We regularly receive customer questions in our inbox. With the help of an expert, we will answer another customer question today! How to stop your puppy from biting? Read the answer in this blog post!
On January 3, 2022, Laura Everaert sent us a message. She recently adopted a Golden Retriever puppy and no matter how cute Romy seems, she sometimes wants to attack and especially bite. Laura wonders how to prevent and unlearn this. Together with dog psychologist Leonie Maes, we have taken a closer look at this question. Laura - good news. We have an answer to this question for you!
Biting puppies, every owner's nightmare
You have long dreamed about cuddling and walking with your new four-legged friend and are sure that you will become the best of friends. But then your new puppy turns into a real biting hyena. Very annoying of course, but fortunately no reason to panic. Together with the expert, we explain why puppies bite and, above all, how to prevent and unlearn it!
Why do puppies bite?
Puppies are just like humans when they are babies, they explore the world largely by using their mouths, or in the case of dogs, their mouths. They feel the texture of different objects and items and thus check whether something is edible or not. They will be more than happy to discover your fingers and the legs of your jeans. But with the small and especially sharp puppy teeth, this discovery can be painful, even if your puppy does not mean anything wrong by it.
In some breeds, such as a Border Collie or Australian Shepherd, biting behavior is also bred into the dog. These breeds were bred to herd sheep and cows, using an occasional bite to get the cattle moving in the right direction. Puppies can also try this behavior on people.
Biting behavior is natural dog behavior in many situations and is not a sign of direct aggression, especially in puppies. But at home this behavior can of course be experienced as undesirable. Especially if you have small (grand)children over. Fortunately, you can easily do something about this.
When will my puppy stop biting?
"A puppy will not stop biting on its own, but it must learn how far it can go and when to stop," expert Leonie Maes explains to us. "If the puppy stays with its mother long enough (at least 8 weeks), the mother and siblings will have already learned some control over its bite. This happens during play. If the puppy bites too hard, it will hurt and the other dogs will squeal to let them know it hurts."
If the puppy does not stop biting, the mother dog will intervene and correct it. When the puppy comes to live with you, it is therefore important that you follow the lessons that the mother dog has started. Biting may seem cute at first, but once your dog has grown into an adult, it is annoying behavior and can sometimes lead to dangerous situations.
How can I stop my puppy's biting behavior?
To stop a puppy from biting, it is important to start right away. Then it will be clearest to the puppy and he will learn it fastest. Do not make a game of biting behavior, but let it be known immediately that it is undesirable behavior. Remember that your puppy does not want to hurt you, but simply does not yet know what is allowed and what is not.
“Definitely do not punish your puppy by hitting or pinching, as old-fashioned dog books sometimes recommend,” continues dog expert Leonie Maes. “This will only teach your new puppy to fear your hands because they will hurt him. However, you can follow some simple steps to teach him not to bite.”
1. Intervene immediately if your puppy decides to bite
If you are playing tug with your dog and your puppy decides to bite, immediately step back and shout “ouch”. With this, when you call it loud enough, the puppy will stop what he is doing and will gradually learn that the behavior is unwanted. Make sure you shout and not shout at your puppy. It is best to use a high-pitched voice, because dogs also squeak when they are in pain.
It is also important to stop playing immediately. Place your hands flat on the floor or sit with arms folded so that it is clear to your puppy that the game is over. If he tries to continue playing, ignore your dog for a minute. Only when your puppy has calmed down and no longer wants to bite can you resume the game. After all, your dog must understand that biting behavior is not desired. At a later stage you can also link a command such as “don't bite” to it.
2. Replace the object being bitten
Because biting is a natural behavior for dogs, your puppy also has the urge to bite and chew from time to time. It will therefore be difficult to unlearn biting completely. But it can be learned what your four-legged friend can and cannot bite into.
“If your puppy bites your hand or jeans, offer an alternative. Remove your hand or your jeans from your dog's mouth and replace it with a toy . Consider a dental floss or squeaky toy . This way, biting becomes fun and your dog quickly learns that a toy is fun to bite and your fingers are not,” Leonie Maes explains.
3. Puppies need a lot of sleep
Puppies also need a lot of sleep. If they don't get enough rest and start to get tired, they can quickly become annoying. “At such a moment they listen poorly and soon they can't stop,” Leonie Maes then explains to us. “It is best to simply put your puppy in a closed crate or cage and let it sleep for a few hours. This way your dog can relax and process all the stimuli of the day.”
4. Teach your puppy to let go
To stop biting, you can teach your puppy commands. Commands such as “stop” and “release”, followed by putting a toy in the mouth and letting him hold it firmly. “Then you can hold a delicious treat such as a piece of candy in front of his nose. When the toy is released, say “release” and give the treat. You can also work with a cliché with this. The clicking sound will be stimulating and your dog will know to listen to you. When the treat is eaten, you can give the toy back. This training works very quickly, your puppy will quickly know that letting go means a reward,” expert Leonie Maes explains to us.
When it is successful and the toy is back with your puppy, you can turn around and give it a try. In addition, the “release” command is also a great command when your dog grabs something that is not his, or when you are on the street and your puppy grabs something from the street. It is best to teach your puppy the command properly first, before mixing it in with any tug games . This way you can best decide for yourself when the game stops.
5. Stay consistent
“My last tip is perhaps the most important when raising puppies,” adds Leonie Maes. “Stay consistent. Dogs do not understand when they bite, sometimes it is allowed and sometimes it is allowed. If it is not clear, they will continue to try whether biting is allowed or not at that moment.”
By remaining clear with your puppy during training, they will understand more quickly that biting you, your clothes and furniture is not allowed and where it is allowed. Once he understands that biting is not the intention, your puppy will stop doing it. After all, your four-legged friend does not want to disappoint you.
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