Teaching your puppy bite inhibition
Learning how to moderate the force of a bite is very important for all dogs. Puppies naturally nip at each other while playing. If they bite too hard on their mother or littermate, the other dog will likely make a loud yelp sound, warning the puppy, “Hey, that hurt!” and the pupies learn not to bite so hard as a result. If you rescued your pup or even if you purchased your pup from a breeder, it is possible they did not get enough practice before they came home with you. It is even more possible that they just don’t know that the same rules apply with fingers, toes and clothing as it did with their littermates.
Many trainers suggest making a high-pitched “ow!” sound if they bite you and standing up. If by chance they do stop biting when you say “OW”, then be sure to reward your dog with a treat and some verbal praise. DO NOT PET RIGHT NOW, and especially not on the head as it will mostly likely reactivate the biting. To clarify, this is my least favorite method, even though many trainers like it. I find that for many puppies, thsound and quick movement actually gets them more worked up and they come back for more.
My opinon is as a first step, it is better to stand up, turn around and walk out of the room for a moment. No attention to the pup for a minute or two. Lesson is you bite too hard, game is over. Then return and try again. If I have to leave the room twice in a row because the puppy has returned to biting, I would have a plan when I re-enter the room.
Offer quiet time or a potty break.
Sometimes a biting puppy is really an over-tired puppy, and they need to be put in a quiet space or crate to take a nap. Other times, they may need a potty break, or may just be hungry or thirsty. It is orth trying, you may find a pattern in the puppies behavior that can help you.
Give your puppy an alternative item to chew.
It’s a good idea to keep a puppy chew toy or a frozen toy on hand at all times, so you can anticipate biting behavior and substitute the toy for your hand or other off limit item. Doing so will let pups know what is OK to bite or chew. If they start nibbling at your fingers or toes while you’re playing, offer a toy instead. If they continue to nip, stop the play session immediately.
Help use up some energy.
When the puppy keeps biting, even after you substitute a toy several times, he may just need to burn up some physical or mental energy. Take them in the yard and watch them run around, provide some kibble in the grass to “hunt”.. Throw toys, play tug whatever your pup likes best.
If you’ve been training your puppy to sit, you might also redirect them by asking them to sit and rewarding with an exciting toy (squeeker or a fast moving rope toy) Sometimes they simply cannot sit – even though they know it. Their little brains are wound up, just like little children, they simply can’t hear and process the information when over aroused.
Put them in a time-out.
You can gently put your puppy in their crate to give them a chance to calm down and prevent them from biting you. Especially if you are frustrated. It’s very important to make sure that they don’t learn to associate the crate with punishment, so be calm, pop them in and leave the room. After after a minute or two, return to the room quietly. If they are asleep that is great and good information for next time. If they are awake, before you open the crate, have a toy in hand or your leash. You can then take them outside immediately to potty and play or do zoomies. Alternatively you can give them a chewy bone or frozen “teething ring” so they don’t start the cycle over again.
You don’t want to do this all the time but if you are frustrated or in a hurry, or the kids are riling you and the puppy up, then a short time out while you make a plan is a good option.
How to Train to PREVENT the pounce.
If your puppy is pouncing on your legs or feet as you walk, a common playful puppy behavior. Practice walking around the house, slowly at first with treats or kibble in your pocket, as your puppy come walking/barreling towards you, drop a high-value treat next to your leg/foot as you walk in front of them. This will teach puppy that good things happen when they are by your leg/foot that do not involve biting pants and feet. Practice means training this when your puppy IS NOT in the middle of acting out in inappropriate ways – that is not a time that their brains can absorb learning. Just like you practice sit, you can put this in as part of your training sessions.
Reinforce behaviors you desire.
When your puppy is playing nicely and NOT biting. Reward with kibble and then go back to playing when they finish chewing. This is a great way to positively reinforce that behavior. If you are consistent, it will make it more likely that your dog will repeat this behavior to earn the reward of food and play. The good news is that biting/nipping goes away because it is NOT rewarded and as a result nice play happens more often.
Teach your puppy that biting means “game over.”
If you choose to roughhouse, I personally love to wrestle with my dogs. I would introduce a word that will mean “we are playing rough now” (Wrestle, Playtime, Game On etc.) When you are done playing say a word that will mean game is over. (All done, Game over, Finished) Then immediately provide the pup an alternative chew toy (maybe smeared with a tiny amount of peanut butter or wet dog food and frozen to keep in interesting.) to end the session. YOu can also stand up stiff, say the cue for “ALL DONE” and then drop a toy right in front of them. In this way they don’t develop the habit of continuing when you are done playing. Try to stop before they get over-aroused or frustrated as them may begin nipping or grabbing anything close by.
It is okay when playing tug to LET THEM WIN SOMETIMES it is important and typically means your dog will come back to you with the toy to have more fun. When I let my dog win, he tosses the toy around for a minute to “KILL” it, then runs back up to me to “make the tug happen”
Have fun believe it or not, working on puppy nipping can develop great play habits and a strong relationship with you if done properly.