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You are suffering through mouthing, nipping, biting and puppy chewing EVERYTHING! The worst part about it is that your hands are sore from your puppy’s razor sharp teeth. Your pants and shirts have holes from puppy teeth griping and pulling. Even worse, you can’t seem to figure out how to put a stop to this MADDENING and UPSETTING behaviour!
Good news friend, YOU ARE IN THE RIGHT PLACE.
NORMALIZING PUPPY CHEWING:
First things first, you need to know that you are NOT alone. This is a UNIVERSAL PHASE in puppyhood that all new puppy owners struggle with. Let me explain how the people who do not seem to have this problem with their puppy, are very good at understanding the needs of their puppy and meeting them with gusto, otherwise they too would be struggling with this very issue. Herein lies the key – meeting your puppy’s needs WITH GUSTO!
All puppies are like human infants in a lot of ways. They are after all, a baby. They have teeth that come and go just like a human infant will go through teething, however it all happens significantly faster for a puppy than a human.
Puppies pretty much ALWAYS want to interact with you. If you observe them with their litter mates, essentially their exclusive method of interaction is pouncing on each other and you guessed it, BITING. Puppies like to explore their environment with their senses, which of course includes their mouth and therefore, puppy chewing.
Exploration is how puppies develop normally! To expect adult behaviour from a puppy is to short change them the opportunity to have fun developing to become well adjusted adults.
You will find out quite quickly that almost anything that can be picked up by a puppy, will be picked up and mouthed to next Tuesday. They are learning and constantly looking for feedback. As their best friend, they will turn to you for most (if not all) of their mental stimulation.
When they want to play – they let you know and if you fall short on their needs, you will soon find out because when they need an outlet, they find one whether it is human approved or not!
It is paramount that you set your puppy up to succeed. If you leave your pooch in a position that he can get into mischief, he will likely do exactly that.
Puppies should always have a space that is theirs; a space that is safe. Our recommendation is to crate train your puppy. If you need help with crate training (and to see the benefits of crate training), please refer to the post The Ultimate Guide to Crate Training. A puppy in a free range home will have a much more difficult time learning to control his mouthing urges and will possibly exhibit more puppy chewing than a contained puppy.
A crate trained puppy will offer the opportunity to place them in a safe area where they cannot destroy you or anything else in those moments of the day when they seem to go crazy for no apparent reason!
Why do puppies nip and bite?
When you first get your puppy home, they will be around 8 weeks old. In the first 8 weeks of life, your puppy has grown all of the incisors, canines and premolars he will have until 6-8 months where adult teeth will take over.
That’s a lot of teeth growing!!!
The gums of your little furry one are going to be irritated, tender and if not either of those sensations, they will at a minimum feel strange to your puppy. You may even find little baby teeth around the house. Some people never see any lost baby teeth because a lot of the time your puppy harmlessly swallows the teeth while eating and playing.
To better understand what your puppy sees on a daily basis, complete the following little task…
Assignment: As your puppy begins to explore more and more each day, he is drawn in by all of the movement he sees. Take 2 minutes out of your day today to lie on the floor with your chin on the ground. Take a good look at what your puppy sees, hears and smells down on the floor. It is a REALLY interesting place down there!
Your puppy idolizes you and is watching you all the time – even when you aren’t thinking about them. Think about it. When you walk past your pup, he will see your pant leg brush around your ankles and he immediately thinks, “Hey! I want in on that game”! He sees your socks on your ankle and the tendons of your leg moving under the sock and he thinks, “Hey! There’s something in that sock!!! It’ll be fun to play with that”!
When your puppy sees any kind of movement and especially if he is bored or full of energy, he will act on the desire to satiate the nipping impulse.
In addition, on those days of tender gums, your puppy wants to sooth himself. One of the nicest sensations for them is to sink their little razor teeth into your flesh; it tastes good and feels good! What’s not to love?
So my friend, do not fear. These behaviours are normal and better yet, there are things you can do to raise your puppy to understand not to bite and nip. Most importantly, you CAN reduce the puppy chewing.
What Can be Done About Puppy Chewing?
- Crate Train Your Puppy
By crate training your puppy, you will be creating some structure to their daily life. They will need to have consistency of inputs to ensure they interact with their environment appropriately.
If you do not have the time to spend sorting the puppy out when they are nipping and chewing, you must put them somewhere where that behaviour will not get them into trouble. There’s no sense in you standing at the kitchen sink trying to make dinner while trying to keep the puppy from chewing your pants or nibble your toes.
