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Play biting and mouthing

Five ways to stop your puppy biting.

So, you’ve got a new puppy. You’re excited to have a new member of the family and thankfully they’ve settled in quickly. But you’re starting to get concerned by a certain habit your puppy has developed. And it’s gnawing at you. Literally. 

Puppy biting. Is it normal?

Just as children like to explore the world with their hands, puppies like to explore the world with their mouths. While it might be frustrating, nipping, mouthing and biting is actually a form of puppy social interaction and is rarely done with malice or aggression.  

However despite the best of intentions, nips from puppy teeth can hurt so it’s important for them to learn that human skin is a no-go-zone when it comes to play. So what can you do to stop the bite?

1. Regular play with canine friends

There’s nothing cuter than seeing puppies playing together, right? Not only will it make you go ‘awwww’, play-fighting is essential to learn bite inhibition.

Pups usually learn the strength of their bite during the first few weeks of life with their siblings. Insufficient opportunities to practice this can result in a lack of bite inhibition in older dogs – meaning more scratches for you!

If you find your puppy is a bit too nippy for your liking, they might need to spend more time with their own kind. Meet a friend for a doggy playdate, or even join a puppy school to help your furry friend learn proper etiquette in the dog world.

2. Re-direct the bite

Biting and mouthing is a normal dog behaviour, so disciplining them isn’t the route to take. Instead, positively reinforce them by giving your pup something satisfying to chew on that isn’t your hand.

Supplying your puppy with plenty of toys and tricky-to-tackle treats will keep them entertained for hours and keep your hand slobber free. It’s a win, win!

When your puppy goes to bite you, quickly replace your hand with a chewy treat such as raw hide, pig’s ears or even a raw bone for a quick fix.

3. Enrichment

Puppies, like children, need constant entertainment. With boredom comes destructive behaviour like chewing on your favourite pair of boots! Mental and physical enrichment is essential to keep your pup happy and healthy and can be achieved many ways.

·         Quality time with you.

·         Treat puzzles such as a Kong.

·         Scent games in your backyard.

·         Teaching them tricks.

4. Social withdrawal

If you puppy bites you, terminate the play and exit the room. Leave the puppy alone for a minute before returning. If on your return the wild playing begins, leave again.

Consistency is key here. Over time your puppy will begin to associate a quick nip with the end of an enjoyable play session – the last thing they want! You may even want to make a loud ‘ouch!’ noise, to signal that the bite is painful.

5. Consult an expert

Sometimes you need a bit of support. If you are still having difficulties with biting, you can visit an RSPCA Victoria behaviourist, or consider a short course to help you better understand your dog’s behaviour.