Puppy biting or mouthing is a behaviour that I often notice dog owners struggling with. When those sharp teeth are grabbing your hands or feet, there’s no denying that it is frustrating and even painful.
HOWEVER, puppy biting is totally normal and can be managed by understanding their needs and responding appropriately.
Why do puppies bite?
They are various factors affecting puppy biting:
Just like babies, puppies use their mouths to explore the world around them.
They may be teething. Puppies start to lose their baby teeth at around 13 weeks.
They are over-tired. Puppies need as much as 18 to 20 hours of sleep a day.
They might be frustrated. Sometimes they may not want to be handled or stroked. Dogs communicate using body language. If we’re not picking up on these visual cues then mouthing might become their next option to make us keep our hands away.
How we play and respond. Any rough games involving play fighting or being chased around the house (while screaming!) will encourage puppy to bite even more.
How to manage it
Give your puppy a variety of toys to play with (different shape and texture) as well as variety of chews.
Don’t let puppy play with your hands. Instead interact with a toy where your puppy can grab one end and you the other. ie. Rope toy
If your puppy is getting over excited and tries to nip your hands, stop playing, leave the room for 2/3 minutes before coming back. That way you are teaching your puppy that play biting ends the fun.
Manage your hand movements. Don’t move your hands too fast in front of your puppy.
If your puppy is trying to grab your hands or feet, stand still, don’t look at your puppy or react. Movement and attention are rewarding for your puppy and will make him want to carry on.
If you have children at home, encourage positive interactions. Read an illustrated book about dog body language (Doggie language by Lili Chin) to help them understand how to interact with puppy.
Lead by example - Children tend to learn by observing and imitating the behaviour they see.
If puppy tries to nip their hands or feet ask them to stand like a tree by folding their arms and keeping still. He will quickly get bored and move on to do something else!
Okay… sometimes it really is too painful to not react and keep still (especially for kids). Wear thick socks, slippers, and certainly don’t wear your best outfit if you don’t want to get holes in it. If you are persistent and consistent in your approach you will soon start to notice that the behaviour decreases after a couple of weeks.