Preventing Nipping and Biting in Puppies: Effective Strategies and Tips

Preventing Nipping and Biting in Puppies: Effective Strategies and Tips

When we welcomed our dachshund puppy,, into our home in 2023, he came equipped with 28 razor-sharp puppy teeth. Just like a human baby, used his mouth to explore the world around him. While we did our best to encourage him to chew on puppy-safe toys, it was inevitable that he would nip and bite at our fingers, hands, and toes since we were integral parts of his world.

Puppy mouthing and biting are perfectly normal behaviors, but it’s crucial to teach your puppy what’s acceptable to chew on and what’s off-limits. Why do puppies bite in the first place? How can you prevent your puppy from biting you or others? Are there outdated training methods that you should steer clear of? And when should you consider professional help for your furry friend?

We consulted with Denise Harmon, the founder of Empire of the Dog, a renowned dog training and consulting company based in Brooklyn, for insights and strategies on preventing puppy nipping and biting. Here’s everything you need to know.

Why Do Puppies Bite?

“Puppies have a biological need to chew; it’s a necessary activity that they should have an outlet for throughout their lives,” says Denise Harmon. “They require four to five hours of chewing every day.”

Here are three reasons why puppies engage in biting behavior:

  1. Exploration: Puppies under six months of age tend to use their mouths to explore the world. Biting objects helps them understand the hardness, taste, and texture of things.
  2. Teething: At around 8 weeks old, puppies begin to lose their milk teeth, with 42 adult teeth emerging. During this period, they’ll chew on various objects to alleviate teething discomfort. For short-nosed or small breeds, the process might take longer.
  3. Social Play: Puppies often mouth their littermates to engage in play. Through these interactions, they learn to control the force of their bite, understanding when it’s too hard and the playmate is in discomfort.

Teaching Bite Inhibition

When your puppy bites, it’s essential to understand that they aren’t challenging your “alpha” status but engaging in play without recognizing the strength of their bite, which can be between 250 and 325 pounds per square inch. Here’s what to do when your puppy bites:

  1. Mouth Play: During playtime, allow your puppy to mouth your hand. When the bite becomes too hard, let your hand go limp and produce a high-pitched yelp.
  2. Firm Correction: If yelping excites your puppy or leads to harder bites, use a firm but even-toned “Too bad!” or “You blew it!” to get their attention.
  3. Positive Reinforcement: Startle your puppy with the correction, then praise them enthusiastically and offer a treat.
  4. Repeat: Continue playing until they bite too hard again, repeating the exercise up to three times within 15 minutes.

Implementing Time-Outs

If your puppy doesn’t respond to yelping or verbal corrections, you can turn to a time-out procedure:

  1. Interrupt Biting: When your puppy bites hard, yelp or say “Too bad!” and remove your hand when they turn to look or look around.
  2. Brief Ignoring: Ignore your puppy for no longer than 15 seconds to avoid them forgetting what happened, making sure time-out isn’t just a scenery change.
  3. No Play: If your puppy tries to bite again, turn away and protect your hands in your armpits, indicating that play ceases when they bite too hard.
  4. Calming Down: If your puppy shows signs of agitation during the time-out (crying, barking, scratching), you can step behind a baby gate or close a door. When they’re calm, encourage play once more.
  5. Persistent Biting: In case your puppy bites your skin, avoid pulling away. Instead, take them gently by the collar and stay still, refraining from talking or making eye contact. If they don’t calm down, place them in a crate or a safe space for 10 to 15 seconds. This process can be repeated for increasingly gentler bites.

Preventing Pouncing

Certain herding dog breeds, like Australian shepherds, border collies, and Pembroke Welsh corgis, are more prone to nipping at your feet and ankles. To address this behavior:

  1. “Find It” Command: When your dog attempts to nip while you’re walking, halt immediately. Then, toss a high-value dog toy or treat on the ground and say “Find it!” Repeat this process until your puppy either gets too tired to nip or becomes engaged with a durable chew toy.
  2. Treat Accessibility: Place containers with bite-sized treats in various rooms of your house to have a treat handy when your dog begins nipping.

Puppy Interactions with Young Children

Avoid letting your child play at your dog’s eye level, as per the CDC, 64.9 percent of dog bite injuries among toddlers affect their head or neck. Prioritize exercising your puppy for at least 5 minutes for every month of their age before allowing them to interact with small children. You can use dog-friendly playpens or gates to separate your puppy and your child as needed, supervising their playtime and intervening if things become too rough. Utilize a flirt pole or stuffed Kong dog toy to establish a positive association between your child and the pup.

Puppy Training Techniques to Avoid

Stay clear of dominance-based dog training techniques, such as pinching your puppy’s paws, holding their mouth closed, flipping them on their back, or other physical tactics. These methods can lead to your puppy developing fear or aggression. Instead, ensure that your hands are associated with positive experiences, like petting, cuddling, and giving treats.

Additionally, avoid using a water bottle to spray your puppy when they bite, as it can result in them developing a fear of water (aquaphobia) or a general fear of bottles. Anti-chew sprays containing substances like rubbing alcohol should also be avoided, as they may not be an effective solution and could potentially be toxic to your puppy.

Seeking Professional Help

Consider hiring a certified dog trainer if your puppy exhibits the following behaviors:

  1. Stiffening and intense staring before biting.
  2. Displaying aggression when guarding toys, bones, or food/water.
  3. Snarling, air-snapping, or nipping when a stranger enters your home.
  4. Biting hard enough to draw blood.

Before seeking professional behavioral assistance, it’s a good idea to consult with your veterinarian to ensure your puppy is in good health, as certain medical conditions can also trigger aggression in dogs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *