Preventing and Treating Puppy Bites
Although puppies may be cute and playful, many pet owners become frustrated when their puppy bites. Training your dog to stop puppy bites is a process that you can engage in as you play with and care for your puppy. However, it is important to understand why puppies bite and how best to teach them bite inhibition, so that you leave your puppy happy and healthy.
Why Puppies Bite
Puppies, like all young animals, are developing their motor skills and senses in their first weeks and months. For a young dog, biting is a natural process and a way of exploring the world around them. As such, all puppies will bite to some extent. To prevent your dog from biting at all, or to reprimand him too severely, may inhibit your dog’s development and may lead to a frightened and anti-social adult dog.
How to Stop Puppy Bites
When training your puppy not to bite, it is best to imitate the strategy that mother dogs use. Called “yelp training,” the most effective way of teaching your puppy when to bite and when not to is to use a non-reprimanding approach. If you admonish your puppy harshly, you punish him for normal and healthy behavior and run the risk of confusing him.
Instead of reprimanding your puppy when he bites, give a sharp, high-pitched yelp or “ow!” This will startle the puppy and make him realize that his playful biting has become too hard or has gone too far. If he continues to bite you, instead of yelping again or reprimanding him further, get up and walk away. Ignore him for a few minutes until he has become distracted and then begin playing with him again, if you choose. By ignoring your biting puppy, you signal to him that inappropriate biting puts an end to social interactions and playtime. Over time, your puppy will bite less and less, although this training method will not (and should not) stop puppy bites entirely.
Be sure not to send your puppy conflicting messages about his biting. Yelp training is not as effective if you play roughly with your puppy or encourage his biting at other times. Play gently with your puppy, and do not play tug-of-war games or other games that might encourage biting.
Treating Puppy Bites
Puppies bite each other all the time during play, and they will bite humans as well. Typically, playful bites are relatively gentle and will not break the skin. However, if your puppy bites you or another animal, wash the wound thoroughly and treat it with a disinfecting cream. In serious circumstances, seek medical attention for yourself or your pet.
Remember that biting is a perfectly natural and healthy behavior for young dogs. With appropriate training, most dogs will cease biting within a few months. However, if your dog continues to bite as he gets older, consult with a veterinarian for further training options or other behavior modification ideas.