Re: Doberman biting necks of my children

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MaddeMay's picture
Joined: 2008-12-07

My doberman is a 7 month old female. We've had her since she was 10wks old. I have two preschool aged children who are very active and when they move quickly around her she runs after them and bites at them. What concerns me the most is that when they are on the floor, sitting near her, my doberman will put her mouth around their neck.  My son was on the floor (on his knees with his head near his knees) and my doberman bit the back of his neck. She caused deep scratch marks that swelled up and bled a little bit.

My reaction to her when she gets rough like this, is to stand over her and in a deep voice say "NO BITE".  She will then try to bite at me. She'll proceed to run around the room as fast as she can and pounce off of me, my children, and the furniture. When I catch her, I tell her no and then put her in her crate until she settles down a bit. 

I recently purchased a prong collar for her since that is the only way I can control her (she pulls and challenges me otherwise). She behaves like a saint when the collar is on her. I rarely have to make a correction when it's on and she is very responsive to it. This is also winter time where I live and the temps are below freezing so we can't take her outside to play or walk.  The best I can do is take her to the pet store for a walk.  I think she may be getting a little stir crazy but I am concerned.  I am a first time doberman owner and I have to admit that the behavior I describes above scares me.  The only time she is good with my children is when she is extremely tired.  Is this normal and will this change as she gets older?  Will she become calmer or better with my children. I've honestly thought about giving her away to a good home.  I don't want to put my children in harms way.

AlphaAdmin's picture
Joined: 2010-01-18

Pet Profiles

Hi MaddeMay,

Dogs greet subordinate members of their pack by gently biting them on the muzzle and head. At your puppy's age, she is expressing this behavior in play.

With active children around it is impossible to teach a dog to be calm. It would be like having three puppies out and trying to train just the one. The key here is teaching the children how to properly behave and react around a dog. Few things are as irresistible to a puppy as children being goofy. All she wants to do is join in the play with her litter mates, since this is what she sees them as. And - even when children are being calm, if she knows they like to play, she might often try to initiate the play.

Kids will be kids, we all know that. And she will naturally mature to a point where she no longer sees them as litter mates, but as the packs puppies, something for her to mother and protect. Until then the kids need to learn to stand up straight around the puppy, not to rial her up, and to ignore her when she jumps up or bites.

Seeing a dog biting your child's neck is a bit unsettling I'm sure.  ;) Your verbal correction is the right one - although she doesn't seem to take it to seriously. You might try grabbing her firmly by the scruff and with one hand around her muzzle while you give the verbal correction. This will assert dominance and let her know you're not playing.

This is not a sign of anything bad though. She is just trying to play. That's how puppies bond with each other. If she wasn't wanting to play with the kids at her age, now that would be a bad sign.

If you have any specific questions on how to control her unwanted behaviors, let us know. There are numerous techniques.

MaddeMay's picture
Joined: 2008-12-07

I can't tell you how RELIEVED I am to hear that!  We have all grown very attached to her and she is very much a part of "our pack". Thank you for your insight into her behaviors. I will try a more dominant approach the next time, in hopes that she will take me more serious. I was raised with chihuahua's all my life and I think the shear size of her can be a little intimidating at times (70 lbs). I've been reading training books but the whole neck thing threw me off course.

I have supervised all interactions that my dobe has had with my children and you make a good point about training my children how to behave around their dog.  They absolutley love her and are frequently trying to "snuggle" with her.  But this isn't such an easy task unless she is very tired.
I am so glad to know that her behavior is normal. That was my concern. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with me. I love reading this forum.  I have learned so much and continue to. 


MaddeMama's picture
Joined: 2008-07-18

Just another little note (of course I agree with everything horse said!)

Our (not so little anymore) Madde drives us INSANE in the house when she hasn't been at work with me for a couple days to wear herself out.  I work at a kennel so every day is bring your dog to work day, thank god. 

At 9 months She is basically a little clone of her mother, who I work with everyday too.  Thank goodness Mom is totally well behaved and mellow so I do believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel for most owners.  So yeah, normal. 

I know the rest of the country is cold right now and it stinks to be outside, but all I can say is walk her little feet off or take her to a dogpark - often.  Daily if possible.  We have another trick to wear them out too (if you're feeling lazy like us sometimes).  Go to a feed store, get an inexpensive buggy whip and a really fun stuffey (squirrel, or bunny or something), stitch it on with heavy duty thread or super strong fishing wire to the end of the whip (a strong fishing pole without a reel works too).  Now, if she likes to play as much as you say, giggling this around in front of her should make her go crazy.  Our furr kids will chase it for hours!  Wears them out great.  Once they get the hang of it though you've gotta be fast with it though.  My Madde runs after it full tilt, if I don't want her to catch it every time it moves, I have to be paying attention. :)

Horse is right, she will eventually see them as her babies instead of her playmates.  I've watched the transformation in my own girl with both human children & young puppies she's around everyday.  It's really amazing the first couple times you see them protect or nurture as opposed to run at and pummel!  But in the meantime, even though she's still a baby, she's a powerful baby so you should show dominance over her (pin her down, grab the muzzle, neck etc.) so she gets a jist that it's not ok to pin the kids!  Another thing that sometimes works is if you can get the kids to let out a dog-like yelp (really high pitched and really loud).  That's how they tell each other "too hard" when they're puppies & she doesn't want to hurt them, just play.  If she hears she was too ruff, chances are she'll stop and maybe be gentler next time.

MaddeMay's picture
Joined: 2008-12-07

Thanks for the ideas. I took my Madde to the pet store today to expend some of her energy and do some heel work.  We couldn't get too far before someone would stop to admire and pet her every few feet. She met lots of new people and it amazes me how many of them either own or have owned dobermans. They all shared their stories with me about what great dogs they are and how they were or are the best dog they've ever owned. My Madde loves the attention. She was very tired when we got home and she took a long nap.

As far as establishing dominance.  Does it hinder my pack leader role if I sit on the floor with her in my home? When we first brought her home, I'd sit on the floor with her and she'd curl up in between my legs. She still does that now at 70 lbs. She'll curl up and get comfortable and right as she's putting her head down, she'll let out a sigh/moan and then fall asleep. She'll do that with the kids too if they sit still long enough. We don't let her on the furniture (at our level) so I wondered if being on the floor with her was not a pack leader-type thing to do??

OldAdmin's picture
Joined: 2007-09-28


Sitting on the floor is fine in that situation. If you want to be sure, have her ask to lay next to, or on you. Pack leaders tell everyone where to sleep and higher dogs sleep closer to the leader. So you could make her sit and look at you before she just flops down. Make her wait for a release command - or just tell her to lay down.

Really anything you feel might be challenging your leadership role you can fix by incorporating commands.

rgreen4's picture
Joined: 2008-10-26

I recently added a new puppy to my pack, Princess (a red female) is now 14 weeks old and has an amazing effect on my 6 year old red male, Red. He has discovered his inner puppy, and the way he plays with her is exactly the way your Madde plays with your kids. They roll and tumble and mouth each other. Or, rather, I should say she attempts to mouth him, and as he is over 30 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs 125 pounds, he has no trouble mouthing her.

There are several good ways to correct her and let her know that you are the Alpha, which will also help control her on a lead without the prong collar. When you want her to settle down, hold her neck down on the floor and let a small rumbling growl come out of your throat. In a pack the pecking order is settled by who can put their head and neck over the neck of another member of the pack. What's funny is to see a Miniature Schnauzer male try that with my Red, poor Jiggs, even on his hind legs can get his muzzle over Red's neck. Also, for a quick correction just lightly pop her on her nose with two fingers. When the litter is very young, mama disciplines them with a pat of he paw on their muzzle.

Also make a shake can. Take a soda can, rinse it out good and put 4 to 6 pennies in it. Make several, they're cheap. When she starts to do something you don't like, reach over, pick it up, shake it and put it right back down. The sudden noise will startle her and she will stop what she is doing to look and see where the noise is coming from. If you do it too much, or she sees the can in your hand every time, then she will associate it with you and it loses some of it's effecitiveness.