how to stop your puppy biting
by Abby Miller, Paws in Work blogger.
Bringing your new puppy into your home is such a special and overwhelming time for both us as humans and for our pups. They will be experiencing so many different emotions and that is why it is so important to ensure you are fully prepared for when your new addition arrives and can give your pup all the time it needs to settle in. We, perhaps more than most, can vouch that looking after puppies is a full time job!
let's start from the beginning.
Just like babies, puppies explore their way through the early stages of life using their mouths. Before puppies leave their mum, they tend to play rough and tumble with their siblings and, although not intentionally setting out to hurt anybody, they do not know their own strength! This ‘pack leader’ phase in their life is when they really start to learn the boundaries with each other and is a vital part of their socialisation. Learning these key boundaries at such a young age are the skills that transfer over when it comes down to interacting and living with humans and other dogs.
Yes you heard me correctly...SQUEAL!
As we touched upon earlier, pups will often have played with their littermates and tested each other's boundaries from just weeks old. The way in which pups inform one another that they have overstepped the mark is by letting out a sharp squeal (different to a puppy whining). In puppy terms this means ‘OUCH that really hurt!’
Making this sound to your puppy when they nip too hard should prompt them to stop and be aware that they have hurt you. Good practise would also be to make this sharp squeal even when the nip is not hard - this way, your puppy knows that their teeth should not come into contact with human skin. So get practising those squeals folks (no matter how silly you look!).
always having a toy to hand.
Once you have mastered your squeal, it is always a good idea to have a toy to hand immediately. The squeal should alarm the pup and stop them in their tracks. However, pups being pups, their attention span will soon be lost and they may go back into play fighting mode! Having a toy there as a substitute for your hand, is not only socialising your puppy but will also let them know that's what they should be biting.
praise and reward.
This is super important to bear in mind when your pup does something right. If your puppy starts chewing the toy instead of nipping at your skin, have a treat to hand and use positive phrases such as “good girl/boy’ whilst giving them lots of affection! Research shows, using this type of dog-related speech and speaking in a higher pitch is more likely to get your dogs attention and make them take notice of you.
Please remember, a puppy biting you is not them being naughty, they are simply acting in the natural way that they have been shown their whole life thus far! Using your hands for actions that are gentle, soft and slow, should teach your pup that your hands are a good thing and not a game of tug and war or a threat to them.
lose eye contact.
In an ideal world, all puppies would get this right the first time…but who wants to live in an ideal world hey! It will not always work out that way, just like children - every pup is different!
If you have a puppy on your hands who doesn't seem to be learning from all of the above, please refrain from shouting (as tempting as it may be). This may lead to your puppy being fearful of you and losing that trust from the outset and these early times together are so important. An option you have is to stop playing, turn your back and lose eye contact for 10 seconds (or however long you see fit depending on your puppies reaction) - this will help your pup understand that if the biting continues, the fun stops - and I can assure you, they do not want the fun to stop!
exercise and socialisation.
Is your puppy crying at night? It is vital to ensure your puppy is sleeping correctly and getting out for its daily exercise and puppy socialisation. If your puppy is frustrated, the nipping and biting may be a reflection of this. We’ve all been there after a terrible night's sleep, we would probably bite too if we could! And being in lockdown has certainly made us all realise the importance of getting out and about for some fresh air. Although our busy lives can take over, please be mindful that your puppies needs are also catered for.
It is so easy to be angry at a nipping pup, (especially when all you want is puppy cuddles), not to mention the fact it really does hurt! (We can vouch for that!) But by understanding your pup and putting positive rewards in place, they should grow out of it very quickly. Remember, your puppy is just as excited about being in their new home as you are to have them; they just don't know how to show it yet!