Puppy Biting

Ah yes, the bane of puppy parents everywhere; biting! All puppies do it and nobody likes having a little furry shark making punctures in their skin and clothing.

Puppies need to put things in their mouths for three reasons. One, they are teething and it helps with the discomfort. Two, they don’t have hands so that is how they learn about the world. And three, that is how puppies play with each other. They don’t yet understand that you prefer they play with you in a different manner.

There are several ways to help your puppy learn you are not a chew toy and all involve removing access to yourself and offering something appropriate to bite.

Let’s say Puppy bites you and you have been able to refrain from screaming. First of all, good for you! Sometimes it’s not that easy. Now, try a ‘Positive Interrupter’. A PI is a pleasant sound, like a kissy noise or patting your leg, that gets Puppy’s attention without startling him. His attention should turn to the sound and away from your skin. Say, “Good dog!” and give him a chew toy, bully stick, or other appropriate item to chew on instead of you. You are not rewarding the biting, you are rewarding him turning towards you. You can practice this with him when he is not biting so he gets the idea. Make that kissy sound and when he turns towards you, say, “Good dog!” and give him a treat. This will help him learn that being interrupted is really cool!

Sometimes biting persists because it was mistakenly reinforced. This could even be you yelling, “Ouch!” and pushing him away. He may have thought you were barking and playing with him.

Biting may also tell you he needs a nap. Puppies, like human toddlers, will get more hyper when they are over tired. Try a time out in his crate or x-pen and see if he goes to sleep. If he konks out, you will have learned that when Puppy turns in to a zoomy chomping maniac and can’t be redirected with a Positive Interrupter, it is because it is time for a nap.

You will be doing these things over and over and over and over again. Trust me, I speak from experience. But over time two things will happen. Your puppy will start to learn what he is allowed to chew on and he will grow out of it! Really, I promise he will.

Joanne OmetzComment