Help! My puppy is biting me! What can I do to stop it? This is the question of the hour for many of my and other puppy owners.
In my 20 plus years of experience with dogs, the one thing that remains throughout the years and from breed to breed is that fact that puppies can and will BITE!!!! At first this is just a cute little playful nipping, but as your sweet little 8 week old puppy growns, those 4 month old teeth can really do some damage. It’s just not so cute anymore, is it?
Why do puppies bite? 5 Common Reasons
1. Puppies are playful, and in their pack of siblings, this is how they play. When the play gets too rough, the puppy getting hurt will yelp loudly and long to let the others know the rough play went too far. As the puppy matures, this play can sometimes turn into an act of dominance. . .leader of the pack wanna-be or Alpha tendancy. Some puppies just have more alpha in them than others. Understand. . .being an Alpha is in no way a bad thing. It just means you must train and teach your puppy according to their own temperament.
2. Puppies also bite to relieve teething. For the first year, puppies go through various teething phases. And just like a human baby. . .chewing on anything and everything in sight.
Offering plenty of chew toys (fill a plastic water bottle 3/4 of water and freeze. Put in a sock or bottle stuffer toy and let them chew away. Remove the cap and empty bottle once it has melted. . .they can screw off the caps eventually).
3. Depending on your breed, some puppies chew more than others. The Goldendoodle, for instance, is a very mouthy dog and loves to chew! This chewing can turn into “nipping” or “biting” during play with their owner. Puppies tend to be mouthy and nip at your fingers and toes when playing. Before those teeth become very strong and sharp, this is kind of cute and most people don’t discourage the behavior. The habit sets in, and now at 4 months to 1 yr old, the puppy doesn’t understand why you’re upset at the nipping.
5. Possessive aggressive biting. Some puppies have been allowed to become the “Alpha” of the pack, which just happens to be your family. They’ll teach you to get their way by nipping, biting and growling when you take away food, toys, or do anything they don’t want you to do. This type of biting is not actual Aggression. It is not mean, but misunderstood. You do NOT have an aggressive dog if you have allowed these habits by not training or correcting at an early stage. I know, it’s harsh, but 90% of the puppy temperament is what the owner creates. Games such as tug-of-war, and fetch should be avoided during the training phase. This encourages Possessive aggressive behavior. Training should start in your home as soon as you get your puppy.
5 Good Ways to Stop Puppy Biting!
After recognizing why your puppy is biting, you can now arm yourself with the tools to correct the behavior and restore a calm and enjoyable relationship between you and your new best friend.
1. Health: First and formost, you want to make sure your puppy has been checked by your Vet. Make sure your puppy isn’t nipping out of some kind of discomfort such as a hurt tooth, tummy ache, etc. You also want to ask that grand old questions. . .Is your dog spayed or neutered? Spaying and Neutering your dog can eliminate any kind of hormonal aggression or alpha tendency. We highly recommend spaying females around 5 to 6 months old and Neutering males at 4 months old for our Goldendoodle breeds. Spaying after the first cycle actually becomes more dangerous as there is more blood flow and Neutering too late after 5 months old can allow those male hormones to exist even in the midst of a neutered dog. This is why you hear of Neutered males still “marking.” Females also “mark” their territory. Yes, that’s right. . .Females mark as much as males, it’s just a differrent odor. So, making sure you if you are going to spay or neuter, that you do it at the right time is a must!!! Once you make sure your puppy is in optimal health and rule out any health issue as the reason for biting. . .then you can go onto training.
2. Timing: Make sure your dog is on a good schedule. Eating, playing, alone time with toys and resting. Training during “dinner time”, “nap time” or immediately after nap time may not be the optimal time for training. A hungry puppy will try to chew on anything you offer; even your fingers. A tired puppy may not pay attention, and an over energized puppy just waking from a nap may not be able to focus till that extra energy is run out.
3. Young puppy nipping: First understand that you are the Alpha of the pack and you must treat your dog like a DOG and not a human. Speak Dog language! When a young puppy, correct nipping your fingers by grabbing his snout tight enough for him to whine and say a harsh “NO!” Never let your young puppy the ability to chew on your fingers and toes. Never offer your hand to a dog with your fingers out. Fold your fingers down or inward and offer the back side of your hand for them to sniff, then move the back of your hand over their head to pet. Make your dog sit while you use one hand to pet under the chin and the other on his head or back. Reaching for your puppy with fingers is like offering a handful of sausages as a treat!
4. The puppy that grabs your pant legs: All puppies do this. . .even mine! A few options here: You can take your hand and remove their grasp, squeeze the snout and say “NO!” Or. . .you can stop, take the leg being “attacked” and kick backwards saying “no!”
5. The older puppy that bites: It’s drastic, but exactly what the momma dog does when the puppy bites or jumps up on her. Grab your puppy immediately by the scruff of the neck. This is no time to be shy, gentle, or sc
ared. You are the Alpha! Act like it! Quickly grab that scruff and throw (yes, you heard me right) THROW your puppy down to the ground. You will actuallly take the puppy from it’s standing position and force their necks to the ground so he is laying on his side and your hand is actually still hold the scruff and is touching the ground. Hold him there tightly while saying a very mean, harsh and loud “NO!” “NO Bite!” Hold him while he yelps. If he’s not yelping. . .you’re not doing it right. If you’re holding the scruff, he cannot and will not bit you. Once he stops yelping and has submitted to your authority, let him up. Make him “sit” and pet him for obeying the sit command. Some puppies that are slow to learn should be placed in a “time out” after the incident. A good 30 minutes in their crate (carried nicely, not angrily to the crate). I do this to combat most bad behavior such as growling, growling when I take away food or toys or biting. Always show affection after the puppy is up from the hold.
Be consistant! Don’t show fear! And you will earn the respect of your dog. Praise and make a big deal of good behavior! And always correct negative behavior right away, as soon as it happens. Good and Bad dogs are created. We are correcting in the way the momma dog would correct. She does not hold a grudge and does not abuse her young. Therefore, remember these are also God’s creations and although we encourage correcting. . .you must control your feelings and insticts as to not abuse. Abusive behavior by the owner will only create an aggressive and abusive animal. Correcting out of love, knowledge, and authority will create a loving, obedient and docile best friend.
You can always contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a special issue or questions regarding puppy biting/nipping.
Blessings and Happy Puppy Training,