Bite inhibition in puppies
Let’s talk about… Bite inhibition in puppies

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Question: How many of you have bought a puppy from a breeder, or adopted a puppy from a rescue and been given that puppy at 6 weeks of age and had nipping/biting problems that leave you bruised and bleeding? If not addressed this behavior can get completely out of control.

If you get a puppy from a breeder tell them you’ll pick the puppy up at 8 weeks. Please, please, please only take a puppy that has been with their litter for at least 8 weeks. If they say ‘no’ then keep looking. You will save yourself frustration and pain. Trainers wish breeders were required by law to keep puppies that long.

Until recently it was uncommon for breeders to give up puppies under 8 weeks. Now some breeders are giving puppies away as early as 5 weeks. Those 2 or 3 weeks are when a puppy learns bite inhibition from their litter mates and mother.

So, now you have this cute little 6 week old puppy who becomes a piranha. What do you do? Here are a couple of techniques that can be very effective.

Remove yourself: One thing to try first is to simulate what their littermates would do. If you watch a bunch of young puppies play you’ll see examples of “You bit me too hard! I refuse to play you!”. The puppy will give a short, sharp sound and walk away.

Therefore teaching the biter that nipping equals no more play. If you’re interacting with the puppy and teeth touch skin give a short sharp sound and leave the area for 20 or 30 seconds. Come back and re-start the activity. Repeat this over and over so puppy puts ‘A’ (teeth on skin) and ‘B’ (everything stops) together.

Don’t use your hands as toys: Rough-housing with a puppy by batting at their face tells them your hands are toys and they can nip at them when they are near his/her face, then you yell at them which makes you a confusing human.

Redirecting: Giving the puppy a chew toy when they start nipping at you can work. Be careful of the timing because puppy can learn, “I nip you and I get a toy! Whee!” Redirecting works better when the puppy is chewing on something they shouldn’t be chewing.

Isolation: Another technique involves isolation. Have a leash on the puppy at all times. Teeth touch skin, give the objection sound, calmly and quietly (no huffing and puffing, lecturing, etc.) pick up the leash and walk the puppy to the isolation room (puppy-proofed, boring bathroom, laundry room but never their crate), put them in by themselves, close the door, wait 20 or 30 seconds, bring the puppy out and do the exact same activity again. Repeating the “time out” every time teeth touch skin.

Exercise: Tired puppies are good puppies. They’re less likely to get bored or amped up and want to get you to interact with them using any means necessary.

Physical punishment: Muzzle grabs, jaw squeezing, etc. can be ineffective. We’re not dogs so we don’t know exactly where to grab, for exactly the right length of time with the exact amount of pressure. We tend to over do because we’re angry, or under do because we think we’re hurting the puppy. Either of those sends the wrong message and can cause your puppy to fear you or laugh at you.

Teaching a puppy that should have learned this from litter mates takes lots of patience and consistency. No teeth on skin means no teeth on skin. At all. Under any circumstances.

Play with your puppies often, but with rules and boundaries.

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