Biting and mouthing by puppies are common and normal behaviours. Like babies, puppies use their mouths to explore the world. Everything goes in your puppy’s mouth including human hands, feet, fingers and toes.
Puppies are also used to rough-and-tumble play with their brothers and sisters with lots of biting and mouthing. A puppy’s bite will start to hurt as their canine teeth come through and they grow and become stronger.
Below are some tips for teaching your puppy the rules when it comes to interacting, getting your attention and playing.
Be consistent and help your puppy to make better choices
Your puppy needs to learn how to behave properly including how to play politely. Bite inhibition is the ability for your puppy to use their teeth without causing distress or hurting other people or dogs.
Teaching “bite inhibition” will help your puppy have fun, and to be safe, with other people and other dogs.
Below are two suggested methods for teaching your puppy bite inhibition – (1) using toys and (2) meeting your puppy’s needs.
Direct to a calming activity
Chewing, licking and sniffing is naturally calming to dogs and helps to meet their needs from a biting and chewing point of view.
When your puppy goes to use their teeth, direct them to either a long lasting chew, kong or lickimat. They need to do this calmer activity for minimum 10 minutes so you may have to be creativity with what you use or what you have prepared or on hand. Make sure all energetic or exciting games are mixed up with a calming activity, for example scent games or puzzles. Swap between the two types of play ensuring your puppy does not get overstimulated. Teach your puppy to self-regulate their excitement. An overstimulated puppy will bite.
Meeting your puppy’s needs
Although, biting and mouthing is a natural behaviour, it is often worse when we are not meeting your puppy’s needs.
Make sure you are getting the balance right with the following:
- Getting enough sleep or rest. An overtired puppy will be a biting monster. Make sure you teach your puppy to rest every hour.
- Meeting their exercise needs. Pent up energy means they will struggle to make good choices and control their impulses.
- Meeting their mental stimulation needs. This is the one that will make the MOST difference. When your puppy starts to bite re-direct them onto a puzzle or do some training that engages their ability to problem solve. When a puppy is thinking they are calm and less likely to bite.
- Give them six new things to do with their mouth everyday. Feed their meals out of enrichment toys, give them rubbish to destroy and chew (always supervise at first to make sure they don’t swallow anything). Give them natural long lasting chews and ice blocks or meals frozen in a toy is a great way to sooth teething.
What doesn’t work
Always use positive reinforcement techniques when training your puppy.
Never punish them or yell at them. It will only make your puppy anxious and scared of you and create other behavioural issues that you don’t want. Dogs that are physically or verbally punished are more likely to retaliate with aggression. And it’s cruel.
We have also found for some puppies yelping or making a loud noise can overstimulate them and make the behaviour worse or frighten your puppy. So we no longer recommend this strategy.
Lots of praise
Remember to reward your puppy when they play well and politely. Give them their favourite treat or toy. This will show them that good things happen when they play nicely.
Supervise play between puppies and children
Children can’t use these training techniques on their own and will need adult help. And children often do things to get puppies excited, for example squeal and run around. Children must be supervised with puppies at all times.
It’s important that everyone in the family or household practices these training tips. Everyone who interacts or plays with your puppy needs to be consistent.
If your puppy continues to be too rough, then seek help from a professional dog trainer that uses positive training techniques.
At Fur Get Me Not, our qualified canine coaches can support you in using positive training techniques to teach your puppy bite inhibition and other critical skills. We’re passionate about puppies and their humans forming strong bonds. Get started today by clicking here.