Nipping, mouthing, puppy biting, we have all kinds of cute definitions and ways of explaining away the problem of puppies putting their teeth on us, but the truth is it isn’t cute.
Some people will say mouthing is different than nipping and nipping is different than biting and while I understand and agree with most of what they are saying the problem is that puppy teeth are going on human skin or clothing!
This is one of those puppy complications that most people face at some point and the biggest problem is that people don’t realize puppy biting is a problem until it becomes so frequent that they can get nothing done, OR it really starts to hurt!
Puppies have some of the sharpest little teeth on the planet! I HATE puppy teeth! And, when wielded insistently it not only hurts it can leave you with a bloody body part!
Why Puppy Biting Happens
I believe that in order to really make a difference with your dog and dog training we must understand why this behavior happens; then we can make sure we are fulfilling our dog’s needs while making sure we are not inadvertently rewarding bad behaviors.
Puppies play with each other with their teeth. Dogs don’t have hands and opposable thumbs to hold or throw objects or play with toys. They aren’t able to use their hands to explore their environments.
Puppies are born deaf and blind, they do not begin to hear or see until they are about 2 weeks old. They learn use their mouths, shortly after they are born, to explore their environment. As they grow they are constantly learning about their environment by biting and mouthing. They bite their litter mates, they mouth on things in their environment, and they even bite their mother.
It is essential that puppies stay with their mother until at least 8 weeks of age so that she can begin to teach them about bite inhibition. When a pup bites mom too hard, mom is swift to bite back and teach the pup about the inappropriateness of rough play. Without mom’s help during this crucial period in a puppy’s life, they often don’t learn about bite inhibition and frequently develop into bullies.
It is normal for dogs to bare their teeth, nip, bite,
and growl at their litter mates and playmates.
Often puppies play hard or soft depending on their playmate and how hard he/she is playing. I have seen dogs throw each other around by their necks, growling and body slamming each other but doing so only in play and never breaking skin.
Dogs can only learn to play with other dogs by playing with other appropriate non-aggressive dogs. I think dog play is a crucial behavior for puppies to learn when they are young! Older dogs will teach them the appropriateness of how hard to bite, and young dogs can teach them how fun it is to play rough sometimes.
Although it is normal for a puppy to explore its environment using its teeth and mouth, it is inappropriate for them to put their teeth on humans and they must be taught not to do this under any circumstances or for any reason, EVER!
The Biggest Problem With Puppy Biting:
95% of new puppy owners think this behavior is cute at first, and therefore they allow it to continue until it gets out of control to where the the puppy is biting hard or maybe even biting kids.
Each puppy is different some puppies will innocently mouth for months and never escalate to a bloodletting but some puppies realize very early on that their human not only tolerates but likes this behavior and things quickly escalate to harder and harder bites.
The most important thing is to not allow the behavior at all!
A tooth on skin is never cute! Even if you don’t have children imagine how the same behavior would feel to a 2 year old child or a 95 year old senior with fragile skin; if it is not appropriate for this human dynamic it should not be appropriate for you!
This behavior quickly escalates and it is crucial to nip it in the bud right away!
I once had a puppy that would latch on to my thigh every time I moved quickly or ran (his prey drive was in overdrive), it didn’t take long for this to become a problem!
Figure out what type or reward or payoff your puppy is getting out of mouthing, nipping, or biting.
- Is he trying to play with you?
- Is he irritated with you?
- Is he overtired?
- Or is he just bored?
And then make sure you guarantee that
the biting behavior is not rewarded!
My puppy was trying to play, so I made sure that each time he used his teeth it equaled the loss of me and my affection. If a behavior equals the opposite of what you want and is never rewarding, it extinguishes itself pretty quickly!
Remember, mouthing, nipping and biting may be instinctual, but it should never be tolerated or rewarded! If you nip this in the bud early you will have a social dog that has learned bite inhibition and how to control himself!
Mort Articles On Puppy Biting