Puppy is Mouthing, Biting Hands and Clothing Advice
It is always easier to cure a problem if you can understand why the problem is occurring.
Mouthing is the most natural thing in the world for a puppy to do. It’s how they explore new things and learn to tell pleasant from unpleasant, friendly from unfriendly, palatable from unpalatable and harmless from harmful ; all things they need to learn about their environment.
Just as children learn by touching and tasting, so do puppies.
Mouthing and chewing helps to relieve sore gums. New teeth do not come through easily and a good gnaw on a chew bone or a table leg can give wonderful relief to a puppy. There is no difference to him, just an easing of uncomfortable gums. Remember – PUPPIES HAVE NO SENSE OF VALUE – a table leg is just a piece of wood whether it’s a Queen Anne or bargain store best, a Twenty Pound Note is just a piece of paper.
Teeth can be used to carry a trophy off to a place of safety. They can also be used to administer a well-timed snap that can ward off a pair of interfering puny hands that would take away a well-earned trophy – the puppy has now learnt to how to control a situation and get what he wants by using his teeth in an adverse manner. He works on the principle that possession is 9/10 of the law. He successfully protected his trophy from his brothers and sisters so why not his human pack?
Chasing is a natural instinct for all dogs to follow, after all, how else would he catch his dinner in the wild? Children, joggers and cats all stimulate the chase instinct in dogs, more so in some breeds than others. The next part of the chase is to stop and control the “prey” – a well-timed nip soon does that. All part of his natural world but not acceptable in ours.
(5) SELF PRESERVATION
Humans can often hurt puppies without meaning to. Little hands grabbing and pulling can hurt puppy bones and tails were not put there to be pulled, though some seem to think this is their sole purpose in life. How often have I heard “The children can do anything to him and he never bothers”.
How else can a puppy say “please don’t do that” but with a growl and, when this is ignored, a snap. He has probably tried escape and failed so what option is he left with? Unfortunately that growl and snap will bring the relief he is seeking. He has now learnt how to control the situation and will go on to perfect his timing all too quickly.
Now we have looked at the reasons for the problem, let’s consider ways of curing it…
We have to teach the puppy that it is just not acceptable to use his teeth on human skin, no matter how gently. A lesson taken from natural dog behavior is the best place to start. If you observe two puppies playing, you will see that when things get too rough, the puppy on the losing end of the game will give a high pitched yelp, his playmate will immediately back off and the offended puppy will ignore him for a moment or two and then the game will resume at a gentler pace.
We can easily simulate this behavior. When those sharp little needles pierce your skin issue a loud NO or OFF, followed by a few seconds of ignoring the pup. He will soon get the message that we don’t play rough games. Similarly a well-aimed squirt with a water pistol can startle a pup into letting go quickly. The water jet does no harm, simply interrupts an unwanted behavior.
Small children will obviously have difficulty exercising this amount of control over a boisterous puppy, therefore all play should be supervised by an adult. Make up a Code of Conduct that you expect from the puppy and ask everybody in the family to follow it. It is unfair to allow the pup to ravage Dad’s hands that are big and tough and then punish him for the same behavior when playing with a child.
Provide the puppy with toys and chews that will help to relieve his sore gums. Sterilized bones and rawhide chews are good for giving him something to get his teeth into. Ice cubes also give a lot of relief as the cold soothes those inflamed gums. There are special dental toys that are shaped with a dog’s mouth in mind, designed to get to the awkward places that normal chews can’t reach.
Raggers and petrodex ropes also help sore gums, acting like dental floss. Providing a good selection of the above items will certainly attract your pup away from your possessions, but remember a table leg also gives great relief so don’t let him have access to items of value.
Your pup has to learn that YOU control all the toys. You are quite willing to let him play with your toys, but at the end of the day the toys are yours to do with as you want. Teach him the leave command, so that he learns to back off when told. If he knows when to leave, he is less likely to snap or grab.
If he does make off with a toy and will not give it up, get another toy and play with it. Your toy is much better than his and he will soon lose interest in his trophy. After all, a trophy is only worth guarding if someone else wants it. Give it no value and it’s worth nothing, so why guard it?
It is virtually impossible to change an instinct so don’t try, instead redirect it. Rather than chasing a jogger, teach him to chase a ball or a Frisbee. He can have the thrill of the chase and a reward at the end. Arm yourself with several balls, etc. until he gets the idea of bringing them back to you. Remember, the one you have is the most interesting. Playing ball is a great way to exercise your dog without wearing yourself out.
Don’t allow people or children to abuse your puppy, rather ask them to give him the respect that he deserves. It may not be the child who hurts him that gets bitten but the next child who innocently approaches him. He may not give a different child a second chance and consider all children as a threat.
Socialize him as much as possible with well-trained children and if he mouths or play-bites issue a sharp NO, and withdraw attention as described. He will quickly learn that if he behaves badly no one will play with him. Handle him as much as possible and teach him that hands coming towards him are a pleasure not a threat.