Puppies are adorable, but their nipping behaviour can sometimes be a pain. When puppies play, they often use their mouths to explore their environment and interact with other dogs and humans. However, their sharp teeth can cause discomfort or even injury. It’s important to teach your puppy appropriate behaviours to prevent problems as they grow into adult dogs.
Why do puppies nip?
It’s helpful to understand the motivation behind your puppy’s nipping so you can modify your training and management to help you decide how to respond to it at that moment.
Puppies may nip for a number of reasons depending on the time of day or how they’re feeling. Some reasons puppies nip and bite include wanting to play, being overstimulated, or even being tired.
Other common reasons may be that they want to get your attention, they are bored and need something to do, they are hungry, or their gums may hurt from discomfort. Here are some tips on managing puppy nipping and modifying their behaviour.
Read our blog for more on When do puppies lose teeth and how to help with teething.
Socialize your puppy
Puppies that have regular social interactions with other dogs and humans tend to have less anxiety around social situations. Take your puppy on walks, to training classes, and invite visitors over to play with your pup. This will help your puppy learn how to play and interact with others appropriately.
Redirect your puppy’s biting
When your puppy starts to nip or mouth you, immediately redirect their attention to a toy or chew that they can safely bite on. Offer positive reinforcement, like a treat or praise, when they choose the appropriate item to chew on.
Teach you puppy a redirection cue
Work on training items such as “Sit,” “Paw,” “Leave it,” or “Touch,” to redirect their attention. Eventually your puppy will learn that they get rewarded more when doing those verbal cues.
Avoid rough play
Playful roughhousing can encourage your puppy to bite harder or become overstimulated. Encourage gentle play, like fetch or tug-of-war, instead.
Use positive reinforcement
Reward your puppy with treats, praise, and affection when they exhibit appropriate behavior. Positive reinforcement can help reinforce good behavior and encourage your puppy to continue it.
Read our blog for more on positive reinforcement training.
Consistency is key when it comes to modifying your puppy’s behaviour. Use the same techniques every time your puppy nips or bites, and make sure that everyone in your household is on the same page.
“Modifying your puppy’s mouthing behaviour takes time and patience. Don’t get frustrated if your puppy doesn’t immediately understand what you’re trying to teach them. With consistent training and positive reinforcement, your puppy will eventually learn how to appropriately interact,” says Megan Holmes, Animal Behaviour Coordinator at the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society.
Managing puppy nipping behaviour requires socialization, redirection, training, avoiding rough play, positive reinforcement, consistency, and patience. Remember, it’s entirely normal for your puppy to want to nip and chew on everything they see. By following these tips, you can help your puppy learn appropriate interactions and become a well-behaved adult dog.