Okay, so you just got the most adorable puppy ever created. You brought him home and want nothing more than to pet him and express your love and affection through touch. That is-until you feel that infamous pinch. The sensation of teeth squeezing your skin starts to increase in frequency. Before you know it, your adorable little pup begins biting away like an alligator on speed. Bit bite bite. It’s annoying and worst of all, it hurts.
Before we go into solutions, first let’s take a brief look at the cause of puppy biting. As littermates, puppies bite each other. That is how they communicate and that is how they play. That is also how they get their mother’s attention. They simply have no other way of getting their point across besides…biting. Their faint, high-pitched bark just doesn’t have the desired effect. So this biting develops into a sort of habit that naturally carries over to the owner who brings them into their home.
There are many methods out there to prevent or end puppy biting. I find many of them to be unsuccessful. One common one is to scream in a high pitched voice. This method was invented to mimic the reaction of other puppies when the biting hurts. When one puppy feels physical pain from another puppy’s bite, they let out a high pitched yelp. The problem with this approach is that it communicates to the puppy to stop biting after the fact. This will not teach the puppy to not bite but rather just to stop after he has already sunk his teeth into you. Another common solution many trainers advocate is to throw a toy in front of him. Although if done right, a toy can act as an excellent diversion as the the puppy just wants to sink his teeth into something whether it be you or a toy rope. The problem with this method is that it is just not practical. As the dog owner you should not be expected to walk around all day with a toy ready to throw in front of the puppy’s face. It’s borderline impossible.
Another solution I have heard from trainers is to simply keep your hands behind your back. The logic is that if the puppy has no access to your hands, he’ll have nothing to bite. Although this is true (and even recommended in certain circumstances as I will later explain), you shouldn’t have to defer on the pleasure of petting your puppy. Besides, you do not want to set up a situation where the puppy never experiences your hand. Rather, your puppy should ideally feel your hands and learn not to bite them rather than be isolated from interacting with your touch.
One of the main triggers of puppy biting is energy. Quick movements (or movements in general) or excited, enthusiastic tones of voice can trigger a biting response. The general rule of thumb is-the more excited the puppy, the more he will go on a biting spree. This will sometimes require you to stand completely still until the puppy calms down. Or to kneel in front of the puppy with your hands behind your back. It is always important to counter your puppy’s energy. Is he lying still half asleep? Pet away. Is he jumping and wagging his tail faster than an Apache helicopter? Stay still and do not move until he calms down.
The following is a solution based on several other practical (but limited) solutions to puppy biting and some methods that I myself have discovered.
- Once your puppy is calm (see previous section), pet slowly. no matter how cute he is, pet like you are inside a slow motion instant replay. It might feel unnatural at first, but it will prevent him from exploding into a high energy state.
- If you see him try to bite (even if he is biting air and you have not made contact yet) immediately withdraw your hand as a punishment for trying to bite.
- Once your puppy is calm enough, pet him behind the jaw.
- If he tries to turn and bite your hand, plant your fingers hard behind his jawbone so that he is not physically able to turn his
- If he does succeed in biting you, grab both cheeks, hold them and look him in the eye and slowly and calmly say ‘No’ until it appears he has calmed down..
- If his behavior seems to be spiraling into an uncontrollable biting frenzy, grab a toy and let him get his biting fix by allowing him to sink his teeth into it. Play with him while you’re at it.
Puppy biting is not something that will be cured overnight. It is a deeply embedded behavioral instinct that often lasts until the dog is 6-10 months old. But you can certainly contain it and teach him that he can bite his toys and he can bite other dogs, but he can not bite you.
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