Puppy nipping is a natural way puppies to explore their surroundings. When they start to teethe, they want to, and will, chew on whatever they find, including you!
Dogs simply use their mouths to handle objects. Nipping is a behavior which begins as they discover the world as puppies.
While it may seem sweet at first, nipping can quickly become an issue, as puppies have very sharp teeth and don’t realize just how hard they’re biting! One moment your puppy may be playfully nipping and the next moment, they could draw blood!
This isn’t a behavior that we want our puppies to carry into adulthood, which is why it’s essential to nip it in the bud early.
Constraining Puppy Nipping
In a dog’s world: Puppies play by gently biting each other. But, when things get too excited, the bites may unintentionally get a bit harder, resulting in a yelp from one puppy. The other puppy will stop biting when they hear the yelp.
In a people’s world: Use this behavioral pattern to teach your puppy when its biting goes too far. When your puppy latches on to your finger or hand too hard:
- Pretend you’re another puppy
- Yelp and let your hand fall limp.
- When your puppy releases its grip, ignore it for about 20 seconds before starting to play again.
Make sure you don’t pull away from the hard bite, as it will signal your puppy to start chasing and will intensify the biting issue. If you don’t want to make a yelping sound, or your puppy doesn’t respond, trying using a verbal deterrent.
Limit your use of the yelp and limp process to three times within about 15 minutes. After that, your puppy needs a time out from play.
Bite inhibition is important. You want to teach your puppy that when things get too rough, play stops. Once you have constrained the hard bites, continue the process with moderate bites, and so forth.
Gradually, your puppy will learn that mouthing without a full bite is acceptable, but anything beyond that stops play.
Redirection is another method you can use to teach your puppy that nipping on people is totally unacceptable. Whenever your puppy attempts to mouth you, pull your hand away before they’re able to make contact and instead, give them a treat or a chew toy.
Your puppy really does need to mouth things, which you can satisfy by playing games like fetch or tug-of-war with their toys.
Don’t allow the tugging to become overly aggressive and use the ‘let go’ or ‘leave it’ commands so you can get objects from your puppy’s mouth without aggressive responses.
Other than people, puppies will try to mouth many other things in their environment — they’re just very curious. After you’ve completed your puppy-proofing process, make sure to invest in a collection of interesting things for your puppy that are safe for chewing.
You’ll see your puppy’s level of toy destruction, and you can adjust the things you provide for longer entertainment. While plush toys may be cute, rubber and hard plastic are harder to destroy.
There are many ‘hide the treat’ toys which will keep your puppy occupied for quite some time and distract them from nibbling on other objects. These toys are also mentally stimulating and good for learning.
Your puppy is a social creature, so be sure to arrange playtime with other puppies and vaccinated adult dogs. During socialization, your puppy will learn when biting is too hard.
Deter Your Puppy from Chewing
If there are objects you want to prevent your puppy from licking or chewing, invest in spray products like Bitter Apple, Bitter Cherry, and YUCK No Chew Spray. These tastes are unpleasant and will stop your puppy from chewing.
Introduce these sprays properly to get successful results: The first thing you should do is:
- Spray a bit on a tissue or cotton ball and put it in your puppy’s mouth.
- Your puppy will most likely spit it right out.
- When your puppy smells the tissue or cotton ball, it will make the association between the smell and the unpleasant taste.
Now, it’s perfect for active training.
- Take water away for about an hour, but no longer, after your puppy has come into contact with the spray.
- This will teach them that they are unable to cleanse their palate right away, so they won’t be able to get rid of the taste (if they rinsed out their mouths, it would render the spray ineffective.
- During training, you should put the spray on all objects that you don’t want licked or chewed.
- Put the spray on objects once a day for 2-4 weeks.
For some reason, puppies really get a kick out of biting ankles and feet when we walk. Ankle biting is especially fun for herding breeds, for some reason. This can sometimes be painful and in no way is it something you want to become a permanent habit.
Try to keep one your puppy’s favorite toys on hand at all times. When your puppy bites your ankles or feet, stop where you are, and use the toy for distraction.
If you don’t have a toy at the ready, stop moving, and wait until your puppy releases their bite, then proceed to offer a toy or treat and praise. This will reinforce the idea that rewards come when bad behavior ends.
Remember that mouthing and nipping are natural and expected puppy behaviors. Many unprepared dog owners get frustrated at this stage and sometimes do the unthinkable — sending off their little puppies to shelters or new homes.
To avoid feeling fed up and prevent the development of a permanent bad habit, use the above simple steps to stop puppy nipping from the beginning. It will be rewarding for you!
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