A new puppy brings so much joy and love to the family. They’re cute, clumsy, and they always seem to have energy to spare. But, your adorable puppy can turn into a monster really fast with one chomp of its razor sharp puppy teeth. While it’s normal for a young puppy to bite a little, if you don’t nip it in the bud, this behavior can turn into a painful habit.
The Main Reasons That Your Puppy Is Biting
Your puppy will begin to teeth between the ages of 3-4 weeks, and then again at 4-5 months. During this time the baby teeth will fall out in order to make way for the adult teeth. This process can be very painful for your puppy, and he may bite and chew more than usual during this time in an attempt to relieve the pain.
While your puppy is teething make sure that there are always appropriate things for him to chew on. Anything too soft will not help with the teething, and something too hard may damage the teeth. Cooked bones splinter too easily and can become a choking hazard for your young puppy, so I suggest frozen raw bones.
Alternatively, I suggest wetting a towel and placing it in the freezer. This will create something that your pup can chew on, and the coolness of the towel will assist in the teething process.
Dogs do not have hands with opposable thumbs. All that they have to clamp down with is their mouths, and many dogs will use their mouths as a toddler would use their hands. Everything in your puppies world is new and exciting and when he places things in his mouth he’s trying to explore, learn, and stimulate his mind.
It’s In Their Nature
When a puppy is with its other littermates they love to wrestle and play with each other. A big part of that play involves biting and nipping. Puppies learn a great deal about how to play from their brothers and sisters, and that learning stays with them throughout their lives. When you bring your new puppy home, it will likely treat you as it did it’s littermates, and will not understand that biting is not okay in human world yet. That’s something that is your responsibility to teach your puppy.
Why Nipping is Something You Need to Change, NOW
Nipping may be normal for most puppies, but that does not mean that you should allow it to happen. From the second that your puppy comes home, you should be training it to show it what to expect when living with humans. Puppies are not born knowing how to fit in a human world-they learn it! If you allow your dog to nip and bite and unknowingly reward it for doing so then you could be dealing with a biting dog for the rest of its days. But, by teaching your puppy right off the bat how it should behave, then you’ll better be able to raise a behaviorally sound dog.
How to Train Your Puppy Not to Bite
All puppies may be going through their teething phase at the same time, but they all have different ways that they like to go about their biting, and there are different ways of dealing with each type of biter.
These pups are the ones that bite your hand when you go to pet them or choose to bite your hand rather than the toy that’s in it. Puppies will do this because they want to play with you. They’re unfooled by the toy in your hand, they know that the real fun comes in wrestling, skin to skin.They haven’t learned yet that playing games like “tug-of-war” can be just as much fun, so we have to show them.
Always have a toy in hand. Always. If possible, have two. When playing with your dog always offer the toy, and never give your pup the opportunity to bite your hand. Through repetition, your pup will soon learn that toys are how you play with humans, not hand-biting.
These sneaky puppers are the ones that will grab onto your pant leg with their teeth as you walk by. When your puppy does this it’s likely because the movement of the pants is irresistible. Your pants look like a fun game, and your puppy is ready to play.
The worst thing that you can do in this situation is to shake your dog off, this only makes the game more fun for your dog. If your dog bites onto your pant leg, freeze. Do not offer your dog any attention and he will soon see that the game is no fun and will give up. If you do this consistently, he will stop trying to play.
If your puppy is insistent and you’re afraid that you’re pants will rip, ask your dog to do something else (such as a sit or shake a paw) in order to get his attention away from the pant leg. When he has completed the new task, reward your dog and move away from the situation.
These pups are responsible for snatching a treat out of your hand with lightning speed, nearly taking your hand off with it. Labrador retrievers, being the great lovers of food that they are are notorious for doing this. Your dog is doing this because it’s excited about the treat and it wants to gobble it up before you have the chance to take it away.
In order to deal with this problem, you’ll have to teach your dog patience. When you hold the treat out to be taken, and your dog lunges towards it, say “ah ah” and move your hand with the treat away. Repeat this exercise until your dog is successfully moving slowly towards your hand to get the treat, at which point you can say “gentle” and give the treat to your dog. Soon your dog will learn that being “gently” means he gets the treat, and lunging means he does not, and he will act accordingly.
Whatever style of biting your pup is most inclined to perform, this is something that you should take seriously. You’ve taken on the responsibility of getting a puppy, and as exciting as that is, there is a lot of work that needs to be done! Help to show your pup how to live in a dog-human world in a loving and supportive way and your puppy will grow into a wonderful dog.
Django’s Story: Fear-Based Biter
Django may not be a puppy, but he is most definitely a biter. He’s a rescue and his background is relatively unknown, but I suspect that he didn’t spend too much time living in a home before he came to me because he lacked basic knowledge of family life. But, Django is a little bit different than the average puppy biter. He doesn’t bite because he doesn’t know otherwise. He bites because he is afraid.
The only times that Django will bite is when he is anxious about something. This usually only happens in a dog park, or while walking on the street as another dog is in close proximity, or when a tall man tries to pet him. But, interestingly enough, he bites the person that he trusts the most (me). After much observation, I came to the conclusion that he’s doing this as a way to defuse his anxiety. As flattering as that is, my bruised ankles and wrists were not happy, as they were the recipients of that anxiety.
Django’s biting has been a constant battle, but I’ve gotten the treatment down to a science.
- Make sure he is never in a situation that will make him THAT anxious
- When he does begin to nip, immediately get him to “Look at me” with a command (use treats to encourage that look)
- Once I have the focus, distract him from his anxiety by getting him to “work” with exercises such as “sit” “down” “shake a paw” etc.
Django may always have this little quirk but at least now, with this tried and perfected tactic, my ankles don’t have as many bruises on them.