Written By: Camille L. Adams a contributor for Bark Buckle UP from Mission P.E.T.S.
If you have never had a puppy before, it may not be such a pleasant surprise to learn that puppies can be very mouthy...frequently biting everything, even you! This is a very common behavior for puppies, but can become a large problem down the road if it is not handled properly right away.
Your Pup is Normal
Remember, puppy biting or mouthing is instinctual. Your puppy is not the only one, and he or she is not “bad” because of this. Biting or nipping is one way that pups establish their “place” in a pack. Although normal, what is harmless for a ten-pound pup may not be so cute once Fido reaches fifty pounds! And those of us with puppies know that those baby teeth are like razors! Ouch!
It’s important to discourage this behavior right away so that your pup doesn’t continue the habit into adulthood. Sometimes, puppy biting can be an attempt to establish dominance, and once Fido thinks he’s in charge, it’s going to be hard work to try to take back the role later on.
Prevention & Training Are Essential
You can start training your puppy immediately! During the teething phase, especially, training should be constant and consistent. With a little bit of effort from your family, puppy biting can be controlled and eventually, eliminated. What’s more, training develops a bond between you and your pup -- and will let Fido know you are in charge from early on.
It’s important to understand that when puppies get excited by their environments, they express this by biting, barking and chasing. Some puppies, possibly due to their breed, may have a stronger pull toward these behaviors than others. Especially in regards to quickly moving objects, puppies cannot control their automatic desire to “chase” and nip. Many dog attacks occur because of this canine instinct to “chase and grab.” It is important to always supervise your puppy and children at play. Children move quickly and have a very excited energy that may draw your puppy in for some nipping and chasing!
A calm household is ideal for training puppies, however, not always possible. Some simple things you can try are to avoid playing rough with your puppy - or with family members - and by keeping the tone down in your home. Avoid shouting and screaming. It may seem fun, but teasing Fido can lead to excited nipping and biting.
How to Train Your Pup
You’ve now got the basics to try to avoid some of the excitement that causes biting and mouthing, but what next?
Every pup is unique, so your method of training will be specific to your particular puppy. There are guidelines you can follow and tips you can use to find what works best for Fido. Remember, consistency is key so any method you try - give it a couple of weeks before you decide it’s not working.
Here are some techniques for correcting the biting behavior:
When your puppy goes to bite you, redirect the biting to one of Fido’s chew toys. As soon as your pup goes to bite you, give him or her a firm “no” and replace your hand (or whatever else your pup was going to bite) with the chew toy instead. For teething puppies, you can also try ice cubes or frozen teething toys.
Another method that is very popular because of its success is making the pup think he or she is hurting you when you get bit. This technique mimics how puppies in a litter react to each other. When play is too rough, the hurt puppy will yelp. Try letting out an “ouch” every time Fido nips you. This works best when you catch the puppy off guard with your yelp. Immediately pull away and stop playing with your puppy after you yelp to let him or her know that you were hurt. This will teach Fido that when he bites, he loses his playmate.
Try spraying your pup with a water bottle when he or she bites you. Some puppies will run away to avoid the water spray. A similar concept, some pet owners have had great success with filling an empty container with coins or rocks. When Fido goes to bite you, say “no” and shake the can. This works best if the pup is caught off guard by the rattling noise. Make sure to pay attention to how your pup reacts because some will think the water bottle or rattling-container are for play, and will act up worse. In this case, stop this method immediately and try another.
Begin teaching the “leave it” or “off” command. This technique is better for older puppies that have longer attention spans. Hold a handful of the puppy’s dry food, close your hand and say “off” or “leave it.” After a few seconds, if the puppy has not touched your hand, say “take it” or “OK” and give him a piece of food. You are teaching Fido that “off” or “leave it” means not to touch. This can later be applied to biting and nipping once your pup is familiar with the command.
Enroll your puppy in an obedience class where he or she will have the ability to socialize with other puppies. Usually, puppy classes begin when Fido is around six months old and has had his Rabies vaccination. Interaction with other puppies, and help from a professional trainer, will reinforce all the work you are doing at home.
Always praise and reinforce good behavior! Whenever your puppy acts appropriately, give him or her plenty or praise and affection maybe even a treat!
Never Forget the Golden Rule
Remember, the most important part of training your puppy is consistency and repetition. Because of their short attention spans, puppies learn through repetition. Remember to be patient and consistent - applying the same techniques or commands, or by correcting your pup, every time he or she bites or nips.
This applies equally to all aspects of puppy training. Patient, calm yet firm and consistent correction and training - with praise for good behavior - will have outstanding rewards in the long run.
When welcoming a puppy into your home, you can also try buying some books or DVD’s to help teach you about your particular breed, or about training your puppy at home. There is a wide selection to choose from for purchase and what’s more, training shows on television are becoming very popular. Channels like Animal Planet and National Geographic feature several obedience and behavior shows that are very informative.
If your pup is still nipping and biting, try consulting a professional trainer. Once you find the right technique for Fido and your family, you’ll be able to enjoy your puppy’s company...pain-free!
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