website, click Trainer Search and just type in your zip code; a list of nearby trainers will then display. I always suggest calling at least three to five trainers and listening carefully when they describe their training and behavior modification techniques.
Until you’ve scheduled your appointment, here are some exercises to start getting Judah ready to learn some impulse control. Teaching him Sit, Down, Stay and more commands as time goes on is a very important part of his education. Play needs to be a part of a series of training exercises, all geared toward showing Judah that the game of playing only happens when he’s appropriately playing the game.
Just think about how easy it is for us to get really riled up when someone cuts us off in traffic: we yell, get mad and our adrenaline starts pumping. Zero to 60 in no time, right? And that’s a human reaction, with our ability to choose to calm down — which we don’t always choose!
So it’s easy to see how any dog can get revved up very quickly when he starts playing, particularly a young, untrained dog. He’s dealing with instincts that can get triggered all at once, such as play, prey chasing/catching/shaking (think of him biting the pillows), self defense – and all of these can be dangerous if not kept in check.
So for now, please keep play out of your interactions with Judah until you can start working with your trainer, who will teach you all about timing, slowly integrating low-level play into a training session, appropriate play, how to keep your kids safe (they need training, too!), environmental management and more that will give you the training skills and confidence to know you’re helping Judah integrate safely into his new family.
Very best to you and your family, and please keep me posted on all of your progress!