Ouch! Puppy Biting & Nipping
A woman in a pet supply store is remarking about her 12 week old Labrador retriever puppy.
He’s aggressive. He won’t stop biting everybody all the time. "We’ve done everything to stop it. I
don’t know what to do and my husband even taught the children to flick the puppy on the nose
to stop getting bit," she adds. Frustrated and ready to re-home the puppy she storms off. Puppy bitting
and nipping is one of the most common complaints among puppy owners.
From the moment puppies are born, their mouths are their most essential body part. Even before their eyes and ears open, their mouth‘s are responsible for finding essential life-giving milk. As they develop, their mouth becomes a means of communicating and playing with litter mates. Once puppies become more mobile they start playing with each other and again their mouths are the central component. Chewing and suckling on limbs, ears and faces is how puppies interact with one another. If the mother dog is with the litter, she will monitor play and is the first defense in teaching bite inhibition. Secondarily, litter mates help teach each other know what is okay and when intensity of biting is just too much. So after spending weeks with other puppies, delighting in the recreation of chewing and tugging on each other, puppies find their way into human homes.
What a new puppy doesn’t know is that its new human mates don’t like to be chewed upon as its' litter mates did. Puppies bite, not to intentionally harm, but because it’s all they know. They have to be taught that biting humans is not appropriate, not through violence, not through smacking, not by holding their mouth closed until they yipe, not by flicking on the nose, pushing their tongue down, pinching their gums or anything else that’s actually human aggression toward the puppy. By understanding and treating your puppy as another puppy he can easily understand your communications and begin to be the puppy that you want him to be.
Envision two puppies enjoying each other‘s company passing time just chewing on each other‘s ears and feet until one bites too hard. If one yipes loudly both puppies break apart wondering what the heck that noise was. The puppy that was bit may just wander off and not be willing to play anymore because it hurts. If the two puppies do resume playing again, the
second the puppy, that bit too hard, does it once more, it’s going to get the same message
except the second time its' playmate will definitely leave.
By mimicking the yipe of a fellow puppy, startling and loud (not necessarily high pitched), you
are talking your dog’s language. Yipe, remove access to your limbs, get up off the floor if
applicable and remove yourself from the puppy. If playing with your puppy and your flesh is
grabbed accidentally instead of the toy, yipe and stop playing for a few moments with the toy
on the floor. When your puppy settles, resume play again. If you feel teeth on your legs or pants
as you walk, yipe, stop abruptly and stay still. Biting legs, robes, slippers and feet is only fun
when there is movement. Let your puppy know that you are not a toy by taking away the fun
and encouraging them to look elsewhere.
Squealing, pushing away, smacking at a puppy that is biting is stimulating as well as negative
attention. The biting and the attempts to stop it become a habitual game that continues to
increase in intensity on both sides. The best way to stop problem behavior is to not reward it.
Continuing to sit on the floor with an over stimulated piranha puppy is futile. Get up and
withdraw your attention from the teethy puppy. Children can stop a chasing and nipping puppy
by just stopping and standing quietly facing a wall with arms crossed in front of them. As the
child stops moving, is quiet, doesn’t make eye contact the game is ended. If the child turns
toward a calming puppy and tells it to “sit” (assuming the puppy has been taught to sit) the
child is now empowered and can calmly walk away.
When your puppy bites too hard, yipe, remove the opportunity to interact with you. Better yet,
teach an alternate behavior such as licking in place of biting so that your puppy can still use its
tool of connection, its' mouth, to interact with you safely and pain free. Puppies are not
intending to hurt you they just don’t know any different. Help them out by speaking their
language to teach them how to be a loved, new member of your home without bleeding from
those sharp puppy teeth. Remember, aggression creates aggression. If you are physically
aggressive with your puppy, it is likely that you will see an increase of aggressive behavior in
Need help with a new puppy? Call the professionals at The Pet Campus, Inc. 215-598-7202