Noel Pepin Canine Behaviour Specialists
Noel Pepin Canine Behaviour Specialists

Alligators and Puppies - Is There a Genetic Link?


Scientists assure us there is no close genetic link between alligators and puppies, but this assurance seems suspect. Oshi, a seven week old german shepherd puppy, arrived last week. She looked like a puppy. Her fur smelled puppy fresh, her eyes sparkled, her tail wagged, and when the crate door opened she bounced playfully out. What became immediately apparent was how sharp puppy teeth feel when they are attached to your toe or finger.

For the past week, Oshi has treated our house like an alligator would treat the Okefenokee swamp. She has lain in wait, lurking under couches, crouching behind fireplaces, or peering from under stair cases until her prey, unaware, has walked into the room. Then, with the cunning of a natural hunter, she has attacked, penetrating slippers and socks with razor sharp puppy teeth. Squeals of surprise and pain only served to increase her excitement and her intensity. Her appetite was satisfied when her victim, defeated, removed their slipper or sock to escape. Then, with all the pomp and ceremony a seven week old puppy can muster, she pranced off, tail erect, to a hiding spot to enjoy chewing her prize.

I decided to create an in-house experiment to determine how experienced canine experts deal with puppy biters like Oshi.

The first expert, Dusty, an eight year old german shepherd female dealt with the problem with the wisdom and resourcefulness of a grandmother. Rather than wait for Oshi to race out and attack, Dusty walked around the house with a tug toy in her mouth. When Oshi launched a surprise attack, Dusty would simply shake the tug to attract Oshi's attention and would engage in a vigorous game of tug-o-war. This back and forth contest lasted as long as five minutes, and ended with an exhausted puppy, winning the prize and retreating to her puppy lair to savour her victory and have a short puppy nap.

Otus, a four year old german shepherd male, handled things more directly. As Oshi emerged from hiding to grab his paw, he emitted a deep and low grunt, stuck his massive muzzle under Oshi's belly and gently rolled her over. He then let Oshi up and the two of them, puppy and Otus, trotted off together as if they were inspecting their kingdom.

Two younger canine experts, Katie and Annie, were also consulted, and in each case Oshi adjusted her behaviour to suit the situation and the "victim". With Annie, she played and wrestled and then retired for a nap. With Katie, a more assertive dog, Oshi was careful to act submissively

To take the alligator out of your puppy you can adopt the strategies of the dog experts. Like Otus, we can clearly let a puppy know that biting is not allowed by commanding, "No bite", in a low firm voice. If puppy doesn't listen we may have to follow with a pinch or a squeeze, or as Otus did, gently roll her over. Or, like Dusty, we can have a tug close at hand. When puppy charges we can focus on an exhausting game of tug-o-war. Remember, a tired puppy only wants to snuggle and nap.

Puppies are delightful creatures. Like human babies they thrive on affection and attention. Be kind, loving, and enjoy your puppy - they won't be puppies for very long!

Noel Pepin -- Noel Pepin Canine Behaviour Specialists

Noel Pepin Canine Behaviour Specialists