Many dog bites occur when one reaches to grab a dog by the scruff or collar. Usually, this is because by now the puppy has learned that unpleasant things happen when they are taken by the collar. For example, while your dog is playing and having a good time chewing your shoe, you might reach for your dog's collar and lead them into their crate. Or you might grab them by the collar, put on a leash and drag them away from all their doggie friends at the park. From your point of view, placing your dog in their crate is sometimes necessary and play dates at the park have to end eventually. But from your puppy's point of view, they're being punished. Because of this, when you reach for their collar, they figure then is a good time to bite or play a thrilling game of "catch me if you can." It's important to make sure we aren't accidentally punishing our puppies every time we reach for their collars so they learn to be compliant about it instead.
If your puppy acts defensive or bites at you when you reach for their collar or you'd like to avoid that ever becoming an issue, adopt the collar grab exercise into your daily training routine. You're probably already hard at work teaching your puppy to come when called. Now you just have to modify the exercise a bit to include the collar grab. It should look like this:
1. Call out to your puppy, "Rover, come here boy!"
As your pup makes their way to you, praise them every step and when they catch up to you, grab them by the collar and give them a treat in one swift movement and say "Good dog, go play." Repeat the exercise 15 times, make sure you are fun, upbeat and interesting.
2. Modify and repeat
Now that your puppy is successfully coming when called 15 out of 15 times, you're going to ask them to sit before they are released back to go play. Call your puppy over and when they catch up to you, grab them by the collar, ask them to sit, wait 5 seconds, then give them a treat and say "Good dog, go play!" Again, repeat the exercise 15 times, make sure you are fun, upbeat, and interesting.
Side Note: As far as treats, it's recommended that you use your puppy's kibble over store-bought treats if possible. To make taking kibble as a treat more appealing, we recommend that you stop feeding your puppy from a bowl in favor of feeding from hollow chew toys like Kongs and similar toys instead. If you do use store-bought treats, make sure you cut them into the smallest pieces you possibly can before each training session. try to turn 5 treats into 30 treats!
That's how easy it is to solve or better yet, prevent "grabitis" in puppies! If you have an adult dog who has grabitis, it's not too late. This exercise will help them learn to associate a collar grab with treats and praise just like it does with puppies. Go grab a handful of kibble and get started!