It’s one of the major puppy-hood issues that people face when they get a new puppy. And while it’s normal puppy behavior this doesn’t mean that we need to accept it.
So let’s talk about how to stop puppy mouthing and biting.
But like any behavior, before we start working on it, it’s important to know why it’s happening.
WHY Do Puppies Mouth and Bite?
Rest assured, it’s rare for a puppy to be truly aggressive. Puppy biting is common and normal and does not mean that your puppy is trying to aggressively hurt you.
I do hear from concerned puppy owners, often parents, worried that the puppy is an aggressive monster because the puppy bites and growls. But it always turns out to be play.
Puppies’ mouth and bite to practice life skills like hunting, to have fun and to work their teeth and jaws. By instinct, these skills need to be practiced to set them up for later in life when they need to hunt for real. This all comes from their natural instincts dating back to when they were wild dogs and wolves.
The instinct to chase and grab prey. ie fast moving or small furry objects is also a strong one. This is why young puppies often bite children – they move quickly, pull their hands away quickly and squeal. Just like prey! The puppy thinks it’s a great game!
Which leads us to…
HOW Do I Stop My Puppy From Mouthing and Biting?
The first clue to stopping an unwanted behavior is in the WHY.
Looking back at the reason why puppies mouth and bite, can you guess what the first thing is that we need to change?
The first thing that we need to do is remove the fun game.
Every time the puppy has fun mouthing and biting, it is learning that mouthing and biting pays off.
So the first thing we need to do is take that fun option away. Every time the puppy starts to put teeth on skin, say “no,” get up, and walk away. If the puppy is chasing and grabbing at your heels, stand up and stand completely still. Once you have said, “no” once, say nothing else.
A big mistake people make is using too many words when trying to teach their puppies. So say one clear word and then show the pup what it means by standing still or leaving immediately afterwards.
For additional effect, you could quickly and quietly pop the puppy into a time-out.
TIME OUT – For a time out to work, it needs to be a small, boring area with nothing to do. If you send a child to their room and they start playing video games in there and having fun, are they going to feel like they are being punished? It is the same for puppies. If you put puppy in a big room with things to grab and play with or interesting things to look at, they will quickly be occupied with something else. A time out should also be no long than one minute as past that point, there is no additional effect or learning.
How To Train Your Kids – Be A Tree
Part of stopping the puppy from biting the kids involves also training the children. While child training is not my specialty, here is a technique I have success with:
Teach the kids to “be a tree.” This means they stop what they are doing instantly, fold their arms and stand still, not even looking at the puppy.
IGNORING a puppy means not even making eye contact or looking at them
You can even make this training into a game with the kids.
It’s interesting to see how quickly the puppy gives up, gets bored and leaves when the children stops all reactions and stands still.
After the puppy has given up and calmed down, calm games may resume. But everyone needs to be really consistent that all play and attention stops the moment that the puppy starts to mouth or bite.
If everyone is consistent you should see the behavior getting less and less before your eyes! Puppies are such fast learners!
I would estimate a few days to a week of this for the behavior to stop completely.
Of course, there are other methods we can try if this doesn’t work but I find that this is the best approach to start with.
You can see a video lesson of how I treat mouthing and biting in the Puppy Priorities course, along with lessons on other common puppy issues like toilet training.
You can also join our Puppy Priorities Program for only $47.
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