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Puppy biting


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I'm posting this as part of a series of helpful articles for common problems. If you have more information to add (or disagree with anything in this post) please do so in this thread, but if you have a specific question relating to your dog, please start a new thread.

Puppy biting, aka Land Sharks!

Puppies test everything with their teeth... and I mean everything, human clothing and flesh included! In their excitement, they can also let out some bloodcurdling growls. Fear not, this is not aggression, it is pure play and a normal part of their development.

It is, however, a ruddy pain in the... ankles. And legs, and feet, and arms, and hands...

Overarousal can be a factor, so sometimes it helps to encourage calm games, but a puppy’s default setting doesn’t tend to be calm – particularly in the evenings, just when you want to settle down quietly. Sorry, but you’d better forget about that film you were planning on slobbing in front of!

So what does work?

Carry a toy with you at all times. Then, whenever pup comes at you teeth first, shove the toy in his mouth, or distract him with it. This can work, but apparently ankles taste better... Some people find that a sharp yelp and then ignoring pup effective, but others (me included) find it just gets their dog even more worked up. Yelling ‘No!’ pretty much never works...

You want pup to realise that the moment teeth touch flesh – or clothing – the fun stops. Separate yourself from him, either popping him behind a stairgate or removing yourself. Don’t say anything, just ignore him. I prefer stairgates to shutting doors, because shutting a door in a young pup’s face could be a bit freaky for him, and no one learns well when they’re freaked out. Stepping out the room yourself as you don’t have to pick up or drag pup, which could get him more worked up – but you could also keep a light house line (lightweight lead with no loops to catch on anything) on him and lead him out of the room.

If your pup uses a crate and is happy in there, putting him in there for a ‘timeout’ can work. But be wary... The last thing you want is to put him off his crate, so this may be best avoided.

You only need to leave pup in timeout for 5-10 seconds. This can be long enough for him to process what has happened, and if you left him any longer he would have forgotten what he did beforehand, and may also become distressed.

Then let him back in with you and carry on as if nothing happened. He'll probably go straight for your ankles again, so calmly put him back in timeout. Let him out, put him back in, rinse and repeat... Eventually he will twig and will hesitate before biting you. He might then still bite you anyway because he's young and doesn't have much self-control, but it's a good start!

It will take time for him both to learn, and remember even when excited, what not to do, but also for him to develop the self-control to resist – even adult humans act on impulse at times when they know they shouldn’t ;)I like the video It's Yer Choice' for teaching a dog impulse control to help with this:

Don’t expect perfect results too soon – some pups bite in play for many months before they grow out of it completely, but if you, and everyone else in your household, are 100% consistent, you will get there. Wearing old clothes so you're not stressed about him damaging them can really help you remain calm, which is vital here. Some people even wear wellies indoors!

In general, it helps if your dog is nicely tired, but not overtired. Make sure he’s getting enough mental and physical stimulation overall, and has plenty of opportunity to use his teeth appropriately – cardboard boxes are good to shred. For evenings, when puppies can get the zoomies and can get overtired and just plain silly, it can also help to teach a good settle:
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