Barbara Hodel, Goodog Positive Dog Training
Puppy biting is a normal behaviour. When puppies are with their siblings, biting is a normal part of playing and a lot of fun. When we play with our puppy, they will grab at us and those sharp little teeth hurt! We must teach our puppy that biting is not an appropriate way to interact with humans.
Puppies learn about their environment by putting everything in their mouth, so your puppy isn’t being intentionally naughty, they are just learning about the world around them.
The best way to stop your puppy biting is to prevent it in the first place.
Make sure they get enough sleep. Often tired puppies tend to bite and mouth more than puppies who get enough down time.
Set up a designate area for your puppy where they can rest and play. Puppy pens are great for this.
Rough housing (grabbing, holding their mouth or playing with our hands) is not the best way to interact with our puppies. This just encourages biting and mouthing. We can play tug with a squeaky toy or a tug toy but this should not be our main game. Teaching tricks, such as shake or roll over, basic obedience, playing hide and seek or bring a toy back might be more appropriate.
Should your puppy bite you – by definition any teeth on skin – stop the interaction, ask for a calm behaviour and redirect to something they are allowed to chew. There are many chews available at the pet store. It is also a good idea to have different edible chews for our puppy on a daily basis (pigs’ ears, roo tails etc). Chewing calms them down and makes them feel good.
Keep play sessions short so as not to get your puppy over-excited and teach ‘go to mat’ as a calm activity. Make sure you are reinforcing being on the mat with a long lasting chew.
With patience and persistence, your puppy will understand that mouthing or biting will stop the game but keeping their teeth to themselves will get them the playtime they enjoy.
Barbara Hodel is also President of the Pet Professional Guild of Australia (PPGA)
For additional information, download this Puppy Nipping Handout from the PPG
If you have an adult dog that bites, or the methods above are not working with your puppy, you should seek help from a qualified trainer. Biting is a serious issue and one that should be dealt with immediately.
Check the Pet Professional Guild Australia website at https://www.ppgaustralia.net.au/Member-Search for a trainer near you.