When you know your puppy is susceptible to this behaviour (tired or conversely full of energy), then a crate is a safe place to be while you cannot focus on them.
- Have a training routine with your puppy
Make sure that you have time set aside each day to work on what I call academic study. Their basic obedience cues should be worked EVERY DAY and MULTIPLE TIMES (minimum three times) a day. Short durations of working for food are ideal.
All puppies require both mental and physical stimulation. Do not short change either of these requirements or the nipping and biting will escalate.
- Ensure that it is NEVER ok for puppy teeth to make contact with human skin.
As soon as you feel puppy teeth, abruptly remove your hand and ‘exit the game’. Your puppy sees interacting with you as playing most of the time. So…. STOP PLAYING THE GAME. So many times I see people putting up with behaviours that they don’t like because they are worried about hurting the puppy’s feelings. Please don’t worry. Your puppy needs to learn boundaries. You will be returning to play with your puppy as soon as possible – I’m not suggesting you abandon your dog. I AM suggesting sending a clear message that YOU DON’T LIKE THIS GAME.
Once your puppy has settled and seems to have forgotten that you exited ‘the game’, return to the puppy and gently stroke him (non-provocatively). If puppy lies down and or engages in relaxed behaviours with no teething, you know you made an impression when you left before. If your puppy returns to nipping at you, abruptly leave again.
- Be consistent
When encouraging your puppy not to bite, you must be consistent. It cannot be ok some of the time to gnaw on your hand and totally unacceptable other times. Puppies get confused when boundaries are not clear. Decide what behaviour you are going to tolerate and then be consistent about enforcing your expectations. Praise your puppy when he is chewing on something that is allowed!
- Substitute and Redirect
When you have a puppy that you want to cuddle with or you are watching TV or reading a book with and they just seem to be relentlessly wanting to taste you, have a teething chewy toy handy. As soon as you feel them becoming restless or teething on you, offer the teething toy and redirect their attention to an appropriate toy. Just a few toys that I like to use to give you an idea are:
– ThinkPet Rubber Chew Toy
-JW HOL-ee Roller Original Treat Dispensing Dog Ball – Hard Natural Rubber
-Cooling Teething Training Toy, Doggie Dental Care Rubber Bite Puzzle Toy
-Cotton Rope Safety Rubber Pet Toothbrush
- Always give an appropriate outlet for puppy chewing
When you are expecting quiet behaviour from your puppy, always provide something they can chew on that is appropriate. When they are crated, puppy chewing is totally appropriate so it is best to provide: an antler, cow hoof, stuffed frozen cow hoof, stuffed frozen Kong Toy or something of the kind that your puppy will be delighted to spend some time chewing. See the Crate Training post for more discussion on appropriate chew toys in the crate.
By providing your puppy appropriate chew time, they will be able to satiate that chewing drive and therefore be able to begin to understand the boundaries you will place on chewing.
- Set your puppy up to succeed
If you know your puppy is prone to biting your pant leg as you walk around, try tucking your pant leg into your socks. Some puppies are really determined and will nip at your socks anyway. In these cases I recommend that you try and have a substitute handy pretty much everywhere you go. Try and make the ‘fun space’ outside your personal bubble. Find a toy that you know your puppy loves and toss it away from you when they are engaging in sock nipping.
Bounce a ball at your feet and then toss it forward (make sure your puppy can track its movement as eyesight does improve and develop as the puppy ages) which makes the space away from your personal bubble, the fun space.
- Protect your personal space always
Just like you do with humans, make sure that you have final say over what happens to your body. Puppies do not get a free ticket to abuse you. Until they can prove that they respect your skin and your wishes to your body, they need to remain at arms length. That may sound harsh but in no universe anywhere would it be acceptable for a 100lbs dog to be up in your face and nipping at you and unable to respect your personal space, so make sure that you have these expectations for your puppy as well.
It may seem difficult at first but crouch down on the ground and get low so that your puppy is one-to-one with you. They won’t need to bite to get your attention if you show them they are worth your time. In getting down to their level, you will greatly improve your chances to protect your personal space.
It is important to note that mouthing, nipping, biting and puppy chewing will take time to train. Your puppy will be a puppy for some time and it is your job to raise that puppy to understand healthy boundaries and appropriate behaviour.
If you work away at the behaviour using the above information to guide your decision making, you WILL make progress. If you feel like you are not making progress and you are stuck, please feel free to email me at [email protected]. I would be delighted to discuss your challenges with you!
Make sure that you have reviewed how to Crate Train your puppy properly and we will see you soon to discuss the first basic commands you can expect your puppy to learn with ease!