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Does your pup bite you.... or other family members? Does he nip and 'mouth' your hands, arms, legs, pants, shoes, hair ......?
If so, you're not alone.
All that puppy biting is actually perfectly normal canine behavior, but it does need to be discouraged early on to prevent it becoming a (bad) habit.
Nipping or biting is VERY RARELY a sign of aggression or that you have a 'bad' puppy.
It's simply the way puppies play and communicate..... so even if you're convinced that Fido should have had a bit part in the classic movie 'Jaws' you can relax, he's just a perfectly normal puppy!
Nipping and biting their siblings or momma comes naturally to every puppy, and the reaction that they get to their biting is how they learn 'bite inhibition' (how hard they can bite without getting into big trouble!).
This knowledge will be very important to them as they grow up.
Think of herding dogs who need to 'nip' their flock (but not take off a leg), or guardian breeds who may need to 'warn' an intruder without drawing blood.
Even in squabbles with another dog it's important that each one knows how hard they can bite without breaking the skin. Most dog 'fights' are 99% noise!
Although all puppies nip, many times it's working breeds who use their mouths to herd, hunt, retrieve or guard, who are the most persistent and stubborn about it.
If you have a pup from one of these breeds you'll need a good supply of patience to stop this deep-rooted, instinctive behavior.
Nipping and biting is rooted in basic canine behavior and is purely instinctive - and tends to peak during the teething stage.
One of the ways that puppies establish their place in their doggy family's 'pecking order' is by 'play biting'.
If you watch a litter of puppies at play, you'll see them 'mouthing' and nipping at each other ALL the time.
The rolling around, squealing and growling is all part of the way they learn acceptable canine interaction.
If one of them bites too hard, another puppy will yelp and likely bite back harder.... lesson learned!
And watch what happens if one brave little puppy decides to try sharpening his teeth on his momma or another nearby adult. He gets told in no uncertain terms that this is NOT okay.
But although puppy biting is normal, and has an important role to play in puppy development, all puppies need to learn that they are not allowed to nip, mouth or bite humans - ever.
Because it seems fairly harmless, and maybe even cute (even if it's a bit irritating at the same time) when a 7lb puppy nips and growls, it's definitely a habit you need to discourage right away.
Because that tiny puppy will be an adolescent and then an adult in the blink of an eye, and then this behavior will be a lot more than irritating.
As pups mature that puppy biting is often an attempt to dominate other members of his family (remember the doggy family pecking order?).
If he's allowed to put his teeth on you - or any other person - he will begin to think that he's 'in charge'.
Nipping might seem funny when Fido's tiny, but if he's allowed to believe it, he won't be willing to renegotiate his position later on (when he may weigh 50lbs or even 150lbs!)
Luckily there are lots of very simple ways to do this and the most important part of training a puppy to stop biting is correcting him consistently.
So, how exactly do you stop all that puppy biting?
I've raised more than my share of puppies of all different sizes and breeds, and have found that there are several different puppy biting corrections that are simple and effective.
Not all of them will work with every puppy though, and which one is most successful depends a lot on your individual puppy's temperament, his breed, how old he is and how persistent or stubborn he is about nipping.
It's best to start out using the easiest and least confrontational method first, and to be consistent with it for at least 2 weeks before you decide whether or not you need to try a less subtle approach.
Being consistent is hugely important. All members of the family need to be 'on the same page' and to use the same correction technique every single time your puppy nips or bites.
It's also important not to expect instant results!
All puppy training takes time because puppies learn through repetition and by associating cause-with-effect (ie 'I bite momma and she won't play with me anymore.... hmmm, maybe I'd better not bite her!').
It takes time for them to realize what is happening and also why it's so important to be consistent because if the cause-and-effect combination is only there sometimes your puppy won't make that connection nearly so quickly - or at all.
These techniques DO work (not one of my puppies grew up thinking it was okay to nip or bite people) all you need to do is find the right fit for your puppy's personality and stick with it.....
Every time little Fido's sharp little puppy teeth touch your skin say "OUCH" loudly. This lets him know that his puppy biting hurts and may surprise him into stopping (at least temporarily).
Immediately stop interacting with him by breaking eye-contact and/or walking away. Be sure to follow this procedure every single time he nips or bites and he'll soon get the message.
All your puppy wants is to be with you and to have your attention so when he realizes that if he bites or nips you'll stop playing with him he'll stop. Of course, be sure to praise him and love on him when he plays nicely without biting.
It's just as important to reward good behavior as it is to discourage the bad.
