Puppy Play Biting
“Ouch! Mommy, the puppy is biting me, really really hard!”
Your new puppy is just wonderful except for one little problem, at times he plays a bit too roughly, even biting your six-year-old daughter hard enough to make her cry. What’s a puppy parent to do???
HOW TO NIP PUPPY PLAY BITING IN THE BUD!
Puppy teeth are like sharp little needles, and your puppy has no idea that you aren’t enjoying that form of play just as much as he is. Your job is to show him that some forms of play are off-limits for good puppies.
I had a call from Nancy, who said that Max, their new Beagle puppy was jumping on the kids and nipping, grabbing shoestrings in his mouth and generally getting too rough during playtime. After talking with her about Max’s routine and the sort of play and exercise he was getting, I found several clues to help get Max back on the path to a canine good citizen award.
Problem: It seems her husband Jeff, enjoys coming home from work and winding their new puppy up with a vigorous game of tug-a-war until Max was tugging fiercely on a knotted rope toy. To make the “game” more detrimental to good puppy manners, Jeff also encouraged Max to growl and struggle to pull the toy out of his hands.
To further the downhill slide into disobedient puppy behaviour, hubby was on the floor with Max, growling fiercely & laughingly encouraging Max to growl & wrestle to try to pull the toy out of his hands. No wonder this puppy thought this was an appropriate way to play and that everyone in the house would enjoy that sort of rough-housing.
Remember to keep playtime fun but not manic. Think of a daycare with 20 toddlers running at full-tilt, someone is probably going to fall down & go boom. Let me translate that, someone will likely step on Max’s little paws, small Max will be encouraged to chase the kids not play gently, not to mention, the higher the energy level, the higher the likelihood of play escalating into roughness.
Problem: Additionally, though Max was spending the night in his crate like a good puppy. He wasn’t being given the opportunity during the day to run and play outdoors and was spending way too much time in that small restricted space without a balanced amount of exercise and chance to learn play normally.
Poor puppy after a quick breakfast and a short potty break was put back in the crate until Nancy returned from running her errands around noon. Max then had a lunch-time 10-minute romp in the yard and, you guessed it, he was put back in his 24 x 24-inch crate for a few hours until the kids came in from school.
Nancy truly didn’t intend to be a bad owner; she loves Max, but simply doesn’t understand that too much confinement isn’t healthy for any puppy and can quickly result in a pet who becomes disobedient through no real fault of his own. It was no wonder that when Max was finally allowed a bit of freedom, that he so filled with unvented puppy energy that he plays inappropriately, and the combination of not enough exercise and her husband essentially praising and encouraging the wrong behaviour, meant Max was quickly becoming a bit of a nuisance.
Remember, a tired puppy is much more likely to be a good puppy!
Finally, what’s the quickest way to stop Max from chomping on your fingers and toes?
It’s time to bring to those latent acting skills to the forefront. Often, using a bit of melodrama along with great timing & you can put a stop to the most “mouthy” behaviour in a new puppy.
VERY SIMPLY, THE MOMENT HIS MOUTH OPENS AND TEETH TOUCH AN OBJECT THEY SHOULDN’T (YOUR FINGERS PANT LEG, ETC.), CRY OUT IN PAIN (FAKE IT IF NEED BE, PRETEND YOU ARE WOUNDED), “OUCH!” “NO BITE! BAD MAX!”
Follow your stern correction with one of two strategies by mimicking what happened when Max was a tiny puppy.
When puppies chomp down too hard on each other, two things occur simultaneously which are instantly understandable to the youngest puppy.
- The offended puppy gives a loud yelp, occasionally even followed by a growl and a snap to reprimand at the too rough sibling.
- The bitten puppy immediately ends the game and stomps off in puppy umbrage and disapproval. Game over until his brother would show remorse and be more gentle in his play.
Follow those steps diligently & Max will respond by showing submission and some remorse as well.
Back with the litter, until Max would come apologetically back to his offended sibling, he wouldn’t be allowed back into the good graces (and fun) of the litter. Until he shows a bit of remorse and a desire to gain your approval again, you need to give Max a decidedly cold shoulder and get up walk away and end the fun i.e., contact with his pack leader. (Remember, dog’s LOVE leadership!) IF Max comes galloping after you and continues trying to grab at your pant legs or leaps up to nip playfully?
Here’s An Effective Tool To Add To Your Puppy Training Toolbox
So, you’ve been making progress with your little alligator, but occasionally he still get’s wound up a bit too tightly and you need an extra helper in your toolbox of puppy aids? The moment he launches himself and jumps up, clap your hands loudly, twice is usually sufficient to discourage most puppies and will startle him a bit and cause him to rethink whether this game is as much fun as he thought.
The handclap also reinforces your position as his boss, his pack leader, the one who always must be obeyed. Try clapping your hands just as Max bounces up to nip your nose, timing puppy people again is EVERYTHING!
In addition you can scoop him up to eye level and give him a hard direct stare, repeating the “NO! No bite! Bad Max!”.
This is where being able to “read” your puppy is so important. What is his reaction? Does he drop his ears? Does he look apologetic and sad that you’re upset with him?
Or is he struggling to get down, even growling a bit and continuing to try and play and nip at your hand? The apologetic Max needs less in the way of correction, the rebellious Max is another matter.
Though the current “100% Positive Training” trend would disagree, after 30 years raising puppies from Miniature Dachshunds to Irish Wolfhounds, I think occasionally a small spank on the bottom is good medicine for a puppy that is challenging your authority as leader of the pack.
A perfect example is the puppy’s mother, she adores her offspring and only does what is loving and best for her babies, but she never hesitates to firmly discipline them when necessary!
That same loving mother though, if one of her offspring gets cheeky and begins to swing on her ears or chomp down too enthusiastically on her paw, will give a warning “Grrrr!” and even a scary growl and flash of her teeth, and chasten her babies when needed. I’ve seen many a momma dog put an end to her little one’s misdeeds and then be washing and cooing over them a little while later after order was restored. With apologetic Max, your handclap and stern vocal correction may be all that is needed to remind him that he is at the bottom of the pecking order in your little pack. Apologetic Max will give little wags of his tail, and try to lick your face for forgiveness. Apologetic Max will cease and desist with the rough biting and play in a more polite and subdued manner until he feels that you’ve forgiven him and he’s out of the dog house!
Rebellious Max on the other hand will require a bit more of an intervention. So you’ve given him a firm telling off, added a swat on the bottom as needed and put him in his crate for a 10-minute time-out. When he comes out of the crate, speak to him in a rather cool tone of voice, remember, you are granting him forgiveness. This isn’t a reunion, no gushing, please puppy parents! Don’t undo your correction by praising him excessively, be rather aloof and distant for a bit, he learned that as an infant & it will still work if you employ it with him today.
Let him EARN being back in your good graces. That’s how his mother and his siblings, would treat him & he learned quickly to be polite, to inhibit his bite (be gentle with his mouth). Very effective, learn from them. Your job as a new puppy owner is to show your puppy clearly, kindly and firmly, what the rules are his new home. Your goal? To have a puppy who knows beyond a doubt that you love him but also knows that if he breaks the rules, as the pack leader, that your word is law, that he will be put in time out to ponder life in a human pack.