New puppy, busy days, misunderstandings and a lot of really mixed advice.
It’s such a pressured time.
Before you jump on a forum and get told your play biting puppy is trying to dominate you, be your master, needs shouting at or squirting with water, STOP!
Why would anyone treat a playful baby animal like this? Did your parents do this to you when you were a baby? I do hope not. Here is my guide to being a sensible, kind, fair and decent human being towards your play biting puppy.
Owning an animal is a privilege. We owe them our understanding, at least. Here’s a simple guide to finding out about your pup’s play biting behaviour.
Mouthing and biting
Work out the specific causes of your puppy’s behaviour when he starts to mouth and bite
i) Play biting
Normally quite slow and low key, play biting is usually on people or other dogs etc. The puppy usually starts this quite gently and it can build up. He may ‘play growl’. Give your puppy something to chew on instead of your hands or clothing. Act like it hurts but don’t scare the puppy too much or you will get iii) and is probably iv)! Often play biting can occur as you move around too. Use the houseline to move puppy away and give him something better to do!
ii) Exploratory play
Again, puppy makes a beeline for something, usually tasty or sticking out – corners, fixings, wooden items, things in the garden. Give your puppy items he is allowed to chew and consider using a a bitter spray for those things you do not want damaged. Exploratory play can include your clothing. It can end up with the puppy swallowing items but he is more likely to swallow items if you try and snatch them. Stay calm and swap for something more interesting such as another toy or strong smelling treat. You don’t have to actually give the treat if you don’t want to! Teach puppy to fetch things for you instead – this is much more productive play.
iii) Panic/fear/please stop
Confronting or scaring a young animal is unfair and pointless. He has not been alive for long enough to learn human rules. All the puppy notices is a scary, angry human being and he has very few options other than to defend himself. Your job is to teach, fairly, and understand that all puppies will cause damage if not taught or supervised effectively. If you confront and scare him, he will become expert at defending himself through growling, snapping and biting. This is not a suitable career for a family pet.
Use a houseline to control your pup, and move him from places you do not want him to go. Move temptations out of reach until he is older. Give him plenty of things to do, social experiences with friendly, treat-bearing humans and tolerant adult dogs and other puppies. Give plenty of rest at frequent intervals. Puppies need short bursts of activity coupled with snoozes.
The above behaviours are likely to escalate when your puppy is tired. It does not take much for a working breed to become over-stimulated! Give him very brief but frequent play/training/socialisation sessions and teach him that going into his den/crate is always coupled with a hollow toy with something tasty inside.
Sometimes puppies simply give up on trying to understand us. Everything they try is met with a correction and they do not understand why they are not allowed to pick things up, chew on warm-smelling wood, or nibble plants in the garden. This is just as frustrating for us but it should not be. It is our decision to bring a puppy to our home and we can afford to be generous guardians, tolerate, train, manage and enjoy the contact with a baby canine!