If you’re a new puppy owner, one of the things you may not be prepared for is puppies biting. All puppies bite, though. It’s a question of how much, how often and why. Let’s look at some of the reasons for puppies biting and also how to control the problem.
Reason 1 – Separated Too Young:
In the litter, puppies learn a lot about biting. They learn what to bite, how hard to bite and when not to bite. Playing with their brothers and sisters and hearing them yelp if they bite too hard teaches puppies when enough is enough. The problem is that, these days, people aren’t careful about when they take a puppy away from its litter. A puppy should ideally be at least ten weeks old before it’s separated from its mother and litter.
Reason 2 – Teething:
All puppies, just like human babies, go through a period of teething. As their teeth are coming in, they often feel better if they mouth or bite something. Sometimes a cold or warm wet cloth to chew on or a specially designed toy for teething puppies can help.
Reason 3 – Natural Curiosity:
Puppies biting out of curiosity will generally bite or mouth almost anything. It helps them learn about the object. However, they’ll usually bite gently, in a tentative, curious way, not hard out of aggression.
Reason 4 – Aggression and Over Reaction to Play:
Another reason that puppies bite is because of fear or aggression. That can happen if they haven’t been socialized properly. It can also happen as a result of rough play, though. Certain games that people play with their dogs encourage biting and pulling with the mouth.
There are, luckily, many ways to stop puppies biting at inappropriate times and for inappropriate reasons. Many of them are simple techniques. Let’s look at a few.
Socializing Your Puppy:
Your puppy needs to be well-socialized as early as possible. That means exposing them to a variety of situations. For example, the puppy should get used to seeing children, adults, other dogs and even cats or other pets. The more your puppy is exposed to new things in a positive way, the less likely he or she is to be fearful or aggressive later on.
Word or Phrase Association:
There are certain things that your puppy should be allowed to bite, like his or her own toys. So, it’s best to associate a word or phrase with things that the puppy is allowed to bite and a different word or phrase for things the puppy shouldn’t bite. That will help the puppy to distinguish between the two and figure out what it is that you want.
Getting the Puppy Used to Hands:
Another thing you should do with a biting puppy is try to get them used to hands. Particularly for large-breed dogs, it’s best to be able to get your hands near them in any situation while they’re young, so they’ll be easier to control when they get older.
For example, it’s best to cure food aggression at a young age. One way to do that is to feed the puppy by hand. If they start getting too aggressive, simply stand up and/or close your hand into a fist. Then, once they’ve calmed down, start again.
If your puppy bites too much for that at first, you can also use a fake hand on a stick as a training tool. Use the fake hand to “grab” at the puppy’s bowl while they are eating and, gradually, switch to using your own hand. Don’t allow children to do such an exercise, though.
Shifting the Puppy’s Focus:
The can and treat method usually works well. It involves filling an empty can with something that will be loud when shaken, such as coins. When the puppy bites, the idea is to shake the can and use a verbal command. Then, when the puppy stops, give them a favorite toy or a treat and praise them. The only problem with that technique is that involves carrying cans, toys and/or treats with you everywhere during the training process.
A similar method that you could try is clicker training. Clickers are generally used as positive reinforcements when the puppy stops biting. However, some people choose to get two clickers that make different noises and use one to indicate that you want the puppy to stop and the other to praise when he or she does.
What Not to Do:
There are several things you shouldn’t do, when you’re training a puppy not to bite. One of those things is not to scream, say “Ouch!” or over react to the situation. This is particularly important if the puppy is biting out of fear or aggression. If the puppy learns that he can get you to leave him alone, hurt you, or in any way dominate you by biting, he’s going to consider it a successful tool. So, it’s important to stay calm.
Another thing you should never do when you’re trying to stop your puppy from biting is to yell at or in any way hit or hurt the puppy. Some people think they have to hurt a dog to show dominance over it. Your puppy will be much happier and much more respectful of you and willing to listen if you treat it with firmness, but kindness. If you treat it poorly, it’s only likely to misbehave more.
Finally, don’t encourage rough play with a puppy that likes to bite. There are plenty of games that you and your pup can play that don’t involve biting. If you’re looking for some good play alternatives, a little Internet research or talking to your puppy’s veterinarian will give you many great ideas.