Puppy biting and mouthing
Puppies learn bite inhibition (not biting too hard) from their mother and siblings. Biting during play is normal for all puppies, but you may need to take action to stop it from becoming a problem. Puppies have needle-sharp teeth for one reason only – so that when they bite, it hurts!
Problems can begin when the pet grows up and continues to replicate behaviour that was deemed acceptable in their youth, which can lead to aggressive biting in the future. This is because the puppy will have used such behaviour as a response to every other scenario they have faced, from play through to confrontation.
From a young age, puppies use biting and mouthing as a way of interacting and playing with their littermates, as well as asserting dominance. A puppy may yelp when bitten too hard, which will surprise the littermate that did it. This teaches them how hard to bite, knowledge which can then be transferred into their new home with their human family.
What should you do if your puppy nips?
Make sure all play stops when your puppy begins mouthing or biting. Turn your body away from your puppy and cross your arms for a few seconds, and then resume play when they stop mouthing. Remember, biting will not stop immediately - over a period of 3 to 4 weeks, you should notice that your puppy’s bite becomes less and less hard as they learn and adapt.
If possible, allow your puppy to play and interact with other animals - if family or friends have pets, why not arrange for them to meet? This is an effective (and fun!) way of not only socialising your pet, but also teaching them about biting etiquette. What they learn when interacting with other animals can influence how they behave with their humans. (Don’t forget to ensure that all pets are fully vaccinated prior to meeting.)
Consistency is key
This process works well for the vast majority of puppies, however, there are exceptions. If your puppy is well over 14 weeks old or has learned to bite for attention, this method may not be effective for you. If you find that yelping and turning away has no effect after consistently attempting it for a fortnight, or your puppy seems to become more excited and snappy if you yelp at them, you may want to speak with an expert at Joii so that they can check there are no medical or behavioural issues responsible.
Above all, you must be consistent. This means that even visitors must react in the same way to your puppy’s biting. Remember, it will take lots of repetition before your puppy understands that biting is no fun!