Puppies bite. Canines explore their world with their mouths. This is not a form of aggression, but a form of play and communication. It’s important to train a puppy to use his mouth appropriately. Mouthing can become unacceptable and even dangerous in an adult dog, so this is a very important lesson for a puppy to learn.
Some people will not want their puppy to bite at all. Others may allow their puppies to play bite but want them to learn to “be gentle”. Each individual owner will have to determine what level of mouthing they are willing to accept from their pet.
There a different options for teaching puppies to play nice. After you have determined what level of mouthing you are willing to tolerate then you can try one of the following suggestions to help you with this training:
For many puppies, all it takes to get them to stop mouthing is for the owner to “yelp” when puppy mouths too hard. Give a “Yip!” and stop the game for about 15 minutes. Some puppies have strong predatory instincts that are over-stimulated when a person yips, and for these puppies this would then not be an appropriate method. In the litter, the offended (“injured”) puppy would retaliate in some way by snarling or biting back, or refuse to play with the rough puppy for awhile.
If no mouthing is desired, try grabbing your puppy’s mouth firming for a few seconds and repeat “no bite”.
Some people have suggested keeping a squirt bottle handy and squirt him if he plays to rough. Timing is essential though so don’t use this technique unless he is currently biting you.
You can also try closing your hand over the puppy’s jaw (from inside his mouth) each time he grabs your hand. Hold on to it about 2 seconds past the time he realizes that you have him instead of the other way around. He will try to open him mouth further to “turn loose” of you and begin pulling away. Remind him that you do not like his behavior with a firm “no”.
Each puppy is different and so each individual will have to see what technique works best for their own puppy.
Many trainers discourage any and all “mouth games” with the puppy. There is some validity to this argument. The puppy will understand this vital concept: no teeth on people. Even a gentle touch could get someone hurt if they jerk their hand away, and people will do that, especially kids.
I, on the other hand, enjoy playing with my puppies’ mouths. Instead, I like to get them accustom to not biting hard. I believe that each puppy is capable of learning to mouth gently. I want them to get used to me placing my fingers in their mouths, pulling up their cheeks, rubbing their teeth, etc. I feel that this helps teaches a dog tolerance and self control. It also helps me as they get older to be able to brush their teeth, inspect their mouths and even give pills or other medicine more easily.
Now, while I will let them mouth me, I do not tolerate actual biting. You must be able to make this distinction if you do allow your puppy to mouth. Also, you must be able to tell the dog when play-biting is inappropriate. You should be able to tell him “No play” and expect him to stop mouthing.
Puppy Chewing — What Do I Do With My Piranha?
As we have previously discussed, canines explore their world with their mouth. As puppies, their teeth are quite sharp, much to the dismay of many a pet owner. When the permanent teeth emerge, they are not as sharp and the puppies are better able to control their bite pressure. Many dog owners make the mistake of thinking that the chewing starts and stops with teething. This is NOT the case. So the puppy owner discontinues the close monitoring because teething is over ……
And Then It Happens!
The real chewing comes after the dog’s permanent teeth have come in. These teeth seem to require “setting” in the jaw by hard chewing. This is a completely normal stage of dog development but it does seem to be more pronounced in some breeds than others, and in some individual dogs than others.
Many owners get puppies but forget that those puppies are dogs after all, and have not only a desire but often times a need to chew. And, when they come home after being out all day, and see the couch in shreds and the carpet pulled up, they think that the dog knows full well why they are having a conniption fit. The dog, on the other hand, has no earthly idea why and instead starts to develop separation anxiety about the owner leaving and then coming home. After all, the dog is not able to make a mental connection between chewing stuff at 12 p.m. and their owner screaming at them at 5:30 p.m. When this happens, dogs often begin to chew more to help relieve their stress!
In any case, the dog may ultimately lose his or her life, since destructive chewing is a major cause of people giving up their dogs. Often the first step is to put the dog outdoors to live. This can weaken the family’s bond with the dog and also introduce new issues, such as barking that disturbs neighbors and brings authorities to your door. Now, not only does the dog chew, he has become a general nuisance and has no idea why.
How to Manage the Chewing…
Dogs need chew toys of good quality that are safe for the chewing habits of each particular dog. It takes observation to determine which toys are okay for which dogs.
Provide the dog with a variety of textures to fill the needs of the dog at any given time.
Place the dog in a crate or other human-stuff-safe, dog proof area when you’re not able to supervise him. Avoid putting the dog behind a closed door in a room, since this often leads to the dog developing habits such as clawing up doors or the flooring at the bases of doors. In the case of a German Shepherd, it may lead to the removal of your floors. I have had to replace the flooring, the door casing, and the door handles in several different rooms in my house over the years (thanks to the re-decorating skills of a few German Shepherds). Crates or baby gates that allow the dog to see through the doorway tend to avoid these complications.
Buy a bottle of Bitter Apple spray or similar product. Bitter Apple has been around for a long time, doesn’t harm dogs if they ingest it, and doesn’t stain most surfaces. It’s also readily available. This is a training tool, not a protect-the-house tool. Alcohol-based, the spray evaporates quickly and has to be applied three to four times a day to keep its bittering effect active.
When the dog attempts to chew inappropriate items, redirect the dog’s attention to a toy with similar texture by playing and teasing him with it. Give it to him immediately when he shows he wants it and praise him. Do not to agitate the dog into a state of high activity. You want the dog to continue thinking of chewing, which dogs do when relaxing.
Remember that he is likely to make mistakes. Scold mildly but praise profusely — You actually want these mistakes made in front of you. You do not want to scare the dog into hiding from you to chew.
New and interesting toys pay for themselves! Get a variety of toys and textures frequently. I often recommend that you rotate toys to keep them interesting. Many people make the mistake of buying 12 or more toys but don’t rotate them. They give everyone of them to the dog and then wonder why the dog continues to chew their stuff. Like kids, when the dog has played with all of his toys, your toys become more interesting. But, if you keep rotating them, they become “new” again. I especially like the “Kong” toys. You can fill them with a different flavor each day (i.e. Cheez-Whiz, Peanut Butter, etc.) and they become a “new” toy each day.
The destructive chewing stage can last for quite some time, but in most cases will end by the time the dog is 2 years old or so. If you do an excellent job of directing a puppy to appropriate toys using the instructions above, some dogs will be focused on their toys by the time they’re a year old and able to have more house freedom. Either way, don’t just give up and toss the dog outside because you don’t want to use a crate or other confinement forever. Destructive chewing stage is just that, a stage. With proper training and direction, most dogs (and owners) get though it just fine.
You’re helping your dog form habits for life. Not only do you want the dog to chew dog toys instead of your things, you also want your dog to form the chewing habit! Yes, that’s right! The dog who continues to chew on appropriate toys through life will typically have better dental health. If you’ve ever had a dog with teeth that quickly got dirty and infected and had to have a lot of dental work, you’ll realize that you want a dog who chews. Of course, you want the dog to chew the right toys!