Puppies Bite! How to Stop Puppy Biting
It is that time of year again! It is puppy season! This is the time, us dog trainers, see a huge increase in clients, especially puppy clients. The weather is getting warm, the kids will be out of school, and what better idea than to get a puppy so, they can have summer adventures together, right?
Ermm… maybe not so much.
We have all heard it a million times; puppies are a huge responsibility. As adults, we should be able to handle this responsibility, right? Well, to be honest, puppies are not for the fate of heart. Puppies bite, pee, poop, whine at all hours of the night, and in general, get into trouble.
If you are adopting a puppy soon, you should know that puppies are difficult! If you have never had one, you may want to foster first and make sure you can deal with insanities of puppyhood.
The number one complain I hear from new puppy owners is biting! You would think it would be housebreaking, chewing, or keeping their owners up at night, but nope! It is puppy biting and teething that I get the most complaints about.
Unfortunately, this behavior isn’t always a training issue. In fact, it normally isn’t in younger puppies. Puppies go through an oral phase and teethe just like human babies. This phase is actually fairly short (if you do not mistakenly reinforce the biting), but feels like a lifetime to the owners.
Be realistic as well. All puppies are going to chew on something. If you cannot handle this, do not get a puppy.
So, Why Is Your Puppy Biting You?
Well, if you have a younger puppy and they are “play biting”, it could be for a few reasons.
1. You have mistakenly reinforced the biting behavior and made the puppy think this behavior is desired.
2. Your puppy is teething because they are feeling discomfort as their adult teeth come in.
3. Your puppy is going through their oral phase.
4. Your puppy is bored and biting gets you to interact with them and relieve their boredom.
Lots of owners mistakenly reinforce play biting in puppies by swatting their puppy away, using corrections which lead to the puppy getting attention, or they play with the puppy with their hands. Puppies do not always understand what these interaction mean and can mistake them to be play or encouragement to continue the behavior.
When you have children, they can also be an issue because you have to teach them how to react to the puppy’s biting as well. Any reinforcement will help the behavior survive to see another day.
We can solve the reinforcement of the behavior by “ignoring” the biting. You want to become as boring as you possibly can and stop everything when your puppy starts biting. Be perfectly still and quiet. Do not interact with the puppy until the biting has stopped, then offer them a toy to chew on instead.
We want the puppy to realize that biting ends attention, play time, and fun. When they bite, they do not get what they want. There is no need to say “no” or get out the spray bottle. Ignoring the behavior can be “correction” enough. We want zero interaction or movement that could be mistaken as play.
We want to replace your hands with something even more fun as well! So, that means playing with toys instead. If your puppy is biting your hand, make your hand “boring”, and then wave a toy around to make the toy even more interesting, so you can escape with all your fingers. We should be showing the puppy what is okay to chew on. Ideally though, you should have a toy nearby and be playing with the toy before the biting starts.
When your puppy is playing nicely without biting, you can continue your play. I highly suggest only playing with your puppy with toys, not your hands. They are unable to understand sometimes they can play with your hands, other times they cannot.
What if Your Puppy is Just Teething?
If your puppy is teething or going through their oral phase, you will have to wait it out. Have plenty of toys, especially rubber toys or toys with bumps or the ability to massage their gums.
Try to understand your puppy maybe feeling discomfort if teething. Allowing your puppy to chew on ice cubes while supervised can also help relieve some discomfort.
You should show them what toys you would like them to chew on, instead of your hands by offering them a toy instead. Make the toy very interesting, but again your hands should become “boring” the second the puppy starts chewing on you.
Puppy biting is the worst, but hang in there! It is only for a short period of time and I have faith you can survive the horrors of puppyhood!
If you will be adopting a new puppy soon, Faithfully Yours Dog Training, LLC will be hosting a seminar on April 18th, 2015 at 3pm for new or future dog owners about picking the perfect dog for you!
It will be held at Corner Bakery in Flowood, MS and all proceeds are donated to local dog rescue, Cheshire Abbey! We look forward to seeing you there!
To RSVP, email LaurenETsao@yahoo.com or call 769-251-4104.
Picture by Phil Hearing from Flickr.com