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Help! My Puppy is biting!

When puppies bite it can hurt. They have small but very sharp little teeth that feel like mini razors and are painful. It can make your puppy feel like really hard work and search engines and internet forums produce a variety of conflicting solutions, making it difficult to decide how to address it.

Why do puppies bite?

Like babies, puppies use their mouths to explore the world. They pick things up, chew them, pull on them and want to carry them. All of this is normal behaviour for a puppy. As much as possible we want to redirect them to a soft toy that they can grip hold of. If the toy is too hard or big then your skin is always going to be more appealing to them. Bear in mind also, that puppies have 42 adult teeth waiting to replace the baby ones. All these teeth pushing through can make them want to bite and chew more to relieve the discomfort.

The problem with “No!”

“No!” is a word that is easy to say loudly and in a way that startles puppy but difficult to teach what it actually means because puppies can’t rationalise. Puppy may temporarily stop what he is doing but it is a very big step from that to correctly deducing that biting produced the noise or working out what he should do instead. Especially when we consider that for puppies, biting is a perfectly natural and normal activity to engage in. Interrupting puppies by startling them can also have unintended consequences as they may simply learn fear, increasing likelihood of biting rather then reducing it.

When biting gets worse

Puppies need approximately 18 to 20 hours of sleep a day and so they need regular naps throughout the day in order to meet their sleep needs. When puppies are biting hard it is very often because they are either over tired or over stimulated. You will find the intensity and frequency of biting varies throughout the day. Biting is likely to increase at the following times:

• First thing in the morning when you are up. The puppy is highly aroused, they are super

excited to see you and for the day to start.

  • During the day when they start to get overtired.

• During early evening, commonly known as the witching hour!

• When they are not keen on being handled for example because they are engrossed in a scent or activity or just don’t feel like being touched at that time.

What should I do?

In the morning, establishing a morning routine can really help, so you are able to give puppy time as well as allowing yourself time to get ready rather than being followed around with a puppy clinging to your slippers.

Possible Routine:

  • Get up earlier than you normally would or when puppy wakes you if this is before your

normal time

  • Take pup outside for the toilet

• Play with puppy. Something long and easy to grab onto (such as a t-towel folded lengthways and secured with tape or a long snake) is ideal. This enables you to hold one end while you play with them, encouraging them to grab the other end. If they are still looking to use your skin as their toy, then keep pup one side of a gate with you on the other side, encouraging them to use the toy.

• Take part of pup’s breakfast and use it to do 5-15 mins of training (be led by your pup, quality over quantity). Encourage pup to follow you around and reward them with their food for following you. Every now and then stop, wait to see if pup sits or lays down (or ask them to), then mark the behaviour with ‘Good’ or ‘Yes’, then give them a piece of food. We are providing them with essential brain exercise by doing this.

• Settle puppy with a snuffle mat (mat made with knotted rags or bath mat) or a Kong® while you get ready.

If you are out and about with your puppy and they start to bite you or the lead or perhaps seem hyperactive, these are all signs your puppy has had enough. It’s important to take them somewhere quiet where they are able to settle, either back to the car or home for a rest.

Ensure your puppy is getting plenty of opportunity to rest with regular cycles of play, training, chewing and naps throughout the day.

I’ve tried using treats and toys but puppy keeps coming back to bite

Like children, puppies will often resist sleep as long as there is something more interesting available to them. Once they reach the point of overtiredness, they are past the point of being able to learn. If they have been for wee, had a play, done a bit of training they will usually be ready for a nap. At this point, it’s a good idea to pop them somewhere contained, where they feel safe such as in a puppy pen with their crate or bed or behind a baby gate, give them a chew or licky mat for winding down time and then settle them for a nap. As you get to know your puppy you will start to get a feel for how quickly your puppy gets tired. Observing your puppy and arranging wind down time as your puppy is getting tired but before they reach the point of overtiredness will make it easier for them to settle and help head off intense biting before it starts.

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