This is a guest article from our friends at the Puppy Biting blog.
If your puppy is younger than 16 weeks and are constantly nipping, it’s normal behavior – young puppies mouth a lot.
They mouth when playing; they also mouth to communicate their needs. If your puppy starts mouthing, ask yourself these questions: Is he hungry or thirsty? Does he need to eliminate? Is he sleepy? Does he need to play? Remember, puppies nip when they feel needy (just like a baby cries).
If your puppy does not let up, ask yourself if he wants something, like an outing, exercise, or a drink. The following things can help you control mouthing and nipping:
1. If your puppy does not need anything and he still will not quit, crate or isolate him with a favorite bone. Do not scold your puppy as you isolate her. Calmly place the puppy in her area.
2. Whenever your puppy licks you, say “Kisses” and praise her warmly. Encourage licking by slathering your hands with a frozen stick of butter.
3. Withhold your attention when your puppy nips softly. Keep your hand still; withdrawing your hand is an invitation to play and nip harder.
4. If your puppy starts biting down hard, turn quickly, say “Ep, Ep!” and glare into her eyes for two seconds; then go back to your normal routine. If she persists, try spritzing yourself with Bitter Apple or affix a leash onto your puppy so that you can tug the lead sharply to the side. If
necessary, place her in a quiet area to cool off.
If you have a puppy who still nips when he is older than 16 weeks, you need to start curbing it now. Although nipping will continue, you need to make clear that it is unacceptable. Following are a few tips to help you:
1. Stop all challenge games. These games include wrestling, tug-of-war, chasing your dog around, and teasing. When you engage in these types of activities, you’re sending the wrong message. These games teach dogs to clamp down hard on any object – a leash, the laundry, your shirt, or even your skin – and challenge.
2. Discourage all nipping, whether it’s a bite on your arm or a nibble on your finger. Teeth do not belong on human skin, period.
3. Purchase a few weapons to use in defense, such as Mouth Spray, Bitter Apple spray, or a long-distance squirt gun. Never stare at your pup while you spritz or spray her; doing so turns an unpleasant result into a confrontational interaction.
4. Leave a leash on your puppy so you have something to direct her with and can avoid physical confrontation. If your dog’s not wearing the Teaching Lead, place a short lead onto her buckle collar.
5. If your puppy begins to mouth, turn to him, use a lead or collar to snap her head from your body, or spritz the region he is nipping with a spray. Do not glare at him; otherwise, he will perceive your actions as confrontational play.
6. If he continues to nip, ask yourself these questions: Do I look convincing? Am I snapping or pulling? (Pulling encourages play.) Is my dog taking me seriously? You may need more training before you earn his respect.