Puppies love to play! One of their ways of playing that can be problematic is biting. We want to nip puppy nipping in the bud ahead of time before they get any bigger than a year or so.
The overall end of this is to make them stop biting all together. The first lesson is to teach the puppy to be gentle and that we have a more fragile skin protecting us. To start off with, we are going to try to teach them to control the force of their mouth. Puppies generally learn bite inhibition through play with other puppies. If they bite their playmate too hard, the playmate yelps, thus teaching the puppy to be more gentle and ultimately how to be more gentle with humans.
When you play with your puppy, let them mouth your hand until they bite a little too hard. Then, you should yelp loudly like you are hurt and let your hand go limp. When you puppy is gentler or begins to lick you, you should praise your puppy to teach them that appropriate behavior is appreciated. If you find that yelping and praise does not work, you could revert to giving them time out after they bite too hard.
It’s important to make the puppy realize that gentle play can continue but painful play stops. You can also yelp when your puppy bites too hard, remove your hand and then get up and move away from your puppy for 10 to 20 seconds. Encourage your puppy to play again until they bite too hard again and repeat the method above.
Next you can teach your puppy that their teeth do not belong on your skin. When they begin to naw on your hands, substitute a bone or other toy for them to gnaw on. If your puppy gets all amped up when you pet them, try distracting them by feeding them treats with your other hand to get them used to being touched without having to react to it. You could also teach your dog non contact playing like tug of war or fetch. Provide a lot of different toys to your pup so they can concentrate on them instead of chewing on you or your clothing.
If these aren’t effecting you could also try a taste deterrent. Spray your body or clothes with the biting deterrent before play time. Praise your puppy when they finally let go of you.
Mouthing and nipping are very normal for puppies but there are certain behaviors that can signal for future aggressive behaviors. Puppies may bite out of fear or frustration. Usually this will be when you are making them do something they don’t like. If your puppy is reacting out of anger their body will look stiff and they may curl their upper lip to show their teeth and growl. If you are handling your puppy and they begin to act this way, avoid yelping or acting like you are hurt. Do not react as it may encourage this behavior. Act emotionless. Do not hurt your puppy and continue to hold them without constriction. Once they stop struggling, let them go. If this behavior continues you need to contact a professional as this behavior is not something that your pup will simply outgrow.
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