I read so many pleas for help in the Breed Groups and other local dog forums I belong to. They are responded to with well-meaning but often outdated, amateur advice, which often could be emotionally harmful for the puppy but particularly dangerous if there are children involved, which there often are. I will not discuss those methods as the positive ones below will ensure there is no need to scare or be unkind to your puppy.
Puppy nipping is a normal part of puppy development and all puppies go through this stage, some more so than others. It is a way of communicating, albeit in an unsophisticated way. We find it hard to read what they are telling us subtly and so they ramp up to a full on message giving.
I fostered (I failed, she stayed ) my Lola as a result of being a particularly bad Pirhana puppy, I know exactly how it feels to have your fun, much loved, adorable puppy become some manic horrible growly being.
It is horrible, isn’t it?
But the thing to remember is that 99% teething pain… puppy biting is pain relief … it is us that makes it a game for them by squealing and jumping around and the fun makes them feel better, takes their mind off the pain or provides a limb to bite down on for pain relief, so they play more. (Like us with toothache, we feel better when we have something to occupy us, to detract from the pain, especially when the alternative is something that makes us happy or excited, releasing emotionally, the “happy hormones”. However, for pups it is just them dealing with pain, releasing that feel good emotion. So address the pain first and the need to bite, to relieve it
How do we provide pain relief? Some great ideas are : supervised frozen carrots or other dog appropriate veg or fruit , frozen rope toys, frozen kongs or ice lollies. Try getting a sock wet it and freeze it, or use a tea towel or flannel… all these things can be swapped for what they find easily available …YOU!
Pups need CALM
LOTS of calm; a chance to chill out.
Being over tired and over stimulated is the other reason for what seems like total “manic” behaviour. Like young children without proper sleep and a calm environment for rest time puppy brains become overloaded and they get “cranky”.
Puppies need around 18-20 hours a day of sleep and calmness. This is imperative to empty out the build up of hormones from the excitement of having fun, and exploring their world, but also to digest their food, and process their learning. Without the rest time, learning can be inhibited and a puppy can seem to be “hard to train” or “wilful”, but mostly they are overtired and need some time to rest.
In a busy or noisy household this is difficult for them to achieve, they need us to guide them. There is a great blog on achieving calm here https://peacefulpawstherapy.com/blog . Following these guidelines will significantly impact on the intensity of the biting phase.
Learning and training support
This is a really good time to learn the best way to manage a dog who is pestering or has bad manners or seems aggressive (puppies are NOT being aggressive, wilful or dominant!) a good trainer with up to date puppy knowledge is really helpful as a specialist puppy classes.
All attention is good for puppies, good or bad repercussions, they have achieved being noticed! They want to be noticed and entertained. Unfortunately their idea of entertainment is not in line with human expectations!
If you have children or people who find the jumping and nipping challenging or who don’t understand how to consistently prevent the attention giving, then the kids bite prevention programes are easy and fun to learn and they remove attention until the puppy offers the behaviour we find acceptable. The Doggone Safe “be a tree” programme is great . https://doggonesafe.com/Be-A-Tree
Any attention is good attention for a dog, touch, eye contact and especially verbal responses, they have no idea what we are saying so they tune in to work it out (more attention giving!) Being still, silent and no eye contact is boring for them, removing the attention removes the response. NOTE they will get worse before it improves , testing to get the attention before they get fed up and leave to do something else or are distracted for another wanted behaviour. So ANY noise “ouch” , “squeals” , “shouting” , “shaking limbs” is all attention and worse raises the excitement and sense of fun, and ultimately is a positive thing for them, turning their misery into great fun, remember that fun raises happy hormones and makes them feel great!
So be still and silent, wait for the pup to give up and begin a behaviour you DO want: a toy, some low energy play or a legal chew or just sitting wondering what next, THEN give attention. Another person could offer a distraction with a “legal” toy or quiet and still game or calm chew.
If you have a really, really persistent pup, like I did with Lola, and when she is in pain she returns to this behaviour, and if small children, who are difficult to get to be still and silent, or be consistent cant keep to the no attention (this is what happened with Lola) then the following is my “go to” last resort .
Get a “houseline” from a pet shop or amazon , it is a thin long line. Only ever use this supervised and it must be very careful managed (and obviously with children, the puppy and children are never together unsupervised).
– Attach the line to the collar.
– When the puppy begins the biting behaviour just pick up the line gently, with no words or attention and walk out of the room.
– Lead pup to the quiet safe place that is theirs and they are not disturbed by kids easily … not necessarily their bed.
– Give a pain reliever … and praise them calm and very quietly for engaging with it, they may only be there nanoseconds. It takes a while and commitment and patience to teach this self calming behaviour.
– When they choose to get out of the safe place and return to the family time that is fine , we lead them there but they choose when they are ready to be back with us.
THIS IS NOT A PUNISHMENT ! it should be a pleasurable alternative to choose, done with patience and kindness, B+NEVER use a safe place as a punishment.
Every time the behaviour begins again, lead back and offer a legal chew, supervised if possible but no engagement . It may take 5 or 10 repetitions at the worst times this is usually when everyone is home and running around or playing or chatting and again in the evening.
But being consistent can have a pup calmer faster.
CALM, CALM and more CALM!
Persistent “mad” pups are usually not getting enough sleep and general rest. Pups need at least 20 hours each day until around 8months – 1 year old as they are growing so fast . If your pup is not getting this, then you need to provide more nap, or rest times, we often need to proactively manage this . Teaching a dog calm behaviours in a place that is theirs is one of the most important things we can teach them. This blog explains in detail how to achieve calm and why it is vital. https://peacefulpawstherapy.com/blog .
Sometimes pups become over excited and bitey because they are understimulated. Or over stimulated in a way that is too exciting. In recent years there has been a blossoming of ways to enrich, engage and also promote learning as well as tire out all dogs.
The FB group Canine Enrichment has endless ideas, I really recommend a visit! https://www.facebook.com/groups/canineenrichment
Snuffle mats are popular with our crew, easily made with a fluffy bath mat with a scattering or yummy crumbly food like tuna cake or crushed doggy treats or grated cheese.
We also love to recycle recycling !! Save those amazon boxes, packaging paper and bubble wrap milk bottles, little boxes, and put them all together, throw in a handful of kibble from their dinner or a little bit of roast chicken or sausage , get a cuppa and leave them to it !
Scent games such as hiding bits of food around are much loved. There are lots of focussed scent games around on the internet now.
A Kong with different textures and tastes each time is a great resource as well as the tasting plates many new training methods include, a chance to have bite sized pieces of new foods.
A great training school is a fabulous resource, especially one which is modern games based with enrichment and confidence building focus, alongside the usual manners learning.
Some trainers now offer a pre vaccination visit to prepare for puppy classes meeting the specific needs of your family.
Some time spent learning fun games and tricks (remember the happy hormones?) and practicing manners such as recall and walk manners can be worth a good hour of physical time and is deeply relaxing and tiring.
Offer a range of interactive play time at both high energy and low energy is important, and needs careful planning. Limit too many toys and use special ones for focus special toy time
FINALLY ! Routines
A routine for play, rest, food , toilet and sleep is really important , this will help all the little niggles with settling a puppy!
MOSTLY – HAVE FUN !
For further support please visit the Peaceful Paws FB page https://www.facebook.com/peacefulpawstherapy