This past week we have heard from two owners of young puppies whose families are being terrorized by their newest addition. Their kids are climbing up the furniture to reach higher ground and escape the shark teeth of the tiny pup they believed would be soft and cuddly.
First of all, we must understand that puppy biting is a completely normal behavior. If he or she were still with their litter mates they would be playing and interacting this very same way.
Very few of the pups that begin their social life in this manner end up as serious biters. However, dogs use their teeth to defend themselves and it is always a good idea to teach the young dog bite inhibition for the present situation and to prevent a serious incident from ever taking place in the future. Bite inhibition in an adult dog would be the dog that refrains from biting when he might ordinarily do just that when under stress, is startled, or in pain.
First of all, when you are playing with your puppy or older dog if they tend to “mouth” your hand, keep your hands away from their face! You are enticing your dog to chew on you. It is better to pet the dog behind the ears or on the shoulder area and talk in a soothing voice if they are calm. A tool that we like to use for puppies is a drop cord. This is simply a rope or a leash with the loop removed, but we find it to be so useful that we make our own to sell in the store. This enables you to have some physical control over your pup without having to grab for the body.
Also, for puppies you should have chew toys handy to give the puppy as a replacement for using you like a rawhide chew.
As for working on the actual behavior in an effort to curb the biting… sit on the floor and gently encourage play keeping your hands off of the pup’s face. When he bites you, make a loud yelping squeal. If the pup backs off from the biting then give quiet verbal praise and continue playing. If he ramps up and bites some more then get up and quit playing. You may at that point tether him if you are in an open room where you can not get away. We like to use a free weight (dumbbell) with the black rubber on the ends to protect the floor. We attach a 2-3’ tether rope or nylon leash to the handle section. For a little puppy or toy size older dog a 25# weight should be sufficient.
The key point is that walking away from the game is removing the reward that the play provides.
The key is to posture and stay in control of the situation. After your initial squeal, you should not be yelling or getting outwardly frustrated. You do not need to get negative to have an impact on your puppy. Always remember the mother dog when she is teaching her pup a much needed lesson. She is quick and to the point. She gets the startle reaction from her little one and then she drops it! What a good example of effective parenting!!!