Puppies spend most of their time playing, biting random objects, and investigating things. All of these routine activities involve using their mouths and their growing teeth. When playing with humans, puppies often bite, chew, and put their mouths on people’s hands, ankles, and even clothing. This kind of behavior may seem adorable when your puppy is a few weeks old. However, it’s not so cute when he’s four or five months old.
Teaching puppies how to moderate the force of their bite is essential for all dogs. There may be times when they’re in danger, and they put their mouth on a stranger. Teaching them ‘bite inhibition’ allows them to understand that they shouldn’t bite down too hard.
Depending on the breed, you can practice this by shouting a high-pitched “OW!” sound if they bite you a bit too hard. Beware, though, for some dogs; this can get them even more riled up and likely to bite more. If that’s the case, walk away or put the puppy in time-out until he calms down. If they stop, make sure to reward the good boy with a treat and some petting.
Biting Means “Game Over”
Teach your puppy that biting means playtime is over. Suppose your puppy bites you while you guys are playing. If that happens, cease all playful activities- no exceptions. Contrary to popular belief, yelling at or gently spanking your puppy is also a type of acceptable response. It shows them that biting gets an adverse reaction from you. You can also teach them that biting will earn them nothing – not even pets. Kathy Santo, an expert dog trainer, suggests ignoring them and tucking your hands away.
“It’s actually a calming signal and a minor form of attention withdrawal,” says Kathy. “And be careful not to roughhouse with your young pup in ways that only encourage them to lose control and bite you.”
Give Your Puppy Another Thing to Chew On
Keep a puppy chew toy around the house at all times; that way, you can anticipate biting behavior and replace the toy for your fingers or furniture. As soon as they start biting you during playtime, offer them a toy instead. If they ignore the toy and continue to nip on your flesh, stop playing immediately. If your puppy is trained to sit on command, redirect them by asking them to sit and rewarding them with a chew toy.
Limit the Pounce
Suppose your puppy is fond of pouncing on your legs or feet when you walk, a typical playful puppy behavior. To prevent this, try holding a treat next to your leg as you walk to encourage the puppy to learn to walk politely beside you.
Don’t be afraid to put your puppy in time-out to calm him down and prevent them from further biting. It’s essential to make sure that they don’t associate time-out as a general punishment, so be gentle. Once he calms down, let him out.
Help Use Pent Up Energy
When puppies keep biting, even after you encourage them to chew on a toy many times, they may just need to burn up some physical (or mental) energy. Taking them out for a walk to use up some of that energy is a great way to tire them out or focus their energy elsewhere.
Reinforce Docile Behaviors
Pet parents rarely reinforce their puppies for acting right. You should reinforce good behavior when your puppy is calm and quiet. A “good boy” or a treat or a gentle pat will do just fine. You’ll help them learn the kind of behaviors you’re looking for through this positive reinforcement.
Don’t Hit Your Dog
Gently spanking and hitting your dog are two different things. Never hit or otherwise physically discipline your dog. If he bites out of aggression, consult a veterinarian or dog trainer about managing that sort of aggressive behavior.
Enroll in a Puppy Class
If the situation worsens as your puppy ages, consider enrolling in a local class. Such classes will give your puppy the chance to socialize with other puppies.
When and Where to Get Help
A qualified expert can help you conclude whether or not your puppy’s mouthing is usual behavior or abnormal. If your case is the latter, she or he will guide you through the proper treatment plan.
If you worry that your puppy’s biting meets the description of hostile or fearful behavior, consult with a qualified expert, such as a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB) or a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behavior (Dip ACVB).
If a behaviorist is not available in your area, seek help from a local Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT)—but make sure she or he has professional experience in treating agitation and aggression issues. Need help finding a CPDT? Use this website to find professional behavior help in your area.
Teaching your overactive puppy to be polite with their mouth may seem like an immense hurdle at first. However, with patience, consistency, and lots of positive reinforcements, he’ll come around. Further reading: