HOW DO I STOP MY PUPPY BITING ME?
Puppy biting is quite a common phenomenon. And most of the time, it is a completely normal behaviour. After all, young dogs do not have hands. Unlike us humans, they have to rely on their mouths to touch and explore their environment. However, puppy teeth are quite sharp, and can easily pierce skin or damage clothing. This is why many owners desperately seek solutions to their puppy’s painful nipping and biting. So, if you are in this situation right now, keep on reading: In this article, you will find easy solutions to help you and your young canine companion.
TOP 5 REASONS FOR PUPPY BITING
1. Teething Pains
Having your new puppy biting you and chewing on everything in their reach can be challenging. But mouthing and chewing on different objects is quite normal for infant canines. It is also necessary for the healthy development of their gums. Young dogs have to work their mouths a lot: This is required to expel the milk teeth, and make room for the adult teeth to take their place. Like human children, infant dogs experience discomfort and teething pains during this time of transition. And they actively seek to alleviate this pain by biting and chewing.
2. Pent-Up Energy
Just like young children, young dogs are brimming with energy, and have an unstoppable zest for life. This is beautiful, and it contributes to the joy that puppies bring to our homes. But if they do not get the opportunity to release all this energy in constructive ways, they can channel them into less desirable avenues. Puppy biting and destructive chewing are two very common examples for this.
3. Lack Of Sleep
Between 8 and 12 weeks of age, dogs require around 20 hours of sleep a day. During this time, you can literally watch your puppy get bigger over night. Indeed, most of their growth happens in their sleep. But puppies who live in busy households do not always get the rest they need: Instead, they get overly excited by everything that is going on in the home. Puppies love to be part of their owners’ lives, and share in their activities wherever possible. And of course we want your new dogs to enjoy family life with us. Nevertheless, lack of sleep is not healthy, and can cause excessive puppy biting and chewing.
4. Lack Of Awareness
Having a cute and cuddly new puppy at home is an amazing experience. But not many people appreciate their puppy’s needle-sharp milk teeth puncturing their skin: Puppy biting hurts. In more severe cases, it can even draw blood and leave scars. Of course, our young dogs do not want to hurt us. They simply do not understand that our unprotected skin is so vulnerable to their little teeth. After all, their littermates have fur on their bodies, and can withstand play-biting more easily.
Very young puppies routinely touch one another with their mouths. And they start play-fighting with their littermates when they are only a couple of weeks old. This form of “puppy biting” is natural and necessary, as it teaches the infant canines how to use their bodies and how to engage with other dogs. If one puppy bites down too hard, the other will typically yelp and move away.
5. Lack Of Respect / Leadership
Canine mothers, however, will not simply yelp and withdraw when their puppies bite them too hard. Instead, they immediately correct puppy biting and other unruly behaviours. Sometimes, a growl is enough to get the message across. Other times, it may take a few sharp barks to stop the overly excited puppy. And if even this auditory correction is not enough, the canine mother will resort to touching the puppy with her teeth. In this way, she teaches her offspring impulse control in the form of bite inhibition. At the same time, she teaches them to respect her leadership: Essentially, she is the first leader in her puppies’ lives.
Now, after these puppies have moved to their new homes, their mother is no longer there to provide guidance and direction. No longer can they rely on her to “tell” them which behaviours are acceptable, and which are not. This can easily cause confusion in the puppy’s young mind. Meaning well, many new owners offer plenty of affection to their cuddly new pets – but little in the way of discipline, guidance and direction. Consequently, puppies find themselves without the calm, consistent leadership they have experienced before. Dogs do not follow weak leadership. And even the most well-meaning owner can appear weak to their tiny young puppy, simply by giving love, but no direction. This is why excessive puppy biting and other undesirable behaviours frequently occur after the puppy has moved into their new home.
PUPPY BITING SOLUTIONS
As our dog’s calm consistent leaders, we can counteract excessive nipping and biting. There is no need for us or our family members to get injured by our puppy’s sharp teeth. Now, let us list a few simple solutions to puppy biting.
1. Chew Toys Help With Teething Pains
Like we mentioned before, puppies need to chew in order to expel their milk teeth. And sometimes, they might chew our shoes and bite into our hands to alleviate their teething pain. As resourceful canine owners and leaders, we can redirect this natural impulse to adequate objects, such as soft toys and chew toys that are designed for puppies. Following the simple 3-step formula Correct – Redirect – Reinforce, we can verbally correct our puppies whenever they are painfully biting us. Then, we redirect their chewing efforts to a toy. In this way, our puppy will learn to use objects of our choosing to alleviate their teething discomfort. Frozen washcloths or frozen toys are ideal to soothe a puppy’s aching gums. Our Fenrir Hammer , for example, can be filled with peanut butter or meat paste. Filled and then frozen, the Hammer keeps puppies entertained for quite a while.
