Puppy biting is one of the most common problems that puppy owners face. New puppy owners are often at a loss on how to deal with an excited puppy who, armed with needle sharp teeth, is intent on chewing your hands, feet or clothing. This situation is generally made worse if there are young children in the household because lets face it, what puppy could possibly resist the heady mix of young children screaming and running away. Best game ever for the puppy, not so much for the children. Now you could put everyone in full suits of armour but getting hold of these could be a problem so we need to look for an alternative strategy.
The internet is awash with advice on how to deal with puppy biting and this stage of a puppy’s development including you yelping when bitten too hard or turning your back which incidentally will not work on any puppy who is overly excited and high as a kite. All you are doing is giving the puppy another target area to focus on. So what do you actually do?
First, you need to understand why puppy biting happens.
- From the moment puppies open their eyes and start to move around, they engage in play fighting. This is an important part of any puppy’s development as it teaches a lot in the way of social skills that are important in later life, aids physical development as well as teaching bite inhibition. This learned behaviour however does not stop simply because we have bought them into our homes.
- As puppy’s do not have hands, they explore their world through their mouths. All puppy’s/dogs love to chew as it is often a source of comfort and a way of reducing stress or boredom. However letting a puppy softly chew on your hands, as endearing as it might be will only serve to teach the puppy it is acceptable to chew on us. Also as the puppy’s excitement levels rise through the prospect of play this then rapidly turns into play bites which are suddenly less appealing.
- Just like children, puppy’s will teethe. Their baby teeth will be replaced by their adult teeth and just like some children, puppy’s can struggle with this period. Their gums can become sore which in turn could make the puppy irritable and looking for a way to ease the pain.
Now we understand what drives puppy biting we can start to take steps to prevent our sensitive skin from being torn to shreds.
It is important we still continue with teaching bite inhibition but we can add to this with distraction. Thankfully a puppy has the attention span of a gnat so it becomes very easy to divert the puppy’s attention from us and onto something else such as a treat or a toy.
So the best way to deal with a puppy intent on using our hands etc as a pin cushion is to make a noise, a simple ‘ouch’ will suffice, then provide an instant distraction that can then be rewarded. So the strategy would be, puppy wants to play, then starts to bite, we say ‘ouch’, puppy stops momentarily, we divert the puppy’s attention onto something else such as a treat or toy, then reward the break of focus by giving what we have used to provide the distraction. We could even ask the puppy to sit (if we’ve taught the puppy to sit that is) before giving the reward therefore lowering his excitement threshold even further.
The thing here is always to be prepared. We know the puppy is going to bite at times, we know that the puppy isn’t just going to stop of it’s own accord and suddenly transform into the perfect pet simply because we want him too. Just like we do with our children, we have to teach the right behaviour.
Puppyhood is extremely short so be prepared and make the most of it. After all, it’s a breeze compared with adolescence