This is a blog for puppy owners. The number one complaint I get about young puppies is play biting people. Boy does it hurt with those tiny sharp teeth.
Firstly, let me explain why puppies play bite then I’ll go into how to prevent it. It’s really important to understand why puppies play bite and mouth to help keep our frustration in check. Puppies do not play bite as a way of becoming ‘top dog’ or ‘the alpha dog’; this is a very outdated and scientifically disproved theory of dog behaviour. Puppies actually mouth as a way of playing and interacting with us. If you watch puppies and dogs playing it is very common for them to play bite and mouth each other. After all they don’t have hands to high five or hug when they meet so they interact by playing and mouthing each other.
Puppies also mouth more during teething; around 4-6 months when they lose their baby teeth. Their mouths can be sore and they find a great deal of pain relief through mouthing things. Finally, puppy’s mouth as a way to explore their environments, by mouthing items they gain a lot of sensory information about it. After all, they don’t have hands to pick things up and handle them to find out.
So there’s the main reasons why puppies mouth a lot whilst little. Now onto how to stop them mouthing your hands and ragging on your sleeves and trouser legs. You will need to start this the moment you get your puppy home (and even earlier if you are a breeder) in order to prevent them getting into the bad habit. Here’s my top tips:
If your puppy is mouthing and chewing other things that they should not be, such as furniture, make sure you are providing them with things that you would prefer them to chew. My favourites are Kongs. Stuff them full of sticky, dog friendly, foods such as wet dog meat, soaked kibble or small amounts of peanut butter (xylitol free!), pate, cream cheese, banana, honey and freeze them to keep your puppy busy for hours. Keep forbidden items out of reach, or block access to areas with them. When my dog was a puppy we pretty much cleared the ground floor of our house to the point it almost looked like no-one lived there! Then, after their puppy chewing stage is over you can slowly reintroduce the areas or items that were restricted.
In summary, do not punish your puppy for play biting, as mentioned, it is physiological need as they grow. Make sure you prepare yourself with the soft toys to redirect them to and a house line and baby gate, to avoid them practising the behaviour, then make sure you stay consistent and follow through each time. Shouting at, tapping their nose, yelping at or hitting your puppy when they mouth will only make them nervous of you, ruin your bond and potentially encourage them to growl or snap at you to get you to back off.
About the Author: Holly Keeling. Dog Trainer in Sussex, England. Mother to furrbaby Leskie 5yrs and little humans Teddy 3yrs and Louie 1yr. Outdoor lover. A blog about raising kids and dogs and my life as a dog trainer. View more blogs here.