Chewing and biting is crucial for a puppy. The thing is, they need to learn how to control the strength of their jaw and teeth so they don’t pose a threat when they grow up.
Here’s how to nail this essential learning.
Why does a puppy bite?
- Biting eases their toothache. At a month and a half old, a puppy has 28 milk teeth that will be replaced by 42 permanent teeth.
- Since it has no hands, a puppy explores the world with its mouth. Taste, texture, material… it wants to know everything.
- Chewing helps puppies play and establish authority. They’re testing their strength.
Bite inhibition, what’s that mean?
→ Puppies learn to control their biting. This is known as bite inhibition, and it’s a crucial learning phase in their development.
Bite inhibition with siblings:
In the first weeks of their life, puppies socialize. They learn to hold back their biting while playing with siblings. If a puppy bites too hard, its brother or sister yells, retaliates or stops playing. The puppy then understands that it went too far.
Did you know?
The mother dog puts her puppy back in its place by pressing her mouth down against its neck, forcing it to submit.
Bite inhibition with the master:
A puppy’s biting can be observed up until 8 months of age. When you go to pick it up from the breeder, it’ll be between 2 and 3 months old. As a result, you have to continue this vital learning.
→ How to put this into practice?
- Never push away the puppy. It’ll indeed interpret the gesture as an invitation to play and it’ll get even more excited.
- Let it come to you and sniff your hands.
- When it starts to nibble you, yell when it hurts and say “no!”
- Don’t withdraw your hand, the puppy should be the one to pull back.
- If it continues, stop the game. Don’t talk to it, don’t touch it, don’t look at it. Leave the room.
- Return a few minutes later and repeat the exercise.
- If it behaves, reward it, give it a treat.
- Redirect it towards its toys so it can nibble. This is crucial for a puppy.
→ If you don’t see results:
If a puppy was separated from its mother too early or if the mother was inexperienced, learning inhibited biting can be more difficult.
- Allow the dog to approach you and sniff your hands.
- If it tries to puncture skin rather than nip, say “no!” and shake its neck while closing its mouth.
- Repeat the exercise as necessary. The puppy shows understanding by licking your hands.
- Give it a treat and redirect it to its toys.
It takes time and consistency for a puppy to learn to measure the strength of its bite. This learning is crucial, because if one day your dog bites someone or another animal violently, everyone will pay the price.
Smart advice when your puppy nips
Have toys, such as rope or buffalo hide bones, for your puppy to chew. Keep out of reach anything they might wreck. Puppies aren’t yet privy to what’s theirs and what isn’t. They’re busy exploring world, don’t forget. If nipping persists beyond their first birthday, consider a consulting a behaviorist. You might have a hyperactive puppy on your hands.
Food for thought:
“Life is a short-term contract with continuous learning!” François-Joseph Goasdoue