Puppy Biting – well where do I start.
First of all this is not an answer to the question but a discussion on methods – always seek professional help if you are having difficulty.
It is one of the most commonly asked questions we get and the answer is not necessarily the one owners like to hear – but I am not here to tell you want you want, I am here to sound out some methods and how they do or do not work.
The first thing to consider before you even think about the end result of biting is the first stage of having a puppy. The puppy doesn’t have hands to explore the world they have a mouth and sharp little puppy teeth. The second thing is we bring this adorable little fluff ball into our house – put them on the floor and go here you are all of this is yours now. And then bitch and moan when the puppy doesn’t do what we want. It really is quite amazing as a species that we child proof our houses and make sure our babies can’t hurt themselves but when it comes to a puppy with the same mentality, we expect them to think like an adult human and respond accordingly. I mean seriously why do you think that dogs understand english? it takes you 17 years as a human to figure it out and them some still don’t, yet after 2 weeks interacting with a human you think they understand “stop it”, “don’t do that”, “how many times do I have to tell you” – stand back and have a look at yourself. The solution is simple – containment. As a baby we confine them to cots, bouncers, car seats to keep them safe and out of trouble. The best way to keep your puppy safe is to confine it to a smaller area – I personally recommend a crate that is open and covered and a pen for play area and toileting. This will stop a good chunk of disasters that happen with puppies as they try to discover the world. When they are out of the confines they are on a light lead or under constant supervision. This allows you to correct any misdemeanors as they happen and teach the young pup from an early age about control, rules and boundaries – it will also assist in the process of walking on a lead – this is NOT for a child to do EVER!
Now you have stopped some of the random biting issues of feet, ankles, dresses etc we can start to look at bite inhibition – which is the dog learning to NEVER PUT TEETH ON HUMAN SKIN – EVER! It really irritates me when people say “oh they don’t put pressure” – it should not happen full stop – because at some point they will lose their impulse control and there will be pressure – a bite. Not to mention pressure on a healthy adult skin compared to a child or the elderly is completely different. There are many methods to do this and I do have a good chuckle at some and will explain a few of them here. We will show in our group or in home training effective methods to do this – note I said show – you cannot explain and get a human to do it correctly via text.
So let me start some of the things I have been told……oh did I tell you it’s because google said?
- “bite the dog back” – Really? Last time I looked we don’t have a set of good canine incisors nor a mouth big enough to go around the neck of the dog – like eewww why would you. If this is you just stop! please stop you are not helping the situation.
- Squeal like a pig or your hurt and turn your back – Ok the next person who says this to you please ask them 2 things first do they understand the concept of prey/predator drives – secondly where did they learn the dog? So the theory behind this is that your dog will not want to hurt you so will stop doing it (cue falling on the floor laughing it doesnt have human emotions) – you are right that your puppy isn’t trying to kill you and it may work for a soft natured dog but try it with an amstaff and see where it gets you.(just ask any amstaff owner they are tuff dogs) When dogs do it to each other it is a specific language aka dog they are using that’s why it works with puppies between them not humans. They don’t understand you. What a dog will learn by squealing and turning your back is that if I want the human to bugger off all I have to do is bite. Cue my previous note on prey/predator – this is the drive that causes a dogs instinct to bite and possess (you know the shake and kill little fluffies do so much). It’s why they sell squeaky toys (it simulates an animal dying) – get your head around that one. Behaviourly we have to give a dog like any animal the right stimulation – squeaky toys do this – so why on gods green earth do you squeal like a girl and pull your hand away? Are you Prey? The only time I squeal and run is if I see a spider.
- This is one of my favourites – Stick a toy in its mouth. Let me ask you – when a dog sits how do you reward it? with a toy? with food? with a pat? Now how does the dog know that was the right thing? It doesn’t it associated an action with a sound ie the command sit. Now let the dog bite you – give it the sound ow and give it a toy. What have you just taught your dog? Now there is a theory behind it – flawed because of a lack of understanding of canine to human its called redirection. Redirection is a human concept that works in humans – it is supposed to redirect the attention or focus – ie to redirect a childs focus from throwing sand to building a sand castle. When it comes to a puppy at 8 weeks of age or even older that has the intelligence of a baby why would you think this would work let alone as I described earlier how the dog thinks.
- Time out – Now here is something that has merit – this is the physical removal of the puppy from the situation so that it gets no attention. Again there are variables involved with how long and where you do it, it also requires the right timing.
- Bitter sprays – These can work an absolute treat – just put some on your hand and let the puppy go for it – not all bitter sprays taste the same and you may have to try different ones. The puppy will find the taste disgusting and not want to chew you – 30 seconds later you can call the pup to you and give them the correct chew item and praise them for chewing it.
- Peanut Butter – put some on the palm of your hand and teach kisses as they lick it off – once the puppy learns this then you can say kisses when the puppy bites and praise the correct behaviour.
So you have now managed to get thru the first 4 weeks – argh when will they grow up? haha now you have teething – this is where the fun really starts……
Your puppy is in pain as its new teeth come thru and if you have been unsuccessful in the early stages it will be a lot worse now.
- STOP patting you poor pup on the top of the head and face – how would you like it? did you not notice the teeth come out every time you do it or your pup become hand shy? Pat under the head!
- give them frozen carrot or apple to chew on – the cold will sooth their gums and its healthy – just remove the core.
- Confinement inside is still your friend.
- Teething was not fun with your child it is less fun with your dog deal with it you are a parent now!
- DO NOT CLAMP THEIR MOUTH SHUT!!! The dog will learn to hate the hand – expect a child to get bitten as the dog learns to hate hands.
There are many ways to help you thru this period – this is just my thoughts. Every situation in every house is different as no two dogs are the same – this is why we need to see situations to be able to help you correctly with any training.
Remember your Puppy is looking for a Calm Assertive Leader that is consistent. If you can’t be this you had better start learning.
Life is full of Decisions – make an Informed one.