puppy training – need help with nipping and biting?

When I am talking to owners about some of the obedience training challenges they are facing with their puppies, I am frequently asked for advice about dealing with nipping and biting. The first thing you need to remember is that nipping and biting is normal puppy behavior; puppies communicate with their mouths. Just as their litter mates would, you need to let your puppy know when her nipping and biting have crossed the line. Here’s one approach you can take:

Your puppy wants your attention, in fact she craves it. If your puppy has decided that your hand is a nice chew toy, you can send a very clear message that it is not acceptable behavior simply by taking away what the puppy wants most – YOU! (PS, this is a good tactic with most training.)

Have you ever had the opportunity to watch puppies play? They are quite mouthy – and it’s an essential part of their communication.  However, if one puppy is getting particularly rambunctious, the others will send very clear vocal and physical messages to the offending pup.  So this is what you need to do:  Channel you inner-puppy!

As the puppy takes your hand, fingers, forearm, etc. in her mouth, simply let out a loud and unexpected “OUCH.” This should startle the puppy and she should release your limb. Then, turn your back and walk away. This sends the puppy a message that you will not play when she bites you. You can return to the dog, give her an appropriate item to chew such as a Kong, bully stick or a Nylabone and reward her (“good dog” or click and treat). As soon as she goes for your hand again, same process – “OUCH” and walk away.

Remember to be consistent and diligent and always replace your hand with an acceptable, safe chew toy.

(Something else to think about: What your cute, fuzzy, lovable puppy is doing now she will also do when as a full-size, adult dog. Now is the time to consider how cute the nipping she does today will be when she has a full set of adult teeth! Apply this thought to all your puppy’s behaviors – isn’t it cute how your 10-lb puppy jumps up on you? Not so cute when she weighs 80-lbs, huh?)

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