Stop puppy nipping behavior! A survival guide for new guardians
I would like to start this article by first congratulating you on the newest addition to your family. This new member is going to fill your life with love, affection and undying loyalty. However, the next few months will also bring in challenges like how to stop puppy nipping behavior and help in the teething process. In this puppy nipping guide, I bring you the reasons behind the puppy biting behavior and the solutions you can implement to stop puppy nipping behavior.
Let's start this puppy nipping guide with understanding the puppy biting behavior first.
Biting or nipping is a natural part of the puppy’s growth. Puppies explore their surrounding world and learn their limits by using their mouths. Nipping is the primary behavior by which they understand limits. During playtime, littermates will bite or nibble each other, test their jaw strength and understand how much of force is it okay to apply on one another. If the bite power is too much, the mother or other littermates will stop puppy nipping by yelping or barking. This will let the puppy know that he or she must be gentle during play.
A puppy’s mouth is no less than that of a shark. Our pups mouth contains 28 razor-sharp tiny teeth which he or she uses to nibble at your toes and fingers. This behavior may seem very annoying to humans. However, it is a normal behavior for puppies during this age. As a responsible dog guardian, you must start training your pup to stop puppy nipping behavior. In this article, I will discuss tips and tricks on how you can stop this puppy biting behavior.
The ‘ouch’ technique to stop puppy nipping behavior
This is the first and the most widely used technique amongst all the puppy biting solutions. As I mentioned earlier, when puppies play with each other or with their mom, they will bite. However, when this biting or nipping becomes too hard or hurts the littermates or the mom, they will yelp. This will let the puppy know that the bite force was too much and he or she should take it gently next time on. The yelp noise basically tells the puppy to stop.
A similar response can be used by humans to stop the puppy biting behavior. When you play with your puppy, your puppy will bite and nibble your fingers and toes. To stop the puppy nipping behavior, say a loud and abrupt ouch! This will startle your puppy and he or she should stop nipping. Do not continue to play with the pup. Stop moving your hands or toes when your puppy releases it and wait for a small amount of time [10 to 15 seconds]. After this you can continue playing.
This method has been observed to work with certain puppies. However, in other cases it may cause your puppy to get over excited and increase the puppy biting behavior. Hence, it is imperative that you judge your puppy’s response to the tips and tricks mentioned here and modify your approach accordingly.
Puppy biting solutions bonus tip:
When you say ouch and your puppy releases your hands or toes, do not move your hand or toe away from the puppy. If you move your hand or toe away from the puppy, this would look like an invitation to chase, thus encouraging the biting behavior.
Dogs are natural predators. If your hand moves, it is prey to your puppy. This is the reason why the main advise in puppy biting solutions is to not move the hand away immediately after saying ouch. You moving your hand away would just encourage your puppy to chase after it further.
Repeat the technique until your puppy starts to understand that gentle play is good and rough play is bad or transfers the rough mode of play to the toys and not your hands.
When the puppy has learned to stop puppy nipping behavior, you should progress to moderate the bite force. This is referred to as bite inhibition. If you have been around dogs, you would’ve noticed that even adult dogs may put their mouth on your hand or someone else’s, but they will never bite down. Therefore, the outcome will be harmless. This indicates that the dog knows bite inhibition.
The primary point to remember here is consistency is key. Training is not an easy job. It will require lots of treats, patients, appraisals but it will all be worth it at the end. Remember to be calm and not shout or scold your puppy.
It will take a while for your puppy to understand what you are trying to convey. Repeat this training method whenever you are playing with your puppy. Remember to give your puppy enough breaks in between.
Redirect the attention to stop puppy nipping behavior.
Redirection not only works with puppies but with human children as well. This point should probably be added to both puppy nipping guides as well as teething kids care booklets. The best way to stop puppy nipping behavior is to redirect the biting behavior toward toys. Puppies have a boundless energy and a very short attention span. It is definitely possible that after a few minutes of engaging with the toy, your puppy may come back to bite you again. This time, use a different toy to direct the attention of the pup.
If your puppy is not showing any interest in the toy you are offering and keeps coming to nibble at your hands, it is time that you take a break. At this point, it will be a good to do some crate training or take a nap break. Remember, puppies need 20 hours of sleep time every day. This would make for a lot of nap times.
If your pup starts to exhibit too much biting or nipping, it may be an indication that the pup is exhausted and is in need of rest. Puppies behave like exhausted kids who start acting out when they are tired and need very small amount of encouragement to take a nap.
When you begin the next play session, remember to direct your pup’s attention towards the chew toys. This will help your puppy associate the biting and chewing behavior with the chew toys and stop puppy nipping on unwanted regions like your hands.
You can also use other methods like walking, training or play time to redirect your pup’s excess energy. A tired puppy is less likely to want to chew on your fingers or toes.
No contact games
No contact games are great puppy biting solutions. During playtime, engage your puppy in a ton of no contact games like tug of war as a means to stop puppy nipping behavior. However, it has been observed that sometimes these no contact games can intensify and lead to more puppy biting behavior.
