Does your young puppy pounce on you, mouth you, grab your clothing? The good news is YOUR PUPPY IS NORMAL! Chase and be chased, pounce and grab – that’s how puppies play.
Here’s the news you must break to your puppy: PEOPLE ARE NOT PUPPIES!
YOU MUST NOT ACT LIKE A PUPPY WHEN YOU PLAY!
The surest way to encourage mouthing and biting is to get down on all fours and act like a dog, growling and wrestling. This terribly fun game will extend to children, toddlers and visitors to your home … If you don’t want your puppy to treat your children or visitors like dogs, don’t act like one! If you encourage rough play one minute and get angry the next, your puppy will be understandably confused – and angry. It’s not fair!
There is a direct correlation between vigorous biting as a puppy and lack of aggression as adult – why?
Feedback. Puppies who bite learn bite inhibition; their owners and other family pets are forced to deal with the problem. Biting puppies learn to be careful with their teeth. Asian breeds like Shar Peis, Akitas and Chow Chows are notorious for not playing much as puppies – likewise, they account for a large percentage of the more serious “unprovoked” bites. When they bite, they bite hard.
WHAT TO DO WHEN PUPPY BITES
Whether it’s your skin, your clothes or your shoes, say”OW!!” for a particularly rowdy pup, you might need to pretend he’s ripped a hole that’s bleeding and needs stitches, whether or not it actually hurt. We want the puppy to believe that we humans are the wimpiest, most easily injured species around – even our clothes hurt – if he tugs on your shoe laces, yelp! Know your dog. Some pups are very soft in nature – these pups might be frightened by a startling yelp. Remember the goal is to provide feedback, not frighten the pup.
The hard mouthed pup must be taught how to be careful. Feedback (OUCH! and shun) and instruction (reward all careful behavior) are the answer. Your feedback should cause him to withdraw, even for a moment. The game ends. Cut off interaction sharply – OUCH > silence > stand up-turn away > freeze. It must be obvious and immediate so he makes the connection that his behavior caused your reaction.
Teach him how to use his lips and tongue to extract treats from your hand, not his teeth. Smear peanut butter or cream cheese on the back of your hand and praise him for licking it off. Dip your finger in baby food and praise him for licking it off. Dab a bit of soft food on your palm and make an “o” with your fingers and thumb and let him lick through the circle to reach the soft food hidden inside. Sometimes feeding tiny treats, like sunflower seeds, will encourage a hard mouthed dog to lick, giving you the opportunity to praise him for taking treats gently. If he nicks you, give immediate feedback. Deliver food rewards in a closed hand, opening your hand only when it is under his nose so he can take it from your palm, just below chin level to prevent leaping and snapping.
For particularly hard mouthed dogs who can’t handle the above without sharking you, you may offer treats on a spoon or fork which will cause him to slow down and be more careful.
Deliver food rewards from an open palm just below nose level to prevent leaping and snapping.