Monday, December 28, 2009
By Linda Cole
Most puppies gnaw, chew and bite everything in sight, including our fingers, hands and toes. They have an unlimited supply of energy when they are awake, with a playful spirit that only adds to their cuteness. Puppy biting may seem innocent enough, but if it isn't addressed early, a bigger and more aggressive adult dog could accidentally hurt a family member during play. It's up to us as the pack leader to set rules and limitations for our dogs, and it’s important to stop puppy biting before it becomes a problem. Luckily, there's a simple solution that's safe and harmless for the pup, and easy to learn.
The first step in stopping the behavior is to understand why puppies bite. Each dog has to learn their place in the social order of the pack. Puppies play fight and bite their litter mates in order to determine where they fit in. A more aggressive biter is showing he is more dominant which could make it harder to stop your puppy from biting.
As the pack leader, it's up to us to teach a dog what our pack rules are as soon as possible. Nipping and grabbing hands or noses during play may seem cute until someone gets hurt. It's best to correct now what will be unacceptable behavior when the pup grows up. Consistency, patience, staying calm and never hitting the dog is the key to training a puppy or an older dog. We may have a dog's unconditional love, but we also want his respect and trust. If you lose your dog's respect and trust, it will be a constant battle every time you try to teach him anything.
It may take some time to teach your puppy not to bite. Normally, this can be accomplished in two weeks up to a couple of months, so don't give up. The first thing to remember is not to scare the puppy. You want to correct a behavioral problem, not make him afraid of you. Every time your puppy bites or attempts to bite your hand, look directly at him and say “Hey” or “No” in a stern voice. Don't use your hands to push him away. He thinks your hands are paws and you are still playing. Break eye contact with him and turn your side to him or simply get up and walk away. By ignoring him and leaving the puppy with no one to play with, you are teaching him that biting is unacceptable. This is how he learns what you expect and what behavior is acceptable. When he plays nicely and doesn't bite, be sure to praise him for good behavior.
For most puppies, walking away from them works well. If you have a more stubborn pup, you may need to be more assertive to stop them from biting. If after a couple of weeks he still bites, continue with the stern “No” or “Hey” and if he doesn't stop, use a spray bottle filled with water and squirt him on the nose. It won't hurt him and the sudden spray should get his attention. If he continues to bite, give him another squirt and then get up and leave or turn away from him. He will learn that if he wants to continue playing, he can't bite. Of course you need to remember that a dog at any age will use his mouth or bite to communicate with other members of his pack and we are considered part of the pack. Sometimes a nip is meant to tell us something important we need to pay attention to.
Any puppy or dog training needs to be done while you are calm and patient. If you get excited, so will the puppy. Just like kids, dogs need direction so they can understand what is expected from them. Consistent and calm repetition is the best way for your puppy to learn. Make sure everyone in the family uses the same method to stop your puppy from biting.
A puppy has sharp little teeth and can do a lot of damage, especially if they chomp down on a child's hand. The sooner you stop a puppy from biting, the better. Never yell at or hit your pup because this can lead to other behavior problems as they grow into adults, and you risk losing their trust and respect. He's only behaving like a normal puppy should. It's our job to teach him that although we love him, there are things we, as his pack leader, won't accept and biting is one of them. Most puppy biting will cease naturally as they get older. But if it doesn't, you need to stop it before it becomes a problem.
Read more articles by Linda Cole