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Can you imagine petting an older adult dog? You stroke his head, touch his face, brush his coat, and never once does he put his mouth on you. If you are the owner of a young Boxer puppy then this picture probably seems hard to image right now. If you have ever been bitten by your puppy, and you probably have, then you are likely very familiar with the feeling of tiny razor sharp puppy teeth on your bare skin. Although your young puppy's bites are not dangerous until your puppy develops stronger jaw muscles, the bites can definitely make you jump in surprise and can leave a series of red marks all over your arms, legs, hands, and anywhere else that your Boxer decides to give a nip.
Most puppy biting is normal before the age of six months. Some breeds such as Boxers tend to be more mouthy due to excitement or inherited traits. Most puppies learn about and interact with the world around them with their mouths. If you have ever noticed adult dogs playing together, then you probably saw the dogs gently bite one another in play. The problem is that your puppy needs to learn how to control his mouth before his jaws get strong and he can cause real injury. If you have young children, your puppy's biting can also cause fear and lead to your puppy bullying them.
When puppies play together they do a great job of teaching each other how to control their mouths. If you have ever watched your puppy play with another puppy, and your puppy bit the other puppy too hard, the other puppy probably let out a yelp and stopped playing with your puppy for a couple of minutes. This yelp communicated to your puppy that his bite was too hard, and the other puppy stopping the game was a natural consequence of your puppy's actions. In most cases, your puppy would eventually learn through this type of play to be gentle with his mouth, but most puppies are not with other puppies all the time, so your puppy will need you to teach him.
Learning how to control his mouth is something that your puppy will need to learn while he is young. It is much harder for an adult dog to learn how to control his mouth later on, and many will be tested in a moment of surprise or fear. If your puppy learns how to not only stop biting but also how to control the pressure of his bite, then he will be more likely to control the severity of his bite during an unexpected incident as an adult. Most dogs will bite when put in the wrong situation, such as when his tail is accidentally closed in a car door or when he is frightened while sleeping. If your dog has learned good control of his mouth as a puppy, then when your dog does bite in such circumstances, the bite is less likely to break the skin and require medical attention.
If your puppy is less than four months old, then you can spend time teaching him how to control the pressure of his bite by using the 'Yelping' method. This method takes time to teach and your puppy will need to stop biting completely before he has developed strong enough jaws to break the skin at around five months of age. If your puppy is older, then it is best to start with one of the other methods that will teach your puppy to simply stop biting altogether.
Play biting is normal for all young puppies, but if your puppy is showing any signs of true aggression then it is very important that you seek immediate help early on. These methods are designed for training your puppy to stop normal puppy mouthing biting. True aggression will need to be addressed at its roots. If your puppy is lunging at you or a family member's throat, this is not normal behavior and is an emergency situation. Seek immediate assistance from a qualified trainer or behaviorist in your area.
To get started you will need lots of small, tasty treats. If your puppy is very food motivated then you can use your puppy's normal kibble for this. Using your puppy's own kibble as a reward will help to keep your puppy healthy and will teach your puppy to work for his food, so that better treats can be saved for high-level training needs.
If you are using the 'Yelping' method then you will also need patience and at least two months to teach this, so that you can gradually increase the difficulty level as your puppy improves. If you are using the 'Leave It' method, in addition to food you will also need lots of items that your puppy finds tempting to practice with. These items can be balls and other toys, clothing articles like socks, shoes, shirts, and gloves, paper wads, sticks, leaves, stuffed animals, and anything else that your puppy likes to put in his mouth. If you are using ' the 'Pressure' method then you will need a thick glove if you do not want to use your bare hand. A leather gardening or work glove should work well for this. You will also need a no-nonsense attitude and a calm demeanor. With all of the methods, you will need consistency and the ability to remain patient, calm, and boring.
The Yelping Method
To begin, whenever your puppy bites you hard enough to cause pain, say "Ouch!" in a loud and high pitched voice, then turn your back to your puppy, cross your arms, and ignore your puppy for five minutes. This is to let your puppy know that biting too hard hurts, and that you will stop playing with him if he does it.
Call him back
After it has been five minutes, if your puppy has left you alone, then call your puppy over, have him do something for you, such as 'sit', and then resume playing with him. It is important for you to be the one who initiates the playing again by calling him over and having him do something for you. If your puppy is biting your pants or trying to get your attention in some other way at the end of the five minutes, then wait until he stops for two minutes before calling him back. This may take up to thirty minutes the first time. Hold your ground and stand firm. If it gets really bad then leave the room rather than stand with your back turned to him.
