STOP Puppy Nipping & Biting
Puppy nipping and biting is one of the most stressful parts of raising a dog. It’s also one of those grey areas that people handle badly. Should you be telling them off? Is it a sign they don’t love you? How can they not see how much it hurts? And when, WHEN will it be over?!
You’re not alone – many owners struggle with those razor-sharp, needle teeth! So, how can you stop puppy nipping and biting?
Here’s my low-down on understand puppy nipping and biting behaviours and how to make it STOP within days (not weeks!)
Your puppy is teething
Your puppy will begin to teethe between around 12 and 16 weeks of age. This can last up until around 6 months of age. That’s a lot of discomfort for one little dog! Can you remember getting your adult teeth? Did you ever wear braces? I did and it was excruciating. Teeth moving about is very uncomfortable at there best of times. It can cause headaches and low mood in our pups just as it would with a child.
Your puppy will want to nip and bite to help cut new teeth and resolve discomfort. It’s also part of how they communicate, explore and see the world.
These two concepts are key to stop puppy nipping and biting for good.
Puppies bite to explore the world with their mouth
Toddlers use their hands to explore the world. Puppies use their mouths. This is a learning curve and sometimes they will bite things they shouldn’t. It’s up to us to provide the lesson. With a child you can rationalise – “Please don’t pull Suzy’s hair because that will hurt her, and it’s nice to be kind to others.”
With puppies however you do not have this advantage. Puppies need a kind but firm consequence for biting humans. I like to use a great big yelp as if I am seriously hurt. If you do it right it will work within a few tries. If it doesn’t work, you’re doing something wrong. Needless to sty, this is the first step in a few habits to help them understand “appropriate biting”.
Be consistent here and your puppy will soon learn not to bite. It’s exactly how other dogs will communicate that puppy teeth are too much for them during play. If the puppy goes too far you will hear a very loud yelp (you might even see a growl to show they’re serious!)
Remember biting is a part of play too, but you must draw a line. Teach your puppy that humans are wimps that can’t handle any teeth on skin. They pick it up extraordinarily quickly provided you follow all of the steps below.
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You lack confidence
Puppy training requires a shift in mindset and learning. We all owe it to our dogs to train ourselves to be disciplined, flexible and the best handlers possible.
New dog parents want to do right by their pups and in many cases, falter over self doubt. Confidence and leadership are key. If you’re noticing you feel uneasy or helpless around your puppy don’t delay in finding help. Hiring a trainer who has a proven track record of results in the areas you need is critical for success. Time is of the essence. Behavioural issues form incredibly quickly.
You’re humanising your puppy
Humanisation is the act of attributing human characteristics to animals. We often don’t realise we’re doing it but it can really get in the way of training. Dogs don’t always think like people. Treating them as though they have a moral compass or understand human behaviour often leads to miscommunication and in turn, behavioural issues.
Dogs are the family we choose for ourselves and with that deeply felt love and care comes human psychology which can be really damaging (even with the best intensions). Here are some things to watch out for:
- Your puppy is not biting out of spite – they are probably over-tired or in pain
- Dogs will not behave nicely for us because they love us – consistent training and trust over time shapes a loving and respectful relationship
- Dogs do not misbehave out of spite – they are only proving they do not know what is expected of them.
You are inconsistent
Is someone at home playing the tough guy and letting the puppy bite them because “it doesn’t hurt”?
This sends mixed messages to your pup. Can I bite? Can’t I?
Dogs need clear black and white rules to succeed in life. No teeth on skin EVER is the best rule to follow to end puppy nipping and biting in a matter of days. If someone at home is allowing biting for a while before it gets too much, your puppy will not learn clear boundaries. They will think there is leeway and you may experience biting for a very long time.
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You don’t have enough toys
Toys are the most important tool you have to stop puppy nipping and biting. Get as many as you can but focus mainly on different textures, shapes and densities. Hard rubber Kongs, rope tugs, tennis balls, footballs, plush toys and anything that will give their mouth a workout is great. Replace as soon as they’re destroyed (that is the whole point of dog toys – they need to chew and bite and play all their lives).
Pig’s ears, rabbit ears, chicken’s feet, Buffalo horn and Yak chews are all good investments for the treat side of chewing and biting. I use these for crate training.
You don’t play enough focused games
Puppies need interactive games with their humans to show them the way of the world. It builds your bond, allows for fun during training. It even supports their emotional development. Playing tug of war with your puppy has so many scientifically proven benefits.
- Releases Oxytocin
- Allows for better stress management in new places
- Builds your bond
- Creates trust
- Supports listening skills and focus on you
- Allows for appropriate biting in a safe space
If you play tug of war a couple of times a day, you’re not only shaping a more emotionally stable, happy adult dog – you’re also giving them a chance to get biting out of their system in a constructive way.
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Your puppy is over-tired!
Over-tired puppies are far more likely to bite and nip – hard! Remember your puppy cannot concentrate for very long and they should ideally have regular naps throughout the day in a crate. This allows them to grow, develop, rest and recuperate. Without enough sleep in between activities your puppy will become moody, frustrated and bite you.
Did you take your puppy out for the day? Did they meet a lot of people? Did you walk in a new place? Consider how long your puppy has been awake for and the growing pains they could be experiencing.
If you are seeing an increase in biting and puppy that is struggling to listen to anything (zoomies are a good indication of an over-stimulated puppy) it is time for a long nap with a chew.
Thanks for reading my blog today!
I hope you really enjoyed this month’s blog. Don’t forget, you can book a one-to-one training session with me personally or book a board and train programme for an elite, private board and train programme to build the strongest foundations for a brilliant adult dog.
Dog training is all about being proactive.