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'Puppy Biting and how best to deal with it', by Jo Smith.

Updated: Feb 8




Has your cute, sleepy puppy turned into a bitey land shark?


Is your puppy hanging from your trouser legs or ‘picking’ on one of the kids?


Read on for Jo's best advice on how to deal with this. . .


Did you know . . .


  • Puppy biting (mouthing) is a completely natural behaviour for a puppy.

  • It is not something they should be punished for.

  • They need to mouth and bite as they are learning about the world and potentially teething.

  • Teaching them what to bite is important and should be the focus.


There are lots of reasons why puppies bite . . .


They are tired. Did you know that puppies need roughly 17 hours sleep a day? Yes, I know – that’s a lot! Some puppies can be on the go for hours and seem as though they aren’t at all tired. This often means that they are over tired. With this tiredness comes excessive biting. Throughout the day a puppy should have regular down time for sleep. If they’ve been awake for an hour or more, the chances are it’s time for a nap. Provide a safe, comfortable area (such as a bed, crate or playpen), close to you, where they can relax. You’ll probably start to notice the signs that it’s nap time, because you have spotted an increase in the levels of mouthing and biting and a general increase in behaviour which is often considered ‘naughty’. Keep doing this throughout the day to create a schedule of regular sleeps. Those pups that are on the go the whole time need this the most!


They are hungry. You will start to notice your puppy gets really mouthy as you get closer to meal times. Rather than constantly redirecting, or escalating to withdrawing attention address the hunger instead. Remember, puppies go through growth spurts and if you notice your puppy is extra hungry (and bitey!) you may need to increase your pups food.


They need the toilet. Often puppies bite when they need to go to the toilet. Take them outside (stay with them) and give them the opportunity to go. Reward when they do.


They are over aroused or excited. Perhaps they have played too long or at a high intensity with another dog or person. As you play for longer periods of time, so the intensity increases for the puppy. Keep play sessions short and calm things down if puppy gets too over excited.


They are on the wrong diet. I notice those pups that seem to have a constant  high level of mouthing and biting or who have excessive zoomies or tantrums may benefit from a change in diet. All dogs are individuals and no one diet suits all dogs. Getting the right diet can reduce puppy biting and mouthing if levels are consistently over the top. Speak to your vet about the right diet for your dog and check out www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk to see how your current food rates and whether there might be a more suitable alternative that might suit them better.


They’re teething. Like children, puppies teethe (This ‘phase’ is usually worse between 12 weeks and up to 5/6 months until all of the adult teeth have come in). This makes them want to bite and mouth to relieve the pain and discomfort. They can’t help the urge to bite, but they can learn what to bite. Some also seem to feel this more than others. Provide suitable outlets for this with toys and chews (see below for more information).


They’re defensive biting(also known as passive resistance).Is your puppy trying to tell you something when you ‘handle him’? e.g. wiping paws or putting his harness/collar on or even just stroking him at certain times. Learn to read your puppy’s body language and pick up on the signals your pup is giving you about what he likes and doesn’t like. Then start to train your dog to accept and tolerate, or even enjoy this experience using reward based training.


They aren’t getting suitable outlets. To help reduce general mouthing and biting levels ensure you provide physical and mental stimulation through appropriate training, play, sniffy walks, puzzle feeders and games for enrichment e.g. Kong’s and scentwork games. These provide suitable outlets for your puppy’s energy in between regular scheduled sleep.


Jo’s Top Tips for dealing with puppy biting and mouthing:


1.      Redirection. 

Show your puppy what they are allowed to bite. Have several appropriate chew bones for this. I like the Benebone chews (you will need to work out what works best for your pups chewing style) and I have them ready to hand when working with puppies. I suggest you offer this to your pup as soon as they start to mouth you. Hold onto the chew toy whilst they chew at it, allow them to relieve the urge to bite (as soon as you let go of the chew they will likely loose interest). This provides your puppy with an outlet for a natural behaviour and is a positive way to teach them what they are allowed to bite, rather than punishing them for the wrong behaviour over and over again.


2.     Withdraw attention.

If your puppy won’t be redirected and continues to bite at you or your clothing then:

  • Fold your arms and stand up if needed.

  • Do not look at your puppy (avoid eye contact).

  • Do not speak to your puppy (yes, that includes shouting ‘No’ or ‘Ouch’!).

  • Do this for roughly 30 seconds and then resume your activity (redirection).

  • If puppy is biting your feet, stand still and wear appropriate shoes e.g. crocs (no fluffy slippers or shoes with laces!)


Remember:

  • Saying ‘Ouch’, looking at them, wriggling your feet or hands around etc will likely reward their biting – increasing the odds that this turns into a great game.

  • Ensure Kids (and adults) dress appropriately e.g. no dangly dressing gown chords, tuck pj’s into socks and wear slip on pumps or crocs so that your child doesn’t start to jump up and down with the puppy biting and hanging on (and having the best game they've ever played). This wriggling is super rewarding to puppy, creating the perfect excuse for puppy to seek out the fun game again and again!

  • Consistency is key. Everyone must practice this in order for puppy to understand. This means that puppy learns that when they bite you, you do not give them any attention. As puppies crave our attention this can be very effective. However, please see the advice above on reasons why puppies bite so that withdrawal of attention isn’t over used. No amount of attention withdrawal will teach a puppy what the right thing to do is. That is why being aware of why puppies bite and using redirection is a priority.


If after implementing this advice your puppy is still biting you, or you feel you need assistance implementing this advice, then I recommend working with an experienced, qualified, positive reinforcement dog trainer.

If your puppy is over 6 months and ‘puppy biting’ please seek the help of a positive reinforcement trainer for guidance.


Happy training and waggy tails,


Jo



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