Require a softer bite
Practice yelping and ignoring your puppy every time that he bites you to the point of pain, until your puppy begins to bite more softly. When your puppy's bite hurts less, then begin to yelp and ignore him whenever he simply applies pressure. When you ignore him now, rather than simply turning your back to him, leave the room for the five minutes.
Call him back
Like before, when you return after the five minutes, call him to yourself and have him do something for you before you resume playing with him again.
Require no biting
When your puppy stops applying pressure when he bites you, and is only touching you gently with his mouth, then begin to yelp and ignore him whenever he even touches you with his teeth. When you leave the room now, leave the room for ten minutes. After the ten minutes are up, return and call him back to you. Have him do something for you, and then resume playing afterwards.
Repeat yelping and ignoring your puppy for any form of biting until your puppy no longer touches you with his mouth at all.
The Leave It Method
To begin, place several pieces of food in one hand and several more in a location that is out of your puppy's sight and reach. Good options are your pocket or a shelf or table nearby. Make a fist around the pieces of food in your hand and allow you puppy to sniff your closed hand.
Tell your puppy to "leave it" while you keep your hand tightly closed. When he gives up trying to get the food for even a couple of seconds then praise him, tell him "take it", and then offer him a piece of the hidden food from the nearby location. Do not offer the food in your hand though.
Practice having your puppy leave food in your hand alone until he will immediately leave it alone when told to. Gradually make it harder by having your hand open when you do this, by placing the treat on the floor with your foot next to it, and by dropping pieces of food onto the floor for him to leave. Whenever you do any of this be ready to close your hand or cover the food with a foot or hand if your puppy tries to get the food. Otherwise he will not learn to 'leave it'.
Practice with objects
When your puppy will leave food alone whenever he is told, then practice having your puppy leave other tempting items in your hand or under your foot alone. Items might include tennis Balls, socks, gloves, shirts, shoes, paper wads, stuffed animals, sticks, leaves, or anything else that your puppy finds really desirable. Practice with these items until your puppy will leave whatever you tell him to alone.
Practice with yourself
When your puppy will leave objects and food alone very well, then whenever your puppy begins to bite you or your clothing, tell your puppy to 'leave it'. While you do this, keep very still and quiet to prevent your puppy from thinking that you are playing. When your puppy stops for even a couple of seconds, then praise him and tell him "take it" while offering him a treat. Practice this until your puppy will immediately stop biting you whenever you tell him to 'leave it'.
Once your puppy will stop biting you whenever you say "leave it", remain consistent by always acting boring and commanding him to 'leave it' whenever he bites you. By always commanding him to 'leave it' and never tolerating biting, you are discouraging him from attempting to bite in the future, and you are convincing him that biting is no longer fun for him.
The Pressure Method
Find a glove
To begin, find a thick glove such as a leather gardening glove. If your puppy's bite is hard enough to hurt, then either choose another method, or if you feel comfortable, wear the glove while doing this.
Block your body
When you are interacting with your puppy and he begins to bite you, place your gloved hand in front of him to block his mouth from grabbing other areas of your body.
If he bites your hand instead, which he likely will do, then with your hand flat, press your hand into the back of his mouth so that you are putting pressure onto the area where his upper and lower jaw meet. Do this until he tries to spit your hand out himself. The area where his jaws meet in the back of his mouth is a sensitive area, so pressure applied there is uncomfortable for him and will make biting you uncomfortable rather than fun for him.
If your puppy tries to bite you again after doing this, which many excited puppies will do, then repeat the pressure on his jaws. Do this every time that he tries to bite until he decides that biting is unpleasant and gives up. When you do this it is important to be firm and still, and not act excited, loud, or run away. If you act excited or scared then your puppy will think that you are playing and it will encourage him to bite even more.
Every time that your puppy tries to bite you, block him with your hand and apply pressure if he bites your hand. Your puppy should gradually bite less and less often as you remain consistent.
Praise his efforts at not biting
When your puppy stops himself from biting you when you show him your hand, then praise him in a calm and kind tone of voice. It is important to praise his efforts at being good so that he learns what he should be doing when he is excited, which is exhibiting self-control.
Written by Caitlin Crittenden
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 02/05/2018, edited: 01/08/2021
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