Ouch! No Bite!
How many new puppy owners can’t stop their puppy from biting them all the time? The answer is most of
them! Getting your puppy to stop biting requires three important things:
1. You are the Alpha, not a littermate,
2. You correct puppy quickly and every time when she bites.
3. Your correction is sharp and clear.
Here are some ideas to help you enjoy your new puppy without bearing lifelong scars from her sharp teeth.
Puppies Naturally Bite
All puppies explore the world with their mouths. With their litter mates, they are constantly mouthing and biting as part of play. It is through this play that they begin to learn how hard is too hard. Their mother also teaches them biting restraint, and she’s neither subtle nor gentle. In the dog world, puppies learn that biting too hard means litter mates will yelp and stop playing. This is startling and no fun. Puppies teach each other that gentle biting in play is okay but hard biting brings the fun to a halt. With mother, the consequences of biting are more direct – she immediately growls and nips back because she is the Alpha and will not tolerate that type of play. When you take an 8-week-old puppy home, you’ll want to play with him, of course. But you must teach him that you are not a littermate and it is not okay for him to bite you – ever.
Bite This, Not That
When playing with your puppy, always use an appropriate toy – not your clothing, such as shoes and socks, and not your hands. We have spent hundreds of dollars on toys for tugging, chasing, chewing, and fetching. But which toy do our puppies like best? A hand towel tied to a rope and dragged around the floor.
Whether your toy is simple or fancy, your puppy learns all kinds of skills through play. One thing she should learn is the difference between the toy and your body. Remember that playtime with your puppy isn’t a free-for-all where she gets to run amuck. You can learn more about keeping your puppy’s bite preoccupied from Leerburg.
Whatever you do, never ever hit a puppy. Puppies will naturally go for your hands whenever you reach out to pet them or to put on a collar or leash. Sometimes as he’s checking out your hands, he’ll incidentally knock his teeth into you. That’s not necessarily biting. But if he takes hold of your hand with his mouth, that’s biting and you must immediately correct him. The wrong response is to pull away.
We teach ‘no bite’ with a sharp and fast response: while saying ‘no bite!’ sharply, you grab puppy’s nose and quickly wrap the upper lips under the canine teeth and give a hard squeeze. Don’t hesitate and don’t take longer than the count of two. Some puppies will yelp and that’s okay. Some will move away from you and that’s also okay; he’ll be back. Our puppies tend to give a lick on the hands. Once puppy learns that ‘no bite!’ means a painful consequence (such as the one Mother gives), you can stop the biting with just the command.
Other Popular Methods
Many trainers, such as popular dog behaviorist Cesar Milan, recommend that rather than giving a physical correction, you imitate a littermate’s response to biting: “When a puppy latches onto your hand or finger too hard, let your hand go limp and imitate that yelping sound.” We have found this technique is not effective with German Shepherds, however.
Whatever technique you find works best for you and your puppy, remember that with patience and consistent training, your darling little dog will outgrow the tendency to bite.