If you have a puppy, you are probably acutely aware of just how sharp those little puppy teeth are!
My goodness, who knew puppy teeth could cause so much damage and even cause bleeding!? Thankfully, this is completely normal, albeit unpleasant, puppy behavior. And the good news is that now is the best time to teach your puppy how to have a gentle mouth.
Puppies need to chew. Puppies need to bite.
It’s what puppies do. This is your opportunity to provide clear feedback to your puppy on just how much his puppy teeth hurt so your pup can learn to inhibit his bite.
Check out this short video (with adorable yellow Lab, Deacon) for ideas to help you stop your pup from biting roughly (and see the tips below!).
Here’s how to curb your pup’s painful nipping.
- Categorize the bites — 4 = blood! 3 = indented skin (you’re surprised there isn’t any blood). 2 = firm pressure. 1 = gentle teeth on skin without any pressure.
- Your reaction will never change, regardless of which step you’re on.
- Have a couple of toys within reach (you may need to leave a toy in each room of the house to make this easier for you) so you can substitute a toy for your skin.
- The first week of the program, you’re going to react only to the 4s. When your pup give you a 4, say “OW!” and stand up and leave. That’s it — just stand up and leave. No lectures, no grabbing the muzzle, no squealing. Just leave.
- During that first week, you’ll also get lots of 3s, 2s, and 1s. Simply offer your pup a toy when you get those bites.
- After Week 1, you should notice a decrease in the number of 4s. This is good news! Now, you’re going to react the same way to the 3s and the 4s “OW!” and leave. If you find that you’re squealing when you say “Ow!,” you can skip that part and just leave.
- After about a week, the 3s should be reduced (just like the 4s did the week before) and in Week 3, you’re going to do the “Ow!” for the 2s (and the occasional 3s and 4s).
- Lather, rinse, repeat until your pup has as gentle a mouth as you need.
Things that don’t work to teach your pup to stop biting.
- Putting your hand over his muzzle, staring him in the face, and saying “NO!” This doesn’t work and will teach your pup to dislike your handling him around his face.
- Shoving your thumb (or fist) into his mouth as he’s biting. I sometimes wonder where on earth people get these ideas, but I hear this one enough to mention it here. Don’t do this!
- Turning him over until he “submits.” Again, way outdated advice. If you’d like to teach your pup to fear you, then do this as that’s the only thing this old-fashioned advice is good for.
Avoid these things while teaching your pup not to bite.
- Roughhousing with your hands. You can roughhouse later in your dog’s life (if your dog likes that sort of thing) after he completely understands bite inhibition. Roughhousing with a dog who understands bite inhibition is actually fun — most of my dogs enjoy roughhousing and are quite gentle with their mouths, which makes them a joy to play with.
- Letting kids play unsupervised with the pup. For so many reasons this a huge no-no. Kids need constant supervision with your pup, no matter how good the kids are with the dog or vice versa. It’s just smart parenting.
Puppy biting is an important phase in your puppy’s life.
While most of us find it annoying, it’s the time to teach your pup how to use his teeth gently. Follow these easy steps and your crazy puppy will be a calm puppy in a matter of weeks.