Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Stop puppy biting & nipping for good!

Does your puppy nip or bite at you in some way with those awfully sharp puppy teeth?!  Ouch! They are like shark teeth!  
First, you should know — this is very normal puppy behavior. I get many emails stating their puppy is “aggressive” and usually, it’s just puppy nipping gone a little over the top.  

Puppies use their mouths and teeth because well ... they are puppies.  Puppies aren't technically “teething” until around 16 weeks of age and then it goes on until around 7-8 months of age. This is when those uber sharp teeth start to fall out and they get their adult teeth. While canine teeth are sharp anyway, the adult teeth aren’t quite as sharp.  

There are a few reasons why puppies bite, which can be some or all of the following:
  • They are not receiving proper training & outlets for energy.
  • They are over-stimulated & need some downtime (explained below)
  • They see it as a game (usually unintentionally taught)
  • They are young puppies, it’s what they do!
First, it’s important to remember that your puppy is a clean slate of nothing. They are sponges and will absorb any and all behaviors whether you are intentionally teaching them or not!  So this is when training becomes vital because you can control your puppy’s 
behaviors with proper training and direction.

Most puppies are over-stimulated/aroused by the time the nipping/biting has gotten out of hand.  On top of that the common reaction to the biting causes it to escalate (whoops!).  So there are several things that I recommend and this will curb it dramatically, if not stop it altogether.
 Don’t allow your puppy to become over-stimulated. Free time should be in short bursts when puppies are between 8-16 weeks of age.  Each week you can increase the time they have freedom. By this I mean all time out of a crate or safe area (x-pen set up for puppy) should be short and productive.  

I like to have a puppy out for only 20 minutes at a time in the beginning (8-10 weeks of age, increase that time as puppy gets older).  In those 20 minutes I get a potty break, training session, play session, potty break and then it’s back into the safe place for nap time.  Puppies need lots and lots of sleep!  (For details on what the training session consists of stay tuned).  

When having the puppy actively engaged they cannot be finding ways to bite and chew things that aren’t appropriate.  So after potty break I work on several things — mat work, name recognition, positive interrupter, coming when called —  to start. Then I play in between with a toy — a ball, a tug rope or a puzzle toy for puppy to engage in.  Then back to potty and back to the crate for some downtime.

 When puppy does start to nip/bite, if it's gentle nipping, I simply re-direct puppy to an appropriate toy/bone. Stuffed toys rarely do the trick, I usually recommend to redirect to an antler, buffalo horn, bully stick or something else that will keep puppy occupied. The key is that what you redirect to should be able to keep puppy engaged and not have him redirect back to you.  If the latter happens then remove puppy and put him in his safe place for downtime (see next bullet point). Nylabone® makes many great chewables for puppies, you may download my puppy chew toy handout here or chewie works best as they will stay more engaged with one of these instead of redirecting back to you.

 If puppy is biting really hard (or they are feisty, spunky & over-aroused), I immediately, gently and quietly, put them away in their crate/safe area. It's important to note that you should not be saying anything but just simply pick up puppy and place him in his safe area/crate. If that isn’t possible I put myself into a room, close door behind me.  With puppies the latter could be a bit disastrous due to chewing and potty, if puppy is really young. So I prefer the first suggestion, re: putting away puppy.  It’s not a punishment and should not be used as one. It’s just putting them away to let them know you will not engage with them when they do this, as well as to put them in downtime as this is usually what is needed. Usually, I leave puppy in downtime until he’s totally relaxed and calm. Sometimes they will pass out and take a nap. So I just leave them until they wake up.

 When kids are getting bitten — parents must pro-active & actively be involved. Immediately follow the steps in the above suggestion.  You can also teach your kids to Be A Tree if they are 3+ years of age, sometimes 4+ years is better.  The child literally stands still, doesn’t move, hands to their side and head down facing the floor.  Puppies won’t engage with a tree!

 Do not play with puppy using hands, i.e. allowing puppy to chew on hands sometimes yet not at others. This teaches puppy that hands are chew toys and puppy will carry this over to all humans, not just the one doing the play this way. Puppy play should always involve a toy or appropriate chew. 

Puppies are challenging! But they can easily be trained and managed when done properly.  I highly recommend hiring a trainer to come into your home and show you and your family how to properly handle, train and manage your puppy and his antics! It is so beneficial and you’ll learn so much!

UPDATE: I have a video webinar I did on this topic with a schedule of what to do with your puppy to keep biting at a low or non-existent state! Watch my free webinar here.

Stacy Greer, CPDT-KA
Sunshine Dog Training & Behavior, LLC
servicing the Dallas/Ft Worth, Texas metroplex
Copyright© 2018. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. I teach my clients all these tips as well. I also just suggested a family with two kids to have a code word so someone else knows the kids need help to put the puppy in his crate for a time out. 7 mo old Boston still nips sometimes, when he wants my attention or appears to get angry. I've done the time outs, etc. Any other suggestions? He doesn't bite hard but it isn't appropriate at all!