Puppies! They are so cute with their sweet faces, that puppy smell and their eagerness to play. But those little teeth that are like needles? Not so much!!
Pups are naturally mouthy, as this is perfectly normal for their developmental stage and also because they are teething. But while puppy biting may be harmless and cute at this stage, if it’s allowed to continue, it may bring trouble when pup gets older. So let’s do both you and puppy a favor and “nip” this behavior in the bud.
You are going to learn to teach your puppy something called bite inhibition, which simply means that your puppy has learned to moderate or control the amount of force he uses when he bites down. Later on, if your dog is in pain or in a situation where he is fearful, he may have his mouth on someone else or on you. This is when his lessons in bite inhibition will come in very handy, as he is not nearly as likley to bite down too hard.
Here’s how puppies learn bite inhibition from their mothers or siblings: If the pup bites too hard, either on their mom or on a sibling, the other dog will let out a high pitched, loud yelp. This is a clear signal to the puppy that he has caused the other dog pain and he will stop.
We can use this to our advantage, but with some cautions. If your puppy bites you, then you can let out a loud, high pitch “Ow!” This works well with some pups. But with others, the sound seems to excite them and they get worked up and more likely to bite again. If this is the case, then remain calm, turn away from the puppy and walk away or very gently and without yelling at the pup, put him in his crate for a bit so he can calm down.
If your puppy does respond to the “Ow!” and backs away, then be sure to verbally praise and reward him immediately with a treat.
If you are playing with your puppy and he bites you, the rule must always be “playtime is now over.” A lot of owners don’t understand that punishing the puppy by yelling (or even worse, physically hitting them) is a reward of sorts. This is known as negative reinforcement and teaches your puppy that if he bites he will get some kind of reaction from you.
Your job is to teach him that biting gets him absolutely nothing. You do this by stopping the play immediately, getting up and turning away from the puppy and tucking your hands under your armpits, which sends a calming signal to your dog.
Also, you don’t want to play wiht your puppy in such a rough manner that he gets overexticted and is stimulated to bite. Always keep a chew toy close by, so if you sense biting about to happen, you can substitute the toy for your fingers. If pup continues to try to bite, then stop playing and turn away, or if he knows how to sit, then try redirecting him wiht the sit command and using a toy as a reward.
If the behavior continues, the puppy may be overtired and may need a nap, or may be hungry or thirsty. Or he may need to burn up even more energy by going out in the yard and running around.
If your pup has not effectively learned bite inhibition and not to bite when playing by the time he is six months old, it’s time to consult a good behaviorist dog trainer.