If your little guy is a bit stubborn or dominant, or if he's from one of the more 'mouthy' breeds (such as German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Border Collies and many Terriers), then it's possible that the 'softly-softly' approach won't work and in that case you may need to be a touch more dominant yourself!
So, you'll make your "OUCH" louder and more forceful and add the word "No!" Fido has no idea what the word means but your tone of voice will help him get the picture. You can also try spraying your hands with one of those little minty breath-sprays - dogs and puppies usually hate the taste.
Bitter apple spray (available at pet stores) works in the same way as the breath spray. Both of these products can dry out, or irritate your skin though, so wearing a pair of thick cotton gloves that are liberally sprayed with either nasty-tasting substance can be a good idea.
If you're still having problems after trying the above tactics, I'd recommend that you go out and buy a small, plastic spray bottle (you can get them at Walmart or any Dollar store for about $1).
Fill it with water and set it to 'stream' (not the fine mist spray). The next time your pup decides to sink his teeth into you, shout "OUCH, NO!" loudly and shoot a quick jet of water right on his nose.
The surprise should stop your little Piranha is his tracks. It's a good idea to have 2 or 3 of these spray bottles around the house so there's always one handy when Fido is struck by the biting bug.
Occasionally you'll get a puppy who actually doesn't mind being squirted with water, which makes the above tactic seem more like a game to him. In that case, stop the nipping by replacing the water with a 1:10 solution of vinegar:water instead.
Or you can buy a couple of those tiny breath-mint sprays and give him a shot of the breath spray directly on his tongue whenever he nips. Be very careful with these sprays though, you don't want to spray his eyes or nose
NOTE: Make sure the spray you use doesn't contain the artificial sweetener, Xylitol, which is toxic to dogs.
If you can't find a suitable breath spray, Bitter Apple spray (available in pet stores) is a good, safe, alternative.
There's one more puppy training technique that you can use if you have a puppy who is very stubborn about biting and nipping and who doesn't respond to ANY of the corrections you've tried (but remember, it takes time to stop this type of behavior and you need to be patient and consistent and not expect overnight success!).
This final correction I call the 'Muzzle Wrap' because that's how you stop this puppy biting behavior... by wrapping your hand around his muzzle.
Do this gently and hold his mouth closed for a few seconds (start with maybe 5 seconds the first couple of times, you can increase it to about 15 if necessary) while repeating the 'No bite' command.
It's very important to stay calm and firm but gentle, don't grab him angrily or roughly, or use force, that will turn the whole situation into a battle and he'll either be angry or scared.
This 'stop puppy biting' technique has worked with every pup I've ever met, even the 'mouthiest' ones.... eventually! Of course, some puppies 'get it' right away, but others take a little longer.
Occasionally a pup may come back at you biting more strongly, or even barking. If this happens, simply repeat the correction calmly and gently, it may take 3 or 4 repetitions before the penny drops.
Then use the same correction every time the puppy starts biting again. If after 4 muzzle-wraps your little guy is still doing his 'Jaws' impression, simply give him a time-out in his crate to calm down and try again next time.
Very rarely a pup will get so upset by this correction method that he won't settle down, and instead gets angry and combative. If this happens after you've tried it on several different occasions then it's not the right correction for that particular pup and you need to try a different tactic.
A 'time out' is often the best way to handle an over-excited or 'worked up' puppy, and it's perfectly okay to use his crate for this.
So, if all of your efforts to stop your pup from biting have failed at any given point, simply removing him from the scene and giving him time to calm down usually helps.
Even though the instinct to bite and nip is strong in all puppies, it can be increased by certain situations or behaviors......
Just like little children, puppies get excited when there's a lot of noise or boisterous behavior around them. They express this pent-up excitement by chasing, nipping or barking.
Also, many dog breeds have highly developed herding instincts or prey drive.
This means that they have an in-built need to chase fast moving objects. It's hard-wired into their brains and is an automatic, unconscious and reflexive behavior.
It doesn't matter if it's a cat, an unsuspecting cyclist or your squealing 5 year old, anything that moves fast (even better if it's making a high-pitched noise too) is a target.
This canine instinct is one of the factors involved in many dog bites and and attacks on young children.
It's important to bear this in mind and always supervise your puppy and children when they're playing together.
You can help reduce the excitement-induced puppy biting by keeping your household as calm as possible -
For most families, the dinner time hour can be a bit crazy.... there's a lot of noise, everyone is tired and hungry and whiny!
At times like these it's often a good idea to put your pup in his crate, playpen etc. to help keep him out of the mix.