If you’re the parent of a new puppy, you’re probably nursing some puppy bites right now. Not only do puppies explore their world with their mouth but they are also teething. Nipping and chewing is a normal part of a puppy’s behavior, but there are several things you can do help teach your puppy to chew on his toys and not on you. Follow these tips to curb your puppy’s nipping:
Plenty of Chew Items – Puppies need to chew so we want to make sure they have plenty of appropriate toys and chew items. A frozen peanut butter Kong is a great option. Not only does the cool rubber feel good on their gums, but it will also take them longer to eat the frozen peanut butter. Just like us, puppies have likes and dislikes, so if your puppy doesn’t enjoy the first chew item you buy, try another. A puppy should ALWAYS have at least 2-3 chew items available to them.
No Rough Play – Most Pet Parents love to play rough with their puppy. They play tug of war or use their hands to gently push the puppy around as the pup uses his mouth to play back. It is fun for both the puppy and the parent, but it is also very confusing. If tug-of-war is okay in play then why is it wrong if he wants to play tug-of-war with the socks on your feet? If gently nipping your hand is okay in play, then why is it wrong if the puppy nips a child that is trying to pet him? Save all rough play and games until the puppy is at least 5 months old.
Redirect – If your puppy does nip you while you are playing with him or petting him, say “ouch” (like he really hurt you) then remove all attention for 2 seconds. Do not even look at him during that time. Then immediately give him a toy or item he can chew on and start to calmly praise him. If he ignores the toy and nips you again, repeat the same steps. If he continues to nip, walk away from him. He isn’t being “bad”, he is just too excited and needs a moment to calm down before you interact further. This would also be a great time to place him in a puppy playpen so he can relax.
Be Proactive – There are some situations when a puppy is more likely to nip. It may be when you are putting on his collar or harness or when trying to groom him. In these moments, sprinkle small treats on the ground. If your puppy has his nose to the floor eating the treats then he cannot nip you. Over time your puppy will learn to always drop his head during these activities, even when treats are no longer present.
Play Dates – Puppies quickly learn to control the intensity of their bite when they are playing with other dogs. Engage your puppy in regular, supervised play with other puppies and safe adult dogs. This is also a key component of puppy socialization!