Puppy Biting!  How to Survive the Needle Teeth!

 

Puppy teeth hurt and there is no getting around that phase!  I have news for all of you, if you own a puppy, they are going to bite!  But… and it’s a big but…  4 and 5 month old puppies shouldn’t still be biting you. So, let’s work through this.

 

All puppy behaviors are preventable and possible to curb by doing a few things.

 

Why do puppies bite?

Because they are puppies and all puppies bite. There is nothing wrong with your puppy but three things to look at are:

  • Frequency

  • How strong

  • How old

 

Is your puppy in pain? 

Have they been to vet for all checks? Do you notice they are sensitive to touch in certain places? Are the puppy teeth falling out and new teeth painfully coming in? Rule out pain first.

 

What is bite inhibition?

This is how strong the bite is? They learn in the litter from their siblings about bite inhibition. They learn appropriate biting and how to approach other dogs and you appropriately.  If they had a poor mother, no littermates, or something happened, then they might not have learned bite inhibition.  

 

Why do they bite?

  • Puppies are prey driven which means they are a species that chases down food and bite.  When they get excited, they bite because they don’t know what to do that’s appropriate. Have a toy on hand right from the start so when your puppy gets excited, you can put that toy in their mouth. 

Types of toys: give them cloth type toys that the puppy can bite but a long toy so your hand can be far from the teeth. Little toys are hard to interact with your puppy and we want to create a bond and relationship right away. Use long dangling toys that you can tug or interact with your puppy without putting your hands so close to their mouth.

 

  • Frustration can cause biting. Training with luring (follow the food, chase the food, grab the food) teaches our puppies to bite the food. You might be asking too much of your puppy like asking for sit and when they don’t sit, then resorting to pushing them into a sit. They might not understand what you want and now being forced physically to do it can cause frustration and biting. Maybe the training session has gone too long and the puppy brain is done and that is frustration. People putting their face in the puppy’s face is giving your puppy free choice to bite your nose. 

 

  • If they are fearful, they might be protecting themselves or their things such as food, beds, toys, etc.

 

  • Sometimes they bite because the puppy is hungry!  Ration out the food so you know exactly how much food they are getting through training and meals. Divide your meals into bowls and use for training but if they don’t’ get it all for training, give the rest for food. Keep track of how much they are getting and make sure they aren’t hungry.

 

 

  • Reinforcement of biting can also be happening, you interrupt a behavior by putting your hands on them and the puppy puts their mouth on you so you pull your hand away, that’s rewarding to the puppy. Get a toy to put in their mouths instead.

 

**FYI: do not take the food away while they are eating or stick your hand in their bowl as you are actually could be teaching the puppy to guard the food.  This will not teach our puppies what we think!

 

How to prevent puppy biting?

By meeting all the puppy’s needs, you can greatly reduce your puppy biting.

Physical age appropriate exercise – no formal walks until 4 months or older– soft joints and not rehearsing pulling or inappropriate leash skills. Under 4 months or large breed pup that you can’t carry you can do these:

  • Tugging – Search – Tugging – (cookie chase – grows to hand touch cookie toss)

  • Gets them moving on carpet, reinforcement from you and tugging appropriately

  • Restrained Recalls

  • Tug - Sit - Tug

  • Collar Grab

  • Supervised puppy play (with good puppies that play well not just any puppy) – prefer adults that play well. Not all dog-to-dog experiences are good ones. Be picky as your puppy will learn more from the other dog than you realize.

 

Mental Exercise:

Games of choice

Allowing our puppy to use their brains to make choices as taught by our program.

  • IYC

  • Collar Grab

  • Bed Games

  • 1-2-3 game

 

Olfactory Exercise:

Sniffing and scent work is very calming and helpful for puppies and dogs.

  • Search

  • Snuffle Mat

  • Scenting game (online classes)

 

What do I do if they are still biting or my puppy is older?

Many suggestions out there are not helpful: spraying puppy with something, hitting or smacking puppy, scaring puppy with something loud, or yelling “NO”. Puppies investigate life through their mouth so understand and accept that this is a how puppies learn and explore. If you need to wear gloves, then that will help.  Have you gone through this checklist below?

  • Patience

  • Balanced Rations (good food – many behavioral problems stem from gut and diet issues)

  • Short training sessions (10sec – 3 min) which is why online training is better than group class for young puppies

  • Simplicity when high energy, hungry or excited. Easy games to begin ‘thinking’ when puppy is too excited. After a few really easy games, then move to more thoughtful games.

  • IYC – a way of life not just the party trick. Put your IYC cookie on the floor and groom or pet your puppy while he is focused on food. Every 10 secs or so, release to “get it”.

  • Crate Games – building understanding for impulse control and choice training through shaping

  • Gated Community so our puppies don’t have too much freedom and make poor choices – ex-pen around crate, water bowl, safe bones to chew, bed in crate, and toys that they can’t chew off and eat. THIS IS NOT FOR LEAVING PUPPY UNSUPERVISED. This is a part of training, not the babysitter.

  • Choice Based training – set your puppy up to choose the response and make it easy for them

  • Daily intentional training for physical exercise (not a doggie door to a fenced backyard or mindless ball and frisbee throwing)

  • Daily Intentional training for mental exercise

  • Good nutrition

  • Consistency – everyone in the family on the same page

 

Now, what do you we do if the puppy still bites?

This is very important that if you have checked all the boxes above for meeting all their needs, then the biting will have significantly decreased so please do not just go right to this part and collar grab your puppy for biting without all the other pieces in place. It will not work without all the other parts.

Ignoring actually allows the behavior to go on but interrupting is stopping game and fun. No punishment or yelling “no” because the puppy can’t control themselves.

  • So stop game, with a “yipe!” appropriate for the puppy and put appropriate toy in their mouth.

  • If they are biting at your feet or pant leg, collar grab and hold them away from you until calm, pat them and move on to another game.  **If you have used collar grab as a game for a long time and built value for collar grab, you have earned the right to use the collar grab as an interrupter. When doing this, you are using a form of punishment that may cause frustration which we know leads to more biting. When they calm down, pat them calml;y and move on to another game.

  • If older puppy, we don’t want to chain biting to a fun game so you might give them a mouth appropriate toy, get up and do something else like read a book.

If you have checked all the boxes above for meeting their needs, then you can use collar grab and leaving the game to teach your puppy, the fun doesn’t continue if you bite me.  

 

Owning a puppy is a privilege and is not just something to have around for entertainment. It takes thoughtful effort and time to raise a great puppy. You can survive the biting stage and develop a great family dog with a little prevention and planning.  

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by Borderhauss Kennels and Laura Maulbetsch