How do I stop my puppy biting?
Introducing a new puppy to your home is an incredibly exciting experience for both humans and our furry companions. During this transition, puppies undergo a variety of emotions and thus you must be thoroughly prepared upon their arrival. It is paramount to be ready to provide your new addition with the time and care necessary for smooth adjustment. Trust us when we say, that caring for puppies demands full-time dedication!
Read on to learn some valuable tips on how to stop your puppy biting.
Early stages of a puppy's life
Similar to babies, puppies navigate the initial stages of life through their mouths. Before leaving their mum, they engage in ‘rough play’ with their littermates, although their intentions are not to cause harm, they are unfamiliar with their own strength. This ‘pack leader’ phase is crucial for them to grasp boundaries and develop essential socialisation skills. Learning these boundaries at a young age lays the foundation for their interactions and coexistence with both humans and fellow dogs.
Indeed, you heard it right… SQUEAL!
As mentioned earlier, young pups often engage in play and boundary-testing with their littermates from just a few weeks old. When a pup crosses a limit, their littermate communicates this by emitting a sharp squeal (distinct from regular whining). In puppy language, this squeal translates to “OUCH, that really hurt!”.
Replicating this sound yourself when your puppy nips just a little bit too hard, should signal them to stop and recognise that they’ve caused discomfort. It’s advisable to use a sharp squeal even for gentler nips, teaching your puppy that their teeth should not come into contact with human skin. So, start practicing those squeals, regardless of how silly you may feel - it’ll be worth it!
Toys will be your best friend
After perfecting your squeal, it’s advisable to keep a toy readily available. While the squeal may startle the pup and interrupt its behaviour, puppies are naturally playful and may quickly revert to rough play. Having a toy to hand serves as a substitute for your hand, aiding in both the socialisation of your puppy and conveying that biting is appropriate when directed at the toy.
Many pups learn behaviour through positive reinforcement such as praise and reward. Therefore it’s important when your puppy exhibits positive behaviour, have a treat ready and express positive affirmations such as “good girl/boy” accompanied by plenty of affection! Studies have shown that using dog-related language and speaking in a higher pitch is more likely to capture your dog’s attention and make them take notice of you.
It’s worth noting that a puppy biting is not a sign of naughtiness; they are simply behaving in the natural way they’ve learned so far in life. By using your hands for actions that are gentle, soft and delicate, you can teach your puppy that your hands are positive and not meant for a game of tug-of-war or perceived as a threat.
Break eye contact
In a perfect world, every puppy would grasp this concept on the first attempt, but the reality isn’t always so ideal - much like dealing with children, each puppy is unique!
If you find yourself with a puppy that doesn’t appear to be catching on despite your efforts, resist the urge to shout (even though it may tempting). Yelling could result in your puppy becoming fearful and eroding the trust built during these crucial initial moments together. Instead, consider ceasing play, turning away and breaking eye contact for around 10 seconds (or as long as seems appropriate based on your puppy’s reaction). This action communicates to your pup that if biting persists, the enjoyable activity stops - an outcome they certainly do not want.
Regular exercise and puppy socialisation
Is your puppy crying during the night? It’s crucial to ensure that your puppy is getting proper sleep, engaging in daily exercise and socialising with other dogs and humans. If your puppy seems frustrated, their nipping and biting behaviour might be an indication of frustration. We’ve all had those moments after a restless night’s sleep where we might feel like biting too! Similar to humans, getting puppies out in the fresh air can be incredibly beneficial to help aid their frustration - amidst our busy lives, it’s important to remember to meet our puppies’ needs.
It’s understandable to feel frustrated when dealing with a nipping pup, especially when all you want is some cuddle time - not to mention that it can be genuinely painful (we can attest to that!). However, by comprehending your pups behaviour and implementing positive reinforcement, they should quickly outgrow the habit. Keep in mind that your puppy is just as excited about being in their new home as you are to have them; they simply haven’t figured out how to express it yet!