Puppy Biting, Nipping and Mouthing

Puppy Biting, Nipping and Mouthing

Stan Rawlinson Doglistener. Explains how to stop your puppy biting and nipping and showing aggression to you and your family Bite Inhibition.

Bite Inhibition Why Puppies Nip and Bite

Why Puppies BitePuppies have painfully sharp little piranha-like teeth, almost like hypodermic needles. fortunately, the jaw muscles are extremely underdeveloped at this time in their life.

Puppy Sibling Dachshund's Fighting
Puppy Sibling Dachshund’s Fighting

One of the main reasons why you should never play tug with a young puppy, you can dislocate the jaw and misalign or damage the teeth.

Nature has given them these underdeveloped muscles to enable pups to play-bite safely. 

Whilst very young and still with his brothers and sisters and he bites too hard in play he gets blasted with an ear piercing “yelp” which makes him immediately back off,

He then waits a while then starts to play again, but a strange thing has happened, the biting is a bit softer because of the reaction of the other pup

The same thing when feeding on the mother, the pup uses too much pressure she yelps and moves away, end of the milk bar.

He is then gentler the next time around and a valuable lesson has been learned.

Nature: This is nature’s way of inhibiting the force of their bite well before the jaw muscles start to form properly at around about 4.5 months. 

Which also coincides with the time that the puppy teeth start dropping out and the new bigger more dangerous teeth start to come through. This is called the age of cutting.

This learning process is known as “Bite Inhibition” it is a vital and important lesson and is the only reason why your puppies are born with those hideous teeth. This is how your puppy learns to inhibit the force of his bite and to control his jaws, It is vital that he also learns to inhibit biting humans.

I see many new owners who are told to stop all play biting, however, this could potentially have far-reaching and disastrous consequences. If the pup is trained immediately never to play-bite, he will never have the chance to learn control over his jaws.

I also see owners reinforcing the biting by giving a treat or a toy as an appeaser or a distractor like a game. So it bites you and you give it chew? What do you think you are telling the puppy? You are rewarding the biting and therefore it will continue biting and that biting may get aggressive if it does not get the treat or the toy. You give it attention and a game or a toy once again you are rewarding the puppy for the biting.

The other thing new puppy parents do is put the pup in its crate as a time out. Crates should never be used as any type of punishment it must always be seen as a positive place, a haven and a den. If you want to use a time out then use the equivalent of the naughty step for dogs which is explained in my article (4) The Alpha Myth

Dealing With The Problem: Your puppy must initially learn that all biting whatever the circumstances must be done softly. Then you can start to teach him never to bite at all.

Permit the puppy to play-bite by allowing your pup to softly chew on your hand.  When he bites down a little harder than normal, “yelp”  this sound is very short, sharp and loud, not drawn out, try to mimic the sound a dog makes when it yelps sharply and loudly, turn your head away in rejection when you make the yelp.

Puppy Weimaraner and Owner
Puppy Weimaraner and Owner

Do not pull your hand away.  Let the puppy move away from the sound and your hand, (pulling your hand away will only encourage him to lunge towards the moving object)

As appeasement gesture after your yelp, the pup may come up and lick your hand, accept this gesture.

Then allow the play to resume, but this time hopefully with a softer bite.  If the play gets a little rougher, “yelp” again, thus confirming that any pressure is totally unacceptable.

Repeat this exercise as often as possible. And like the New York police chief who had a zero tolerance to a crime, you do the same with any biting.

Be a drama queen, really put on a show that you have been hurt and you are saddened and frightened by it. 

You will find within a few days or so, that the biting turns into soft mouthing; you will have programmed your puppy into thinking that he must not exert any pressure whatsoever whilst mouthing because of your ultra-sensitive reaction.  Now you can teach him the “OFF” command to stop all mouthing.

The “OFF” Command: Put your dog on its 5 foot + lead and the *Jingler. see my website for the very best leads and collars for your puppy and the (1) The Jingler.

Take a treat, I use Air Dried Sprats and I also cut up air dried natural treats with scissors my own brand of (2) Natural Air Dried Dog Treats such as Dog Spaghetti or Buffalo Jerky. Cows Udder etc.  I also do a special Air Dried Puppy Pack.

With the treats, you need to lure the dog into a sitting position by taking the treat over the top of its head dog. Hold the lead in your left hand and the treat in your right between forefinger and thumb.

Offer him the treat and gently say “Good take it” do this, at least, five times, then offer the dog the treat and do not say anything. When the dog goes to take the treat,  turn your head sharply to the right and bring both hands up to your chest making the Jingler tinkle and the food to be moved away and gently say “OFF” the Jingler really helps the dog focus and concentrate on what you are teaching.

What you are actually saying is by using the word “Good” which acts as a target word similar to a clicker, and it is confirmation that the behaviour is correct, the “take it” is a permission command.

You are effectively saying, this is my bone and you are prepared to share it but only when you give permission, the permission is “take it” You are also training control of the greatest resource possible “FOOD”

This is a Cocker spaniel Turning it’s head away from the treat

(2) Repeat the “OFF” command until the dog turns his head away, Watch for the movement and the body language and as soon as he does this then say “Good take it” in a praising tone then give him the treat.

Keep repeating the exercise until the dog naturally turns his head away when you offer him a treat when you do not give him permission.

Keep the dog on a lead in the house (you must always be present when the lead is on).

When he jumps up or tries to bite the children or you grab the lead and say “OFF” for the bite and “OFF ” for the jump, giving a slight corrective jerk on the lead at the same time.

Do not praise the dog when he stops you are only praising the bite or the jump. Repeat the exercise until he stops jumping up and biting.

If the above does not appear to be working as the puppy is so insistent and is continually biting you or your kid’s hands and feet then get some bitter apple and spray their hands and feet for a few days. However, it must be bitter apple made by Grannick as it is the only chew or bite deterrent that actually works. All the others I have tried are just a waste of money.

*The Jingler is a simple device I have personally developed, It aids concentration and confirms your training command. It can be used for many behaviours like lunging, jumping up, walking to heel and barking. It can also be used in some cases for both inter-dog and human-based aggression. Like clicker which marks good behaviour, the Jingler marks bad behaviour. 

Dogs and puppies need to learn what is acceptable and what is not. Just praising good behaviour and ignoring the bad cannot teach the dog boundaries and good behaviour. Read my two articles (3) Killing with Kindness and (4) The Alpha Myth

Written by © Stan Rawlinson Doglistener 2007.

Regularly updated the last update March 2019

(1) The Jingler.

(2) Natural Air Dried Dog Treats

(3) Killing with Kindness

(4) The Alpha Myth

This is a short taster clip on the Jingler.

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