Q: What is the best way to deal with a puppy that likes to bite?
A: First of all, puppies explore their environment with their mouths, much like human babies. So, it is natural for them to have their mouths on everything. Being with their littermates and mother learning bite inhibition is one important reason that we should wait until a puppy is around eight weeks old to bring it home.
But what do we do, once the puppy is home, and is biting? Being calm and trying to not be reactive is step one.
When the puppy is biting, you can mark the incorrect behavior with a firm, but not mean, “wrong” and give an acceptable chew toy. Something hard such as a Nylabone, natural shank bone or a puppy teething toy can help direct the puppy to correct behavior.
Some puppies respond to what we call the drama king or queen — when they get you with their teeth, you yell “ouch” or something. Some dogs will stop and look at you and wonder what happened because the sound can be similar to one of their littermates’ response when bitten too hard.
One thing that we have never allowed with our puppies is shredding of a toy. First of all, most toys are made of toxic materials that should not be ingested. They can also cause a blockage, which may lead to a very expensive surgery.
Another reason, and the main reason we have never allowed shredding of toys is the puppy’s possible inability to distinguish between a toy and something such as a piece of clothing, a purse, wallet, or something like money that should not be shredded.
Another important piece to the puzzle when dealing with puppy biting is teaching the puppy correct play. We also must learn to correctly play with a dog. It is very important in dealing with puppy biting to include correct play, which should not be with your hands directly on the dog but having something between you and it such as a tug rope or a toy.
People used to believe that tugging could lead to aggression, but go to any agility or obedience trial and you will see dogs tugging. But here is the catch — the dogs are taught to release on command and if the dog gets too carried away and grabs the human, even by accident, the game is over.
You should practice the same action. Have something between you and the dog when you play and teach it to drop what is in its mouth on command. If the puppy is getting too carried away in play, the game is over and if necessary, get a small cookie and put the puppy in the crate for a rest.
Always have acceptable and safe toys for the puppy. I highly recommend nontoxic toys made in the United States.
Please try to never get frustrated or mad at your puppy. Determine what acceptable and unacceptable behavior is to be for the dog as an adult and begin to work with the puppy as soon as they come into your home. Some behavior, like puppy biting, can be considered cute but as the dog grows, the cuteness wears off.
Also, you will be through puppyhood in the blink of an eye, and in no time you will have an old dog. You will then wish for those puppy antics again as your heart is broken. So enjoy and cherish each day with your puppy.
— Susan Jenkins, owner of Papp’s Dog Services and a member of the national Association of Obedience Instructors and the International Association of Canine Professionals
Please send questions about your pet to Kathy Antoniotti at the Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640; or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your full name and address and a daytime phone number where you can be reached. I will forward your questions to the expert I think is best suited to answer your particular problem. Phoned-in messages will not be taken.