When Puppies "Attack!"
The time has come, when you and your family finally decided on the perfect puppy to bring home. Your puppy is the cutest little girl or boy with those sweet puppy dog eyes and once they're home all you want to do is cuddle and kiss them. However, many puppy owners soon come to realize what started as a sweet cuddle or pet can quickly turn into a "Puppy Attack!" Leaving bite marks all over your hands. When clients hire me for "Nipping" they typically say "I have torn clothes and I can't pet my dog without getting bitten" and ask questions such as "Is my puppy aggressive?" and "Will I ever be able to cuddle my dog without getting bit?". If you are one of these owners, don't worry, you are not alone and with these exercises and tips you'll be able to pet your pup without the fear of getting bit!
First, let's start with the reason why most puppies LOVE to bite. Since birth your puppy has learned how to play with their brothers and sisters through wrestling and biting. So when you bring your puppy home and they realize you're their new play partner, they continue to play the only way they know how.
Mimic Puppy Behavior
One of the most recognized forms of getting your puppy to stop nipping is to react in the same manner as one of their brothers or sisters. When a puppy is playing with another puppy and he bites too hard the puppy will cry or yelp informing them "Hey you bit too hard!" So the next time your puppy bites you, try to mimic what his sibling would do to indicate they've bitten too hard. This Tip is a great way to teach your dog to control the amount of pressure they use when they bite down, but it doesn't teach them how to stop nipping.
My favorite way of teaching your pup that he shouldn't nip at your hands at all, is by using this positive reinforcement game. Do this when your puppy is tired and is mellow. First, walk over to your pup slowly and calmly with a few treats on one hand. Next, give one treat to your pup and at the SAME time pet him softly with your other hand. Once your pup is done eating the treat, slowly pull your hand away. Repeat this process five to ten times throughout the day until your dog stops reacting to your hand reaching down to pet them. This exercise starts to connect your hand with a positive association. I mean what's yummier: a Treat or a Hand? The next step is to pet your dog first and after a second or two reward them with a treat. With every repetition attempt to increase the amount of time you pet your pup and decrease the amount of times he gets a treat. If your pup starts to really enjoy getting petted that can become a reward in itself. You can also play this game with a dental chew or an edible bone. This game gives you two advantages: you are supervising his chew time and reinforcing petting without getting nipped.
As fun as it seems right now, do not play with your dog using just your hands. Toys are a great alternative to using your hands while playing.
Use a variety of toys, some dogs are picky so find what toy your pup loves!
When your dog is not going for the toy and just wants to go after you, Stop playing Immediately! Just walk away without verbally acknowledging him. Leaving the room for a couple seconds can reinforce their understanding that if they bite then they lose play time with you.
If leaving the room for a couple of seconds doesn't work, and your dog is overstimulated with biting, put your puppy in his playpen or crate with a toy, and you can let him out when he calms down.
if your pup learns the command "leave it" that can also help reinforce your pup to leave your hands, pants, and shoes alone.
If you ever feel overwhelmed hire a Certified Dog Trainer, a trainer can help you find what works best for your dog to stop nipping.
"Set your pup up for success!"