You just brought home a bundle of fuzziness that slept all day, but now this furball is running around, nipping, jumping and biting. OUCH! As a human, our first reaction is to think that this puppy is naughty and going to become an aggressive dog if we don't do something....and fast! Although, yes, biting needs to be dealt with, it does not necessarily mean you have a "bad apple". It means your puppy is in fact a canine. Puppies bite for a number of reasons: They could be teething and the biting action is relieving the itchiness of their teeth coming in. They are also learning how to play. If you watch puppies at a young age play in a pack, they bite. As they get older and their litter mates teach them that biting hurts through a yelp or cry, a puppy soon learns to be gentle. Puppies will also bite to get your attention, and it works! On the flip side, a puppy may bite if they are sick, hurt or just not socialized correctly. It is extremely important to pay attention to your puppy's language to know why they are biting and proceed with the correct course of action.
The First 4 Steps
- Proper Socialization: Before you even bring home a puppy, you should do your research to make sure your puppy is getting socialization through the breeder or shelter and is not isolated. This is a big must. Most of a puppy's learning comes from the first few months and what they learn becomes ingrained into their behavior. That's not to say that your puppy is a lost cause if he/she has not been properly socialized. It just means that you will have to work a bit harder in training with patience on your side. Once you bring puppy home, it is important to maintain that socialization by giving puppy playgroups with other puppies as well as humans that are patient and have experience with puppies.
- The Overstimulated Puppy: An over stimulated puppy will become Jaws on Paws. Think of what a human toddler does when tired and overstimulated-- They melt down into a temper tantrum. A puppy does the same thing, but instead they use their teeth. If you recognize that your puppy is overstimulated, please put them in their kennel in a quiet area to rest. Puppies need rest!
- Visitors at the Door: If you have a puppy that likes to greet all visitors at the door with jumps and nips, one good way to try to ward off all the love is to place a box of toys outside the door with a little sign that says something like "Puppy in Training! Please help and give Fido a toy when you come in the door". This toy will help keep your puppy's mouth busy on the toy instead of the person. Plus, the sign will warn all upcoming visitors to remain calm upon entering the door and that, yes, you are trying.
- Exercise! Giving your puppy proper exercise (mental and physical) in combination with adequate rest, will help puppy not have to release their energy through their teeth.
If you are playing with your puppy and he/she starts to bite, the first thing to do is STOP. If your hand is in your puppy's mouth, do not try to pull it out. Instead, give a little yelp like "OUCH!", pause and wait for your puppy to release. If you try to pull, your puppy will most likely think your are trying to engage in a tug-of-war game and your hand is the object. This equals a not-so-good scenario. Once your puppy has released it's bite, walk away and ignore your puppy. If your puppy continues to trail behind you biting, put he/she in the crate for a time out. Eventually, your puppy will learn that biting does not = playing. Puppies are social animals. Social exile is not something they like. 😢 Always remember to praise, praise, praise your puppy when they are playing gentle!
If you have children in the house, it is especially important to train your children. Make sure you are very strict and consistent about how your children play with puppy. Children need to recognize an over stimulated puppy and take measures to let puppy rest instead of overstimulating the puppy more. Never let your children play aggressively with a puppy and they should not be the object of "chase".... Letting puppy chase the children around the yard, nipping at their butts, ect... This game is a really good way for a child to get bit or knocked down and bit once the puppy is bigger. It's a game that can escalate really quickly and go down hill fast. If your puppy is chasing your children, tell your children to stop running and stop the game. Period.
In closing, the most important thing to remember is that a biting puppy is learning. It is up to us to make sure they are learning the right way and getting socialized with other puppies. Never yell or hit your puppy, but instead use praise and gentleness to teach a puppy the correct behavior.