2. Physical And Mental Stimulation For Healthily Tired Puppies
This ties in to our next solution to puppy biting, which is to provide adequate exercise and mental stimulation. To be balanced and content, young dogs need exercise in the form of short walks and playtimes. But apart from exercise, mental stimulation is the most important factor in tiring out dogs in healthy ways. Obedience training and socialisation are important factors as well. To complement a healthy exercise and training regime, we can allow our dogs to work on fillable chew toys. This not only makes mealtimes more fun – it also mimics a way of eating that is very natural for canines. After all, wolves in the wild do not eat out of food bowls. Instead, they have to use their nose, teeth, paws, eyes and mind to forage for food on the ground. Or to lick the marrow out of an animal’s bones. This is why tools like the Fenrir Hammer chew toy or the Fenrir Foraging Mat are so beneficial for puppies and adult dogs.
3. Crate Time For Rest & Relaxation
Puppies that do not receive enough sleep are prone to undesirable behaviours such as puppy biting and destructive chewing. The best method to ensure that our puppies get enough sleep is crate training. By asking the puppy to go into this safe environment after walks, playtimes and mealtimes, we help them to settle down. In this way, they get the sleep they need. Of course, we want our dogs to feel as comfortable in their crate as possible. One great way to build up positive associations with the crate is to feed them in there. For this, we can use tools like the Fenrir Hammer and the Fenrir Foraging Mat. We simply equip them with food and place them inside the crate at mealtimes. In this way, the puppy learns to connect crate-time with amazing things like toys and food.
4. Teaching Bite Inhibition
Very young puppies learn bite inhibition from their early interactions with their mother and littermates. The feedback received from their original family is incredibly important for their social development. Oftentimes, the interactions between the members of a canine family are quite vocal: There are exaggerated growls, and even little barks, as the puppies get older. And whenever a little dog bites down too hard another, the “victim” will provide instant feedback in the form of a high-pitched yelp. They will also stop playing with the “aggressor”. This teaches the young canine that the fun instantly stops whenever they play too rough.
As we said before in discussing the reasons for puppy biting, young dogs lack the understanding of how vulnerable unprotected human skin is. We have to teach them that they need to measure their bite force in their interactions with us. Essentially, we have to train our puppies to be as careful with us as they were towards their own mother. So, the key to avoiding painful puppy biting is to step up from the role of a littermate – and to become the equivalent of a canine mother. In this way, we take over the leadership role from our puppy’s mother.
5. Rules, Boundaries And Expectations
Here at Fenrir, we constantly speak about the importance of loving leadership for Raising and Training Perfect Puppies. This ties into managing rough play, painful puppy biting and nipping. Providing calm, consistent leadership is key for raising amazing canine companions. The easiest way to do this is by setting clear rules, boundaries and expectations. Then, once our puppy has understood what we expect from them, we enforce these rules, boundaries and expectations with calm consistency.
Doing so is key for raising calm and well-mannered dogs. And it is absolutely crucial for managing and reducing puppy biting. As we said before, puppy biting has different reasons, and aggression as such is not usually one of them. However, from 2 - 4 weeks of age onwards, puppies start to establish a hierarchy within the litter by wrestling and play-biting. And unless we have already established a basis of leadership with our new puppy, they will try the same with us. At Fenrir, we strongly believe in the proven formula of CRR, which is short for correct - redirect - reinforce. Essentially, this means we correct puppy biting with a verbal cue, such as a stern “Ah-ah-ah!”, “No!”, or “Leave it!” Then, once they have stopped biting us, we redirect our puppy’s attention to a chew toy instead. And once the dog starts to engage with the chew toy, we immediately reinforce them by play and praise. But what if your puppy is particularly persistent in their play-biting, and refuses to back off when given the verbal correction? In such a case, you could simply stop playing with them and walk away - much like a littermate would. In this way, your puppy will learn that the fun stops whenever they bite down too hard, or whenever they refuse to listen to your verbal cue.
For cases with more severe puppy biting that cannot be stopped with the methods we just described, we recommend using the Ragnar Slip Leash to control the dog’s body. By simply holding them back on the slip lead, you take away the intrinsically rewarding activity of biting into your hands. This method is keeping your own hands - or the hands of your children - safe from your puppy’s sharp teeth. You can also pair your verbal cue with a short pop on the slip leash. This method works very well for naturally confident and strong-willed puppies.
This brings us to the end of our discussion on puppy biting. There is no doubt about it - getting bitten by your dog is no fun. But young dogs are very intelligent and adaptable. And as calm, consistent and loving leaders, we can very successfully channel our puppy’s energy to more constructive behaviours. Correcting and redirecting puppy biting is not easy if you have never done it before. But it is not rocket science either. Always remember: You are not alone with this - or with any other challenge you might face with your dog. Here at Fenrir, we are dedicated to helping you raise and train an amazing canine companion.