Oh, don’t mind Rover. He’s just teething” some pet owners may say of their new puppy. They would only be partially correct. It is a very natural thing for all puppies to bite and chew. While some of this is due to teething, your puppy may also be testing the strength of his or her bite.
If left in the litter, a puppy’s brothers and sisters would quickly teach the pup how hard was too hard to bite. Once the puppy is taken from his or her litter-mates, this becomes your responsibility. The sooner you begin training your puppy in bite inhibition, the better. There are several methods proven to stop puppy biting.
The first method is very simple, and in most cases, highly effective. Each time your pup latches onto you with his teeth, say “No!” clearly and firmly. Then quickly but gently disengage his mouth and offer him a chew toy instead. A piece of ice may also be given to a teething puppy, as the coldness may sooth sore gums. Often, this method of training, if started at a very early age, is all that is needed to stop puppy biting.
Another popular technique is to make your puppy think that he is hurting you. Giving a sharp “Ouch!” or even a “Grrr” and then ignoring your puppy will mimic the type of response he would get from his litter-mates. Soon he will associate his biting of you with your refusal to continue playtime and understand that he is being too rough.
Some obedience trainers recommend wearing a pair of gloves, painted with a foul tasting substance such as vinegar to discourage biting and chewing. While this may work in some cases, exceptionally smart dogs quickly realize the difference between gloved and bare hands. Once the gloves come off, you become fair game for their teeth again!
In rare cases of excessive biting, choke or pinch collars can be used for dogs over the age of 6 months. When the dog bites, a quick sharp tug is given on the lead and the dog soon learns to associate the discomfort HE feels with the discomfort you feel when he bites. This is considered an extreme method and is not recommended by most trainers for the average pet.
Regardless of which method you choose, here are a few things to keep in mind. Never react aggressively in a physical manner. Hitting your puppy or smacking his nose does NOT work. Your pet may assume that you are playing or may even learn to fear you. Another thing to avoid is playing ‘tug-o-war’ type games while you are trying to stop puppy biting. Such games only encourage the negative behavior. The most important tip however, is to be consistent! You and anyone else whom your puppy interacts with MUST follow your chosen method of behavior reinforcement each and every time your puppy bites.