Nipping Puppies

When your pup arrives in your home at about 8 weeks of age he has a set of needles for teeth. They are not much good for chewing bones but they are sharp and they hurt! This is not an unfortunate accident. Those teeth help your puppy to understand how hard it is acceptable to bite other dogs. The teeth start to be replaced by adult teeth at around eighteen weeks so you need to be sure your puppy knows how to control himself before that time.

If you watch puppies playing together you will see that if one bites too hard his playmate will yelp loudly and stop playing, and the offender will usually release them straight away. Equally your pup’s mother would not put up with being chewed and punctured and would growl or yelp immediately. So the best way to deal with this is to act like a dog would.

Do it in stages. You may think that if your puppy doesn’t nip you that it is a good thing. But consider this. If he never nips you how is he going to learn how hard he can do it before you stop playing with him?

The first thing to do is to shout ‘Ouch!’ when your pup nips you and then congratulate and maybe even treat him when he stops.

After a few days of this, say ‘Ouch’ as soon as the teeth touch any part of your body and turn away from the puppy, ignoring him for a count of at least 6 seconds, so he starts to realise that the consequence of nipping you is that you will no longer play with him. If he continues, leave the room and close the door behind you. It doesn’t help to smack your dog as he may well think it’s all part of the game. Eventually you can use the same method to stop him biting at your clothes as well.

Once he starts growing his adult teeth you should not tolerate any mouthing or biting to any part of your body or clothing. A loud yell whilst looking directly at the dog and then ignoring it for a minute or two should do the trick.

Don’t forget that your puppy can get really aroused when playing and will sometimes forget himself, so be patient and consistent. It is very easy to inadvertently reinforce a biting habit in puppies as they grow up. Play with your puppy in short sessions of a minute or so each, encouraging calm in between each and stopping immediately if your puppy becomes over-excited.

Teaching bite inhibition in your puppy is so important. If you do this, he will grow into an adult dog who understands how fragile human skin. If he finds himself in a stressful situation where he can’t help snapping, he won’t do any harm to the human or dog he’s afraid of and everyone will be safer as a result.