Random Rant #13 – Biting

Why is your bonded adult glider that you have owned for more than 6 months biting you? Here are some possible reasons and advice for solving the problems.

Because they are thirsty. Gliders tap into bark to drink from tree’s xylem, I believe they are instinctively trying to similarly tap into us to get to a drink. A thirsty bite tends to happen on the forearm especially near the elbow bend and often feels like teeth scraping or several fast chews but tends to lack the sharp stab of a true bite.

Advice: Offer them half a grape, watermelon, apple, orange slice or a water bottle.

Because they are triggered by a scent you are wearing.

Advice: try changing your soap, perfume, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion to see if they behave differently afterward.

Because they object to the way you are handling them.

Advice: Practice a hands off handling style where the gliders have the freedom to run on your shoulders or back. Avoid putting your palms over the glider or picking them up by wrapping hands on them. Try instead to support their feet with the back of your hand under them and use lures to control where they go instead of physically forcing them. Train yourself by spending a tent time session with your fingertips mentally glued to your palms in a loose fist while interacting with them.

Because they are in a frenzy. Frenzies are generally brought on by worms and feather chases, though there are a few other triggers as well and some gliders have personality specific triggers.

Advice: wash your hands after handling treats, especially worms, to remove the food scents. Guard your hands during feather chases, either feather chase across the cage bars or get quick about letting the feather go if they move up toward your fingers. Otherwise, just forgive the frenzy bites, they are not indicative of a behavior issue.

Because they are scent-marking you. Scenting bites will be accompanied by other scenting behaviors such as chest rubbing, wagging/dragging the back legs back and forth, dripping single drops of urine in a line, or rubbing their head against you.

Advice: Wear the same hoodie whenever you play with the gliders and don’t wash it frequently. If you are already scent marked they will feel less need to cover you so thoroughly each time. Guide their biting up to the seams on the shoulder to give them a good spot to bite down for booty dancing without hurting you. Wear a watch with a plastic or leather band and you can guide their bites to that as well.If you have multiple cages of gliders, being scented by one set of gliders will encourage the other set of gliders to scent over top of it. If scent marking bites are becoming a nuisance, designate a separate hoodie per cage.

Because they are a breeding pair and joeys are on the way. Daddies get protective of their mates and joeys, and sometimes they get very aggressive defending them. This is especially true of first time daddies or ones that have just been relocated or otherwise stressed right before babies come OOP.

Advice: minimize washing of cage items for two weeks before or after joeys come OOP. Reduce handling of the daddy, increase handling of the momma. Be sure to have a cage cover on the cage to hold in their scent and keep out other pet scents. Keep foreign glider scents away from him, especially other intact male urine. Keep all other pets as far from their cage as possible, even if they are friendly. Increase their daily food and fill all the foraging cups with treats. Be sure they have a good wheel that they enjoy using, if it gets ignored most nights try another style out or get a treadmill, exercise is essential for a glider to deal with anxiety.When the joeys are OOP, zip dad into a bonding pouch when handling the joeys and let him watch you with them so he knows they are safe, return the joeys to momma when done and be very careful when releasing the dad from the pouch, he may go for your hands at that point. He should calm down again by the time the joeys are 3-4 weeks OOP.

Because they are jerks. They have learned to control you with their teeth and they use that against you mercilessly.

Advice: anti-bite training. Whenever the glider bites, blow air in their face like blowing out a candle. If they are being particularly jerky with their biting, feel free to have some bad breath to really drive the point home. Other glider owners use a loud Pssttt sound instead of blowing, I can’t quite get the glider accent right and they ignore me so I blow. Match bite intensity to blow intensity and be very consistent about it. Don’t bother blowing more than a second after they have released the bite, it needs to be concurrent to form the association. I usually provoke bites intentionally when trying to anti-bite train so I can be sure to be ready and lined up when they make contact. Anti-bite training goes quickly with joeys, but not so much with adults who have an ingrained biting habit already. Give it several months of patience and consistency before writing off this strategy.

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