Puppies use there their mouths to explore their environment and to learn about being a dog. They must bite in order to learn bite inhibition. Bite inhibition is the ability to control the amount of pressure used in biting. It is one of the most important lessons a young puppy can learn.
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The needle sharp puppy teeth have only one purpose - to hurt what they are used on! Initially when still nursing they learn from mom not to bite down. She teaches them this through a menacing look first, followed by a growl and when that doesn't work she will "tag" them with her mouth but will not do damage. Puppy runs away screaming like it has been almost killed!
This begins the process of bite inhibition. It is continued through play with littermates, when one bites too hard the other yelps and the biter stops, another lesson in bite inhibition. These lessons with mom and littermates are crucial to a dog being normal as an adult and should continue until 8 weeks of age. Puppies should not be separated prior to this from their mother or littermates.
Unfortunately this is not always the case and it will take more work on the new owners part, but it can be done. Puppies taken away too early must be socialized with other puppies through other avenues such as puppy class and carefully monitored playgroups. All puppies will benefit from this interaction even if they were with mom & littermates for the 8 weeks.
How to Handle Puppy Biting
Puppies up to 11 or 12 weeks need to continue to learn bite inhibition. When they mouth you hard enough to cause discomfort yelp with a high pitched "Ouch", most puppies will immediately stop at least for a moment. Have a toy handy to encourage the puppy to bite the toy instead. If they persist in biting you, yelp, and then when they stop for a moment, leave. This ends the attention, play etc. which is not what the puppy wanted. They will eventually associate the biting with you leaving and this is no fun. When needed, to control the situation, place the puppy in "time out" in his crate or a confined area. There should be no scolding or punishment associated with the time out, just end of attention.
Puppies over 12 weeks of age should begin to learn not to put their mouths on a human. To teach this modify the above by leaving immediately or time out immediately. Skip the ouch, and the play should end as soon as the mouth touches you. Continue to use toys and chew bones to encourage proper play with people, i.e. toys in the mouth not humans! Puppies and dogs learn quickly when what they want goes away or ends, they can learn to control their environment through appropriate actions and we can utilize this in their training.
Puppies should also be on a high quality premium diet with no preservatives. If the pup is not getting proper or optimal nutrition this can make puppy issues worse. Avoid chemical preservatives, dyes, sugar additives, and diets that are mostly or have high grain content. Dogs are carnivores and do best on a diet that is properly balanced and of mostly animal product. Be sure your puppy is getting enough exercise daily.
Train your puppy using positive methods of training, and use them throughout the day not just during a training session. This way it becomes part of everyday life. The investment of energy you put in the first year will pay off for the next 10 to 15 years, longer if you are lucky!
If you have tried these suggestions and are not happy with your progress then speak to your instructor or call to set up a consultation with one of our behavior consultants.