Ask a Trainer: Puppy biting

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Here’s a question from our Ask a Dog Trainer section.

“We just adopted a 5 month old lab mix and it still bites us a lot. We know she’s just playing but is their anything we can do do help inhibit this behavior”?

  • Boxerwelpen 126“Absolutely! When you engage in play with your puppy, use toys rather than your hands. If you do get a nip, make an “ow!” noise and end the play for 5-10 seconds by standing up and walking away. When play ends every time your pups teeth come in contact with your skin, (s)he learns that the consequence for teeth on skin is that play ends. At the same time, remember that puppies need to chew! Make sure that your pup has a good variety of appropriate chew items like bully sticks and stuffed Kong toys.” (Lauren Wojcik – owner/trainer, Laurens Leash, www.laurensleash.comlaurensleash@gmail.com, 917-261-1128)
  • walk away when pup chews on human, game is over give puppy lots of safe chew toys and feed meals out of kongs exercise!!!!” (Elisabeth Weiss, DogRelations, http://www.dogrelationsnyc.com)
  • Puppy “mouthing” is very common, and a great opportunity to start teaching rules and boundaries. Some simple strategies to stop the behavior are 1) let your hand/arm go limp (instead of pulling away, which makes it more like a game), 2) stop all the fun, leave and ignore, and 3) squeal as if in pain (for certain temperaments this works). Yet “correcting” the behavior is only the first step, and won’t end the behavior long-term. To do that, after correcting “redirect” to an approved mouthing/biting target – e.g. a rubber Kong toy, a bully stick, a rawhide, a deer antler, etc. This way she’ll learn not only what ISN’T allowed, but also what IS – and she’ll be able to get her chewing needs fulfilled.” (Anthony Newman, Calm Energy Dog Training, www.calmenergydogtraining.com, www.calmenergy.blogspot.com, (646) 942-1979)
  • Yes, whenever you play with the puppy, make sure you have a toy. Every time he bites you, redirect him to bite on the toy instead. You can also try putting a “chew stop” type products on your hands and cloths. When you taste bad, your puppy is less likely to use you as a chew you toy. Also remember that puppies are like toddlers and when they are over tired or over stimulated, they often act hyper and out of control. If your puppy is going a little batty he may just need some nap time.” (Dr. Mary Travers-Smith,  Superpaws Dog Training,  mary@superpawsk9.com,  www.superpawsk9.com, 212-781-7197)
  • “Yes, although you believe it to be play, and it probably is just nipping, it can and should be corrected.  Many trainers rely on a training method that they refer to as “redirecting,” it has its place, however, if the puppy is a family pet and is at or near five months old, we would like to correct the nipping and reward a closed mouth; our method is a two fold one, that mostly yields results in a lesson or two.” (James Colella Dedicated Dog Training (888) 370-7477 www.DedicatedDogTraining.com)

(NOTE: We do not endorse any particular trainer or their training ideas – this is here to give you perspectives from different trainers for training issues. Please do your research before hiring a trainer and avoid any that use methods that seem abusive. Here are some additional resources to read on why and how to train: ASPCA Guide to Training, APDT How to Select a Trainer, LiveScience on Training)

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