Puppies spend their days eating, sleeping and playing. They can get bursts of energy, then the next minute be asleep. You can be rest assured this is very normal! As is Biting, Mouthing and Nipping.
There are a few common puppy problems that often arise and one of them is puppy biting, mouthing and nipping. Puppies investigate the world with their mouths when they are young, so we just need to show them what is appropriate to chew and what is not!
They can get overexcited easily and get carried away with play and maybe catch your hand a bit harder than before, but don’t worry this is normal.
Channeling the Behaviour
We can channel their chewing towards appropriate chews or you may want to take up the opportunity to play with them with a toy and show them they can have that in their mouth instead!
Puppies and dog may jump up at you to get your attention and this is when they may mouth your hands too. For a dog any attention is good attention, they want to be noticed whether is it for good or bad reason!
If you shout ‘ouch’, ‘no’, or jump away this is just turning it into a fun game for your dog and either way they are happy as they have your attention.
Consistency is key with this, so by giving your puppy or dog no attention (not even eye contact) and when they are mouthing or biting and move you hands out of the way – they will soon realise they get no attention from this behaviour. When they have stopped and 4 paws are on the floor you can reward them by dropping a few treats to the floor. This also helps with jumpers!
Be one step ahead!
If you can preempt this behaviour it is good to have suitable chews or Kongs on hand to give to your dog to create a calming activities for your pup. There may be a certain time of the day when they are likely to be overexcited, so having these ready will be super helpful for you.
Kongs are defiantly a favourite in our house and great for puppies too. The chewing and licking of a Kong releases endorphins in the brain which gives your dog the feel good factor and relaxes them. The food doesn’t need to be extra food, it can be part of their daily food allowance. This provides them an outlet for their chewing.
When you introduce your dog to a Kong, you want to set them up for success, so smear some tasty paste at the edge of the Kong and a bit inside. Show this to your dog and hold the Kong for your dog to lick the paste from the Kong, this is pretty easy and your dog will be successful and won’t give up with it.
Repeat this everyday whilst they are learning and each day fill it up a bit more. When you think they are understanding what they need to do, you can put it on the floor for them. This is when they need to figure out to hold on to it!
Once they are happy with that level, you can start to fill it up completely full. Once they have mastered that level, you can then freeze it first partially before giving it to them as this will take them longer to eat it, once they are happy with that you can freeze it completely.
Your puppy may also be teething and this in itself may lead to why they may want to chew and bite, you can help them by either using the frozen kongs, freezing a old tea towel soaked in broth or soak a puppy toy in water then freeze. The cold will help sooth their gums and may help them to settle.
Take up the Opportunity
Playing with your dog will help build a great relationship between you and you can use play to show them what is suitable to put their mouths on.
Toy switch is a fab game that not only teaches your dog to give an item up, but also that playing with you is super fun!
Have two or three or more toys that are the same (this helps so they are the same value in your dogs eyes). Play with one of the toys with your dog, keep the play close to the ground and you can mimic what your dog is doing. Let go of the toy and let them take it a bit away from you, bring out the next toy and make it super exciting, your dog will drop toy 1 to play with the toy in your hand. Keep switching between the toys making it fun for you and your dog!
Calming strokes is another tool for your toolbox which can help to calm excited puppies. Have a crate or puppy pen or quiet space that is always available for your puppy as they will need some settle time away from the action. This is very normal and when they go to their quiet place they should be left alone. It doesn’t need to be a punishing place as is so often misconstrued – it needs to be a place from them to be able to settle – a relaxing calm space just for them, a space where your puppy can settle.
I’ve dealt with a serial chewer (and one that chewed nothing!) so I know how hard it can be to nip it in he bud! It takes a lot of management and keeping your eye on them all the time. I found using a positive interrupter (there is a fab video on this from Kikopup) was also super useful as he would scout out his own stuff to chew (if the living room table wasn’t good enough that day!). Pens and crates are useful for this when you cant keep an eye on them.
So my top tips are consistency is key, provide suitable outlets to chew, reward all behaviour you do want and management!