Hi everyone, Kathy and Sarah here! And today, we're back with a brand-new episode of Dog Sense!!
In it, we're going to be discussing a pretty important subject: Puppy mouthing and biting.
Yeah, you know what we're talking about.
You bring your puppy home and you're super excited!! You're already fantasizing about all the adventures you'll go on together, and the whole family is so happy to meet him.
But, after the honeymoon is over, you start noticing something: *Gasp* Your puppy is a biter (ouch)!!
Which is completely normal. Puppies are like toddlers; they love to discover the world with their mouths. All you have to do is teach your pup what's appropriate and what's not.
Not sure how you should go about that?
Kathy and Sarah to the rescue!!
If you want to learn all about why puppies bite, how to respond, and how to deter that behavior, tune in now!
What Not to Do
Most of the time, puppy owners are not ready for the amount of mouthing and biting that can occur from their adorable little pups. And depending on the breed, some can be mouthier than others (although we don’t like to stereotype). We’ve owned a few of the mouthier types, and definitely noticed a genetic link behind this behavior.
What do you do if your new best friend suddenly bites you?
Well, first, let’s talk about what not to do!
One of the biggest don’ts is holding your puppy’s muzzle and squeezing it. Why? Simply because you don’t want your pup to associate you touching his mouth/face with punishment.
If you teach your dog that your hand on his mouth is a bad thing, guess what? When you need to take out that cooked chicken bone he grabbed, he won’t let you. When your vet needs to examine his mouth, your pup won’t love it. And let’s not forget about your groomer who’s going to have a tough time grooming your dog’s face because you taught your puppy that people touching his face is bad.
Something else you shouldn’t do is react loudly (or have any verbal reaction, really) when your puppy bites you. Doing so will only escalate his behavior into more biting. Why? One word: Miscommunication.
You see, when you react loudly or squeal, from your perspective, you’re trying to say: “Stop this, I hate it and it hurts!”. However, a puppy doesn’t always understand that message. Sometimes, the more you squeal, the more excited your pup will become. And if he thinks that you’re playing, his biting and mouthing may just increase! Finally, if your dog bites you, don’t hit or flick his nose. Just….no.
What to Do
One of the most effective solutions is timeout. Move your attention away from your dog. Here’s a good way to think about mouthing/biting challenges, especially when your frustration with him or her is at an all time high:
Puppies come to you from this strange planet, let’s call it “Puppy Planet”.
During those eight to ten weeks they spent on Puppy Planet with their breeder and their mama, they play rough, they bite each other; that’s pretty much their main form of communication. And that’s how they interact with other dogs.
So, when your puppy moves in with you, it’s like you’re living with a little alien! And you have no idea of his customs, except that they’re all NOT what you want him to do! And when you flick your puppy’s nose or squeeze his muzzle for biting, you’re punishing him for trying to communicate with you. Imagine if they did that to you on the alien planet. You get there, and they take your phone away. That’d be pretty upsetting, right? And if you’re like me about your phone, you may even retaliate!
What all of this means is that he’ll need your help to learn how to communicate with you. You have to be patient and educate him the right way (be consistent!), because one nose flick isn’t going to fix his behavior, and it may just make it worse.
Why Is Your Puppy Biting You?
Like we said, puppy mouthing is a form of communication. What’s your pup trying to tell you? Here are a few possibilities:
Your pup has had a crazy long day and hasn't had the opportunity to nap like he should. Heads up: Puppies can sleep up to eighteen hours a day! And if your dog doesn’t get enough sleep, he’ll be the proverbial tired and cranky toddler.
Your puppy wants something and you won’t let him have it. Maybe he wants to chew on your brand-new shoes, or he wants to jump on your back, or your children are pulling his tail and it’s annoying him. Understanding the source of frustration will help you solve your puppy’s mouthing issue.
He Wants Your Attention
A lot of puppies that bite ankles or pants legs are asking for attention. Deterring this behavior is super important, because you don’t want a dog that will chew on everyone’s clothes whenever he wants you to interact with him.
A lot of puppies, when they get excited, expel that energy through biting. This is why understanding your pup’s personality is a must. Ask yourself, on a scale of one to ten (with one being “super chill” and ten being “off the rails”), how “on” is your puppy? Knowing your dog’s excitement levels will help you understand what kind of stimulation he needs.
He Thinks You Want Him to Bite
Most of the time, the way people with their puppies makes them think that biting is encouraged! This is why you shouldn’t use your hands to play with your pup (you know the classic ‘hand under a blanket and pretend it’s a spider’ game…..). When you move towards your dog hands first, he’ll naturally think they’re toys and try to bite them. So, be proactive, and change how you play with your pup.
He Wants You to Stop Petting Him
This is mind-blowing to some, but yes, sometimes, your puppy doesn’t want you to pet him or cuddle with him. Just like people, dogs can get overstimulated, which is why I use the five-second rule to test if a dog wants to be touched or not.
How does the five-second rule work? Easy! Pet your dog and count to five in your head, then take your hand off him. If your pup walks away, that’s a red light, and it means he doesn’t want to be touched. If he stands there and doesn’t interact with you, that’s a yellow light (although I personally take it as a red light). If he nudges up against you, then it’s a green light, and you’re free to pet your best friend!
BUT DO NOT WORRY if it’s a red light! Your pup doesn’t dislike you! He’s just not interested at the moment. But that will change, just as a green light can change to red. So, make sure you’re ‘asking’ him what he wants, instead of assuming it. This is an important lesson to teach your family members and friends, as well.
It’s absolutely normal for puppies to discover the world with their mouths, you just have to teach them what’s okay and what’s not. But the most important thing is to be consistent, and make sure the whole family is on board, so everyone knows what to do if your pup bites.
Do you have any tips on how to solve puppy biting? Let us know in the comments below!