Your puppy probably has many behaviors that you love, but there are almost certainly some flaws that you need to train them out of. Biting or nipping is one such behavior problem. It is important to realize that although your puppy’s biting might not be a big issue right now, it could grow into one later on.
Children, for example, are more likely to be seriously hurt by an older puppy’s playful and “harmless” biting. And in some cases where a puppy has been allowed to continue nipping at strangers, as they grow older, their once-playful habit can become mean-spirited and downright dangerous.
It is therefore important to discourage your puppy from biting at a young age. The tips below have all been found effective by numerous dog owners, so choose the one that sounds best for your family, use a combination of methods, or ask your vet for advice on which tactics you should use.
Trick your puppy into thinking that they are hurting you every time they nip at your fingers or toes. This is a natural way to show your puppy that their behavior is undesirable. When your puppy bites, make a high-pitched squeal or squeak, indicating pain. This mimics the noise that they hear when playing too roughly with their brothers and sisters from their litter, and it shows them that their bite was too hard.
To reinforce the idea that biting results in unpleasant circumstances, pull away and ignore your puppy for a short period of time after you make the “Ouch!” noise. This shows them that when they “hurt” you, they lose your attention and affection as a result.
For young puppies, a simple redirection of behavior is often surprisingly effective. When your puppy nips at your skin, simply replace your body with a bone or chew toy. As soon as they start to nip, give an assertive “No!” and replace your fingers with the object. If your puppy is teething, try giving them an ice cube instead.
If your puppy is a persistent biter, try physically stopping them while they’re in the act. As soon as they latch onto your hand, put your thumb inside their mouth and your other finger under their chin while telling them, “No!” very firmly. This not only makes it impossible for them to bite, but it is also somewhat uncomfortable for your puppy, something that teaches them that trying to bite results in unpleasant consequences.
Another proven tactic is to wear a pair of gloves coated with a substance that your dog will find unpleasant-tasting. Examples include hot sauce, vinegar, and specially-formulated no-chew or no-bite mixtures (available at most pet stores). This method will create a link in your dog’s mind between biting and a foul taste, which should hopefully curb the habit.
The only drawback to this method is that some dogs are too smart to fall for it. For these ultra-clever pooches, it’s obvious to them that the gloves are what cause the bad taste, not your skin. So as soon as you remove the gloves, they think it’s okay to start biting again. Try this trick out before dismissing it, though, because not all dogs are able to make the connection.
If your dog is a biter, it’s best if you take action to stop the habit now. If you wait for the issue to resolve itself, you could find yourself with an aggressive or unintentionally dangerous dog later on in life. So try the tips above to stop the nipping and biting and train a loving and gentle dog today.