Remember to keep your force in check while playing the tug of war with your puppy. If you apply an excessive amount of force on the tug, it can lead to dislocation of the jaw of your pup.
At this point, it is a good idea to start introducing the ‘drop it’ command and teach the puppy to leave things on command. You can do this by holding up a treat near your puppy’s nose and say ‘drop it’. When your puppy drops the item he or she was carrying in his or her mouth, award the behavior by offering a treat. This will instill good behavior in your puppy. This command can also be used if your puppy is trying to bite your hands and can be very useful in stopping puppy nipping behavior.
Provide your puppy with lots of toys and an amazing play environment.
This is a very important step of the puppy nipping guide. Toys can be a huge help as puppy biting solutions. For this purpose, you can use a play pen. Play pens are a great way to stimulate your pup to play with the toys instead of your hands or feet. You can set up a playpen in the room you spend most of the time. A playpen will give your puppy a small confined area with lesser distractions. Give your puppy 1 - 3 toys to play with while inside the pen. The purpose behind giving the pup 1 - 3 toys to play with is to avoid overstimulation.
If you offer all the toys to the puppy at once in the playpen, there is a high chance that your puppy might get bored very quickly as a result of having access to all the toys. By rotating the toys, you can prevent your puppy from getting bored.
Consult your veterinarian before you choose chew toys for your puppy:
Have a discussion with your veterinarian about the kind of chew toys which are safe for your puppy. Not every chew toy is meant for every puppy. Allowing dogs and puppies to chew on just anything can cause damage to their teeth.
You must also keep an eye on the toys that your puppy uses. Make sure they are in good condition. Your pup must not be able to pull the pieces of fiber or stuffing from soft toys and ingest them. This will cause intestinal obstruction. He or she must also not chew off chunks from the chew toys. Therefore, check the toys every few days to make sure that they are not falling apart.
If you give your puppy sticks or dental chews to chew on, keep an eye out and make sure that he or she does not bite off and swallow a piece of it. The pieces of dental chews or sticks can go into the intestine and cause perforations. This can lead to an emergency situation. It can even cause death of the puppy.
Puppies with ankle biting behavior
Suppose you walk into a room, and a land shark latches onto your feet. The more you move, the more the shark keeps trying to latch. This makes for a fun scenario in your head but this is the reality of new puppy guardians. This is the default behavior of the puppy every time anyone comes into the room unless he or she is trained to stop puppy biting.
Under such circumstances, most dog guardians will either jump away or yell NO at the pup. However, the new puppy does not understand commands. Therefore, this behavior is not going to stop.
Puppies love ankles because they are constantly moving and look like a game or prey for the pup to catch.
Experts recommend that dog guardians walk around with treats or food with the puppy love in their pockets. The moment your puppy starts to bite your ankles, freeze. Puppies don’t bite your ankle because it is tasty to them. They bite it because it is in almost constant motion. When the movement stops, there is a high chance that the puppy might lose interest in the ankle completely.
When you stop suddenly, it will cause your pup to stop his or her behavior as well. At this point, give your puppy, the command to ‘sit’. When your puppy sits, reward the behavior by giving him or her a treat.
Over time, your puppy will start to learn that biting or nipping does not get him or her any kind of treats. However, when they listen to your instructions, they get a tasty treat. This way, you can curb puppy nipping behavior and promote a positive association of following instructions with rewards
Do not take it personally if your pup nips or bites you. This is an actual process of growth. Puppies explore everything with their mouths including their humans.
Socialize your puppy
Once your puppy has received the first parvovirus shots, you can start to socialize your puppy. This will teach your puppy the correct manners when it comes to playing as well as nipping. Socialization will start right at home if you have another dog. However, if you are a new dog guardian, you may have to enroll in puppy training classes to socialize your puppy. After the puppy’s first vaccination, the socialization class will give your puppy the interaction they need to learn boundaries during playtime.
You can also get help from a puppy trainer to help you stop puppy biting behavior. Trainer will help monitor the puppy’s behavior and tell you what action would be right in which case. Dog or puppy trainers not only help you but your family members as well in dealing with the new puppy, especially kids. Understanding the right manner of training methods can help you engage your puppy in the right kind of play without getting bitten every time.
A new member's entry in your life brings new responsibilities. You have to take care regarding deworming, vaccination, socialization and training.
Puppy training is an important part of the dog care process. The training should start early on to stop puppy nipping behavior. Puppies are generally high on energy and love to chew everything in their sight. Therefore, it is the guardian’s responsibility to stop puppy biting behavior at an early stage otherwise your fingers, toes and all house furniture is at risk. Along with training, you can use chew toys, playtime, training to redirect the puppy’s mind. Remember to consult your vet regarding the type of chew toy that is correct for your puppy. A bad chew toy can be the difference between life and death of the puppy. Therefore, new or first-time dog guardians must be extra cautious when purchasing a chew toy for their teething pup.
Wishing you and your pup a long, healthy and happy life ahead.
See you in my next blog post