- Puppies explore the world with their mouths.
- They go through an uncomfortable teething process that lasts for 2-3 months.
- They play hard with their siblings, often using their teeth to (successfully) instigate play and attention.
- Herding breed dogs are predisposed to nip, herd, and chase small, fast-moving things. Young children often get the brunt of this behavior.
- Retrievers are predisposed to picking up and holding anything and everything within reach, including your hands and arms.
A word on what to avoid:
- If your puppy bites your skin and it HURTS, or they bite your face or clothing in any way, you need to remove *yourself* from the room.
- Note: You are not putting your puppy in a time out. That involves way too much time, talking, and attention to be an effective punishment. You are leaving the room yourself.
- You can make a sound like “ouch!” to mark the moment your puppy bit you.
- That means play is over, fun is over, attention is over for 20-30 seconds. Be as non-dramatic as possible.
- Go behind a door or baby gate where your puppy does not have access to continue nipping at you.
- If your puppy tries to nip at you when you return, remove yourself again.
- You should see a major decrease in the intensity of biting as well as the amount of biting attempts within a few days.
- Once your puppy hits 6 months of age, all teeth on skin (regardless of whether or not it hurts) is timed out.
- All family members and guests MUST be consistent in order for this to work!
A few other suggestions:
- It’s also important to have a management place for your puppy, such as a play pen or baby-gated bathroom. It gives you a break from your puppy, and is a calm place for your puppy to settle down if he gets too wound up.
- Things we may think are punishing, like pushing your puppy away, yelling at him, etc, can be considered fun, play-like behaviors for your puppy and can encourage biting. When doing the above exercise, be as quiet and calm as you can.
When should you be concerned about biting in puppies?
You should seek out a certified professional if your puppy:
- Is growling, snapping, or biting when a person comes near a resource. (Food, toys, etc)
- Stiffens and stares at the person before biting.
- Is consistently biting and breaking skin.
- Barks, growls, or nips (not in play) at new people entering the home.
- Snaps or growls at children.