To your puppy, biting is a natural canine reaction. But to us, a bite from a puppy isn’t fun at all. It is painful, and you may get rabies or the plague (yes, it’s true!) from it. While you may want to go for the aggressive approach when your puppy lunges at your hand or nibbles, you shouldn’t.
It is natural for puppies to play using mouthing and biting since that is what it does when out with other puppies. Unfortunately, as your puppy grows, it gets stronger, the teeth get sharper, and the bites become more painful, uncomfortable and potentially dangerous.
With these considerations, you have to discourage your pooch from this habit. Create boundaries and make your puppy know that human skin and hands are not for biting.
What Should You Do?
Here are some methods that you can use to train your puppy to stop biting. It’s definitely achievable, but takes time and lots of patience.
The first step in stopping your puppy from biting is teaching it to understand that humans have very sensitive skin.
Using inhibition, your puppy should learn how to control the need to bite or using its mouth on humans. Without learning about the sensitivity of the human skin, the dog won’t learn how to inhibit its impulses. Otherwise, your dog will bite your skin hard causing bleeding and infections.
How does inhibition work? When playing, puppies mouth their mates but the mouthing can turn into biting. However, the other pet will respond to the bite with a yelp that startles the puppy, which makes it release its grip. This works for humans too – when your puppy bites too hard, let your limb go limp and imitate the yelping sound. After it releases your hand, ignore it for about 20 seconds before resuming play.
Note that you should never pull away from the bite. Pulling away too fast triggers your puppy’s chase instinct which worsens the problem. Also, the yelping may not work, or you may not be the yelping person. In such a case, a loud ‘Ow’, ‘Ouch’ or any other words will work well as a verbal deterrent.
Finally, for inhibition to work, the limp limb and the use of a verbal deterrent should not be repeated more than thrice in fifteen minutes. Give it a timeout if the biting is too repetitive. Inhibition is important because it teaches the puppy to note the difference between gentle and rough play. Once you successfully inhibit the hard bites, repeat the process again for moderate bites and lastly for mouthing without biting.
Puppies will play with anything in their environment because of their natural curiosity. To protect them you need to puppy-proof the house. But, you also need to keep it occupied, and this is where the chew toys and chew bones come in handy. This provides an endless form of distraction for your pooch to nibble constantly on.
Before buying the toys, ensure that it is safe and also consider the dog’s level of destructiveness and chewing. Avoid plush toys if it shredded the last one within days. Also, be sure to read actual reviews so that you will get the right high-quality toy.
You can tame this habit by keeping its favorite toy in your pocket, you can use it as a distraction when it tries to bite. If it bites, be stationary and then wave the toy around distracting it until it latches on to it. You can use a treat in place of a toy (as praise) if it releases on its own after it stops biting.
Other than chewing toys, another form of toy that is quite efficient is one that allows you to ‘hide the treat’. It is essentially a puzzle toy whereby a treat is hidden within the toy and your puppy has to figure out how to get it out. This provides tons of fun and good mental stimulation for it.
Other puppies and vaccinated adult dogs are also ideal for distraction while allowing your dog to build up its social skills.
Another effective solution to puppy biting is redirection. This is where you pull your hand before contact when your puppy tries to mouth or bite. Instead of biting your hand, you direct the puppy to a treat or a chew toy.
Redirect also works when you introduce your dog to non-contact games like tug-of-war or fetch. Even with these games, you can’t let your puppy get too aggressive with the tugging. This is where the ‘Let Go’ and ‘Leave’ commands come in handy.
4. Taste Deterrence
If all else fails, you can use taste deterrence. Some of the most effective taste deterrents include Yuck No Chew Spray, Bitter Cherry or Bitter Apple. These deter dogs from licking, chewing or biting by leaving unpleasant tastes on the dog’s mouth.
For this to work, associate the taste and the smell by letting it stick in the dog’s mind so that the scent keeps it away from any unacceptable chewing habits. You can do this best by putting some of the product on your clothes or on your skin, essentially areas which your puppy likes to bite on. It takes repeated tries, but after a while you will notice that your pooch will no longer nibble on those areas anymore.
You can also use the deterrent for training during which you make sure that the puppy doesn’t have any access to drinking water for about an hour after contact with the deterrent. It is recommended that deterrence be only used as a last resort.
5. Use A Leash
You can use this as a time-out strategy. Keep it on the leash for the duration of the training but let it drag on the floor when you are supervising your dog. However, if it mouths and bites you, rather than leaving the room, take hold of the leash then lead it to a quiet area. Keep your puppy tethered and turn your back on it for a few minutes. Later, you can untie it and resume training or play.
You need to be patient and understanding when training your playful pup. Keep in mind that playful mouthing is a form of natural instinct to canines. It is also important to note that mouthing and biting issues could be tough to deal with. So, you may want to get professional help from a professional dog trainer.
About the Author:
This post was contributed by Pete Decker, the Lead Editor at The Goody Pet. Pete loves to share his passion for pets through snippets of interesting and helpful information. You can find more of Pete at his website, Twitter or Facebook.
Is your pup nipping too much? Learn five proven ways to stop a puppy from biting.