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Puppy biting

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Puppy biting Empty Puppy biting

Post by Eleanor Thu Feb 13, 2014 4:42 pm

Think of a new puppy as a blank slate; they’ve received no human training. When you first start training your puppy, it’s very important to remember that, although they should have learned a certain amount of bite inhibition with their siblings, they will likely still bite when they play. This is not aggression, nor is it ‘bad’ behaviour. It’s undesirable behaviour for us, as we don’t want to be nipped and would like to correct the situation before they grow large enough to really hurt!

Training your pup not to bite involves teaching them which behaviours are desirable and undesirable to humans. Be patient, as they’re very used to biting their siblings when they play, so they won’t know any different at first. There are various different methods recommended for this sort of training, each one with varying degrees of success depending on the dog, but it’s up to you to determine which one is best suited for you and your pup.

Please note: If a puppy is removed from its mother and littermates too early, this negatively impacts the learning of bite inhibition. Very often, puppies removed too early are more difficult to train when it comes to nipping. Our own dog had to be hand-fed from birth after he refused to suckle and almost died and, although he was placed back with his siblings when he was strong enough, it was enough to affect his bite inhibition; it took a long time for us to properly adjust his behaviour to our liking, getting rid of play biting and tantrums.


  • Some people choose to socialise their pups with older, calmer dogs. The idea of this method is that the older dog will display the correct responsible body language and vocalisations, which lets the pup know what type of play is acceptable and when to stop. It is also supposed to help the pup let out excess energy, leaving him/her less likely to transfer that energy into play-biting humans. If you choose this method, please be careful; choose a dog that you know and trust, preferably one of your own if you have any. Some dogs will not tolerate over-exuberant pups jumping all over them.



  • Teach your pup to respond to the word ‘No’. This should be done in a firm, low voice; no shouting. When the pup bites or attempts to bite, firmly turn him/her away from you and repeat the key word. Alternatively, you could say the key word, and then ignore the pup – standing up and turning/walking away, for instance. Once the pup stops biting, gentle praise can then be issued.



  • Letting out a loud, high pitched yelp when the puppy bites is supposed to replicate the sound made by the pup’s siblings when biting becomes too hard. This lets the pup know that the play has become too rough, encouraging them to let go. It may help you to watch videos of puppies playing, in order to more accurately replicate the noise.



  • If your puppy seems to be getting to the stage where he/she may start to bite, directing the puppy’s attention to a toy may help. This gives the puppy an outlet for excess energy, while protecting your hands from nipping.


Extra notes:


  • Avoid rough play until the puppy has learned bite inhibition! Rough play will excite a puppy, leading to forgetfulness on the puppy’s behalf.



  • Remember to be consistent! If you allow your puppy to bite you, and then scold him/her later for doing the same thing, this is likely to cause confusion.



  • Make sure you praise your puppy when he/she stops biting! Praise lets your pup know that he/she has done something you like.



  • Puppies are notorious for loving moving targets! If your pup has a tendency for attacking feet, stop moving and distract him/her with a toy to present a more appealing target.



  • Please do not hit your puppy! This includes ‘touches’ on the flank, as popularised by some behaviourists and television personalities. Even if the impact isn’t hard enough to hurt, it can be very distressing for the puppy and can cause mistrust! Remember that you are not a fellow dog and your puppy does know that, so replicating a bite from the mother is not likely to actually work.


Temper tantrums:

This is an area where a lot of owners slip up! Tantrums are very different to play-biting and need to be dealt with differently! Yelping when your puppy throws a temper tantrum is likely to just encourage him/her, as he/she will most likely just continue or bite harder.

What is a tantrum? A tantrum occurs when your puppy just doesn’t want to do something, but you want him/her to do it. Even holding your puppy still when he/she doesn’t want to be held still may lead to a tantrum. Pay attention to body language – during play biting, a puppy is likely to be relatively relaxed and loose, perhaps with growls and wrinkles on the muzzle. During a tantrum, the body stiffens and biting becomes a lot harder and persistent, often accompanied by loud snarling/yowling and thrashing about.

In this situation, it’s often recommended to just remain calm. If your pup threw the tantrum because you were holding him/her still, do not let go; hold him/her firmly but gently and wait for the tantrum to stop. This may take a while, but persistence is key! Once he/she has quietened down, let go and give gentle praise.

If your puppy throws tantrums frequently, you may consider talking to a professional to ensure that you are responding in the correct way and that your puppy is in good health.

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Last edited by Eleanor on Wed Apr 02, 2014 10:33 pm; edited 3 times in total
Eleanor
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Post by Caryll Thu Feb 13, 2014 9:10 pm

Good post!

Dempsey was a terror for tantrums. Because he'd been hand reared, he'd been allowed to get away with murder at the breeders & whenever something didn't go his way with his siblings, the siblings would be moved away, or Dempsey would be picked up & cuddled.

It made things very difficult for us, though. He expected to be able to throw a tantrum if he didn't want to do something & a Bull Terrier pup isn't easy to control at those times!

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Post by Eleanor Thu Feb 13, 2014 9:12 pm

He was a nightmare! But it's an example to show that, even with very severe cases, it can be managed!
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