My Puppy Bites, So What Can I Do?
If you’ve never had a puppy before, it may not be such a pleasant surprise to learn that puppies can be very mouthy, frequently biting everything, even you! This is a very common behavior for puppies, but can become a large problem down the road if it is not handled properly right away.
My Pup is Normal
Remember, puppy biting or mouthing is instinctive. My puppy is not the only one who nips, and he is not “bad” because of this behavior. Biting or nipping is one way that pups establish their place in a pack. Although nipping is normal, what is harmless for a 10-pound pup may not be so cute once he reaches 50 pounds! And those of us with puppies know that those baby teeth are like razors. Ouch!
It’s important to discourage this behavior right away so that your pup doesn’t continue the habit into adulthood. Sometimes, puppy biting can be an attempt to establish dominance, and once Fido thinks he’s in charge, it’s going to be hard work to try to take back the role later on.
Prevention and Training Are Essential
You can start training your puppy immediately. During the teething phase, training should be constant and consistent. With a little bit of effort, puppy biting can be controlled and eventually eliminated. What’s more, training develops a bond between you and your pup, and will let Fido know you are in charge early on.
It is also important to understand that when puppies get excited by their environment, they express this by biting, barking, and chasing. Some puppies, possibly due to their breed, might have a stronger tendency to exhibit these behaviors more than others. Especially in regard to quickly moving objects, puppies cannot control their automatic desire to chase and nip. Many dog attacks occur because of the canine instinct to “chase and grab.”
Always supervise your puppy and children at play. Children move quickly, and they have a very excited energy that may draw your puppy in for some nipping and chasing!
A calm household is ideal for training puppies, however, it is not always possible. Some simple things you can try at home are to avoid playing rough with your puppy. Keep your tone down. Avoid shouting and screaming. It may seem like fun, but teasing Fido can lead to excited nipping and biting.
How to Train Your Pup
Every pup is unique, so your method of training should be specific to your particular dog. There are guidelines you can follow, and tips you can use to find what works best. Remember, consistency is key, so with any method you try, give it a couple of weeks before you decide it’s not working.
Here are some training techniques for correcting the biting behavior.
When your puppy goes to bite you, redirect the biting to one of his chew toys. As soon as the pup tries to bite, give him a firm “no,” and replace your hand with the chew toy. For teething puppies, you can also try ice cubes or frozen teething toys.
Another popular method is to make the pup think he is hurting you when you get bit. This technique mimics how puppies in a litter react to each other. When play is too rough, the hurt puppy will yelp. Try letting out an “ouch” every time your dog nips you. This works best when you catch the puppy off guard with your yelp. Immediately pull away and stop playing with him after you yelp. This will teach him that when he bites, he loses his playmate.
Try spraying your pup with a water bottle when he bites you. Some puppies will run away to avoid the water spray. In addition, you can try filling an empty container with coins or rocks. When the pup goes to bite you, say “no” and shake the can. This works best if your dog is caught off guard by the rattling noise. Make sure to pay attention to how your pup reacts, because some will think the water bottle or rattling container are for play. In this case, stop immediately and try another method.
Begin teaching the “leave it” or “off” command. These techniques are better for older puppies who have longer attention spans. Hold a handful of the puppy’s dry food, close your hand and say “off” or “leave it.” After a few seconds, if the puppy has not touched your hand, say “take it” or “okay,” and give him a piece of food. You are teaching Fido that “off” or “leave it” means not to touch. Once your pup is familiar with either command, it can later be applied to biting and nipping .
Enroll your puppy in an obedience class where he will have the ability to socialize with other puppies. Typically, puppy classes begin when your pup is about six-months old and has had his Rabies vaccination. Interaction with other puppies, and help from a professional trainer, will reinforce all the work you are doing at home.
Always praise and reinforce good behavior! Whenever your puppy acts appropriately, give him plenty of praise and affection, and maybe even a treat!
Never Forget the Golden Rule
Remember, the most important part of training your puppy is consistency and repetition. Be patient and consistent, and apply the same techniques or commands. This applies equally to all stages of puppy training. Patience, calm, and a firm and consistent correction, together with praise for good behavior, will have outstanding rewards in the long run.
When welcoming a puppy into your home, you can try buying some books or DVDs to help teach you about your dog’s particular breed or about training your puppy at home. There is a wide selection to choose from, and what’s more, the training shows on television are becoming very popular. Channels like Animal Planet and National Geographic feature several shows about obedience and behavior.
If your pup is still nipping and biting, try consulting a professional trainer. Once you find the right technique the pup, you’ll be able to enjoy your dog’s company–pain free!