Ah, the puppy biting phase, where your sweet, bundle of fluff has turned into a land shark that would make even Jaws himself proud. Puppy biting is the phase that I thought would never end when our puppy Bear went through it. It was awful, he hated when I’d wear leggings, my sneakers, and I still can’t forget the memorable floral tights incident that made me retire said tights within an hour of wear. Bear was a pro at biting- no ankle, hand, leg (you name it he probably bit it) was safe. Some days I even dreaded when our adorable puppy would awake from his naps wanting play time from me, alone, just me and him without my husband to save me from his wrath.
I cried A LOT! Bear was a difficult case, and although my friends at the local dog park would show off their latest puncture wounds from their puppies to console me, none still had it as bad as me. Let me exclaim that our puppy would attack our door, his leash and harness, he’d dodge into bushes and come out biting! And my favourite foot attack was when Bear would act as if he was invested in sniffing a nice grass patch, and as I would chit chat innocently away with friends he’d turn into a possessed ball of fur growling and striking at my feet from every angle, targeting the areas where sneakers could not cover my skin. Well played land shark, well played.
I was desperate to stop his bites! I just wanted CUDDLES, and to pet him without fearing his needle-sharp teeth. I turned to everyone who had a dog for advice, and none of their tips curbed Bear’s blows.
So, I began to read about Positive Reinforcement, as well as the importance of Bite Inhibition for dogs.
I know this might sound as if this article is deviating from how to stop your fanged four-legged friend from biting you, but just listen to me you need to see the bigger picture before you get to handling your fur baby without biting incidents. Think of it as an initiation if that makes you feel any better. This also is not a “problem” that can be solved in a day and please don’t give up or try to take short cuts that might be detrimental to your pups development and bond with you! Dogs have the potential to do damage to each other, and of course to us humans! (which is why they’re tasked with so many important jobs from police work, to protection dog services) You’ll find that larger dog breeds have a strong bite force, that’s why it is vital that in the beginning you let your puppy bite you! Yep, you read that right, it may sound contradictory, but it isn’t.
Now you can’t just let your puppy bite you without some modifications that will teach your puppy a valuable lesson, and most of this can be learned during playtime, when your puppy is amped up and wanting all that fun of playing tug, and chase. You see you’re going to use what your puppy wants most to teach him/her about bite inhibition. All you have to do is allow your puppy to bite you and say “ow”, or a noise that will be associated with your displeasure of being bitten, and then abruptly stop playtime. Gradually and with a lot of repetition of doing this over and over you’ll start to notice your puppies bites will become softer, and eventually they’ll begin to only mouth you. Once they’re able to control themselves you can re-introduce hands in their mouth for play/ handling.
For pups who will target you outside of playtime, well for a while with Bear I would carry a toy around so whenever he’d bite, and if I was fast enough I’d deflect and re-direct his bites to the appropriate item-*ahem* that being his toy! Of course once he’d clamp down on his toy I would offer him a lot of praise, and this also helps you teach your puppy what is his, and what he can tear to shreds! My last tip is to also provide your puppy with chews and once again offer praise for whenever they chew on dog approved items (bonus this will come in handy for when they want to target your furniture!).
And of course, all good things come in good time, don’t ever lose your patience because so many pet parents have been in your shoes, including myself- more Bear stories to come! He’s amazing now by the way 🙂