View Full Version : Dog biting self to get attention

10-16-2000, 10:32 AM
Does anyone have any suggestions? Our golden retriever mix chews herself when she thinks she is not getting enough attention. She bites and chews her own paws until they will bleed.
The only way to get her to stop is to pet her. If you stop, she scratches you until you pet her again. If scratching you doesn't work, she starts biting her paws again.
We can't understand because we pay lots of attention to her. She has a sister in the house, but both of them get constant attention from everyone in the house. Someone is always with her (even all day) and we even try to give her special attention. The other dog does not act this way.
Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

10-17-2000, 04:20 PM
I hope you are ready for this as you really have got some problems there!
When you say that your dog has constant attention I hope you mean she has company all day and not what you actually said. To give a dog constant attention is rather like having a stalker!
First and foremost check her out at the vet.
As you have probably already done this, I think you know what has to be done, don't give her attention when she is biting herself. Sounds easy - it's not!
Your dog has learned that all she has to do is start nibbling and she will be rewarded with petting, or as she will see it, praise. She is controlling you and being rewarded for it and life doesn't get much better.
To stop her thinking this way a few things will have to change;
Prepare well, explain to all members of the household and regular visitors what you are doing, why and that everyone MUST do exactly the same things ALL the time with NO exceptions. It is in the dogs best interest.
Acquire a dozen or so small plastic bottles with screw top lids, small drink bottles are ideal. Put 6 or 7 small stones in each one.
Agree a day when treatment is going to start and make sure everyone knows!
Greet your dogs in the morning by asking them to sit before you make any physical contact with them. As soon as they obey pet them as much as you like. It is important to remember this as it is the key to this method working - you decide when the dogs are petted not them. Do not allow anyone to pet them unless the dogs have done something to earn it or are lying quietly and not chewing. Treat both dogs in the same way.
Whoever is in the house should have 2 or 3 of the prepared bottles to hand AT ALL TIMES. As soon as the dog starts to chew, whoever is supposed to be paying attention to her should throw, with some force, a bottle onto the floor close to her. Totally ignore any reaction and don't look at her. If she comes to you for reassurance tell her to go and lie down. Don't pet her and don't look at her. If she stops the chewing for 5 seconds after the bottle is thrown then you go to her and praise her calmly and gently, picking up the bottle at the same time and leaving her where she was. If she then refrains from chewing for 10 seconds before a bottle is thrown go back and praise her quietly again. If she is still behaving wait 15 seconds and praise, then 20, 25, 30 and so on. Ignore her totally in between times.
If she starts to chew before the time is up you must throw another bottle and wait for 5 seconds again.
Try to keep your other dog out of the way for a few days, in another room or staying with a friend except in situations where your bitch never chews such as on walks.
This does work although you have to 100% commited to it. Your dog will be a lot happier with this problem sorted and you will have a much healthier relationship with her. Good luck, let me know how it goes.

10-17-2000, 04:31 PM
Thank you so much. I am going to print this. I try to tell the other family members not to encourage her, but her daddy always gives in. Now maybe he will get the picture.

We have had her checked at the vet...she does have skin allergies but they agree she is doing this for attention.

Yes, I meant that the dogs are not left alone all day, not that I stalk her. http://PetoftheDay.com/talk/smile.gif She is a great dog, she just believes that she should be petted all the time, not just when she deserves it.

Thanks again for the great advice.

10-17-2000, 04:54 PM
You didn't say if you just got her recently or if you've had her for awhile. I have several questions for you. If you've had her for awhile, is this something she just started? Did you already have the other dog before she started this behavior? Has the other dog gotten extra attention lately for any reason or has there been any kind of a big change in your home? Maybe you could try putting dog booties on her and distracting her with a toy when she tries to bite herself. Kongs keep my dogs occupied for quite awhile. One of my dogs used to bite her paws a lot (though she never made them bleed) and I used the above methods and she finally quit. Hope this helps.

karen israel
10-18-2000, 10:44 AM
Listen to my friend Carrie.. she know what she is talking about! I just saw myself as a huge offender of pet, pet, pet for nothing..YIKES! Now you tell me!!!! http://PetoftheDay.com/talk/frown.gif http://PetoftheDay.com/talk/redface.gif http://PetoftheDay.com/talk/eek.gif

10-18-2000, 10:53 AM
We got both dogs at the same time when they were pups, they are now both 5 years old. The one chewing right now has always been the submissive one of the pair, no real changes in the household.
The pawing and scratching for attention has been going on for a few years, but it was never out of control. It has only been recently that she started biting herself for the attention. We can't figure out what started it, but we are definitely going to try all the suggestions we've gotten here.
I think the real key is to show her that we are the bosses...and we need to ignore her when she does this behavior.
Thanks so much for everything. Jackie

10-18-2000, 04:09 PM
Hi again,
Cherie's method of distraction would work with some dogs (and I'm thrilled that you managed the behavior this way before it got out of hand). The reason I didn't suggest this method for your bitch, jhack, is that she is already switched on to the chew, reward, chew, reward cycle. If you try the distraction method at this stage your bitch is going to see the distraction as a reward.
As in,"I used to chew and get petted, now I chew and get a toy!"
Don't get me wrong, if you stop this behaviour before it is established all the better but in this case it is well and truly ingrained.
As soon as you get to a minute without chewing let me know as there are some extras you can throw in at this time to help. What does your family think of my suggestions?

[This message has been edited by carrie (edited October 18, 2000).]