Jump to section
Your new Frenchie pup is the apple of your eye with the looks of a furry angel, and yet when he plays he's more devil than angel. Those needle-sharp teeth have left your arms and hands crisscrossed with scratches and taken the pleasure out of playtime.
You've tried shouting at him and swatting at him, but this only seems to get him more excited and he keeps coming back for more. Much as you love him this is beginning to feel like an uphill struggle, especially since the kids are now getting screechy whenever for the puppy is near, in anticipation of being bitten.
You don't want to give up on him, but equally, you can't risk him biting the children.
What to do?
Puppies have a lot of learning to do before they become adult dogs. One of the ways they do this is to explore things with their mouth. As anyone who owns a puppy is doubtless aware, they do pick up anything and everything in their mouth and require watching all their waking hours lest they do themselves harm.
However, puppies also have needle-sharp teeth and if they decide your hand is a great toy, then this can be very painful for you.
Teaching a Frenchie pup not to bite is crucial, since what starts with play in a pup could become a serious problem in an adult dog. Training plugs into the principle of bite inhibition, which is where the pup learns to moderate what he does with his mouth and avoid contact with human skin. This is done by reacting in a similar way that his littermates would if the pup plays too rough a game.
Teaching a Frenchie pup to have a gentle mouth requires knowledge and timing, rather than fancy equipment. In addition, you need to apply the rules consistently so that the pup understands what's expected of him. Also, explain to other family members how to react should the puppy mouth them.
In addition it is helpful to have:
- Toys, such as tuggers or soft toys, which keep play at a distance
- A separate room or space to withdraw into, if the puppy doesn't calm down.
The Teach Bite Inhibition Method
What is 'bite inhibition'?
In an ideal world, the pup learns self-control and stops himself from biting down on skin or a hand. This is called bite inhibition. Most pups learn this to some degree when playing with their littermates. When they bite another pup too hard, that pup will squeal or cry and stop the game. Thus the first pup learns that biting hurts and brings the game to an end. Because most pups want to carry on playing, they then learn to be more careful with how hard they bite. We want to mimic this when it comes to a pup playing with people.
Learn to speak 'dog'
Watch a litter of pups at play and you'll notice how they squeal, squeak, or cry when another pup gets too rough. This usually causes the over-enthusiastic pup to back off a little. If the play is still too rough, the playmate may even withdraw and end the game. When we mimic this behavior, such as crying out when the pup bites a hand, this gives signals the pup can understand about how much care he needs to take with human skin.
Prepare to play act
Now isn't the time to be introverted or shy. In order to have the puppy understand, you need to be prepared to play act big time, that even the slightest scratch on your skin is really painful. The idea being you want pup to think:"Gosh, these human's are really delicate, I'd better be really careful around them."
Squeal and go limp
When the puppy bites your hand, immediately squeal and scrunch your face up as if in pain. Also, let the hand go limp. (Don't withdraw the hand quickly or the pup may think this is a game of chase.) Make whimpering noises and watch for signs of concern from the pup. At which point relax and carry on the game but with a toy rather than your hand.
End the game
If you play act like an Oscar winner and the pup keeps on coming, your nuclear option is to end the game. Simply get up and walk away, preferably leaving the room. Let the pup calm down for a couple of minutes before returning. This sends a strong message that rough play ends the fun, and helps the pup learn to be gentle.
The Do's and Don'ts Method
Don't: Smack the puppy
Smacking or physical punishment is likely to get the pup even more excited, which makes him more likely to bite rather than less. Alternatively, if you smack so hard that it is painful, the pup may stop biting but because he is fearful of you, rather than having learned not to bite.
Do: Supervise children with a puppy
The excited squeaks and squeals of children can quickly over-excite a puppy, and result in play biting. The child might then pull away, which gives the pup cues to chase. The child's increasing distress only revs up the pup and reinforces his bad behavior. Avoid this by supervising them at all times, and teaching children the correct way to react.
Do: Seek professional help
If your Frenchie seems unusually mouthy and you are struggling to cope, do seek the help of a certified dog trainer or behaviorist. A young puppy is at a crucial age for learning and bad behaviors or inappropriate actions that aren't corrected now may become a big problem in an adult dog. However, professionals will be able to guide you on effective ways to nip the problem in the bud.
Don't: Use hands and feet as toys
Never tease the puppy with your fingers or invite the dog to play with hands. This teaches him that hands are toys and therefore fair game.
Do: Encourage play with toys
Opt for toys that remove your hands from direct contact with the dog's mouth. Tug toys, cuddly toys, or balls to chase are all good ideas. Not only do they keep your skin safe but the dog automatically looks for toys to play with rather than human skin.
The Teach Self-Control Method
Understand the idea
This method is a variation on teaching bite inhibition and works well for Frenchies that get super-excited, lose self-control, and then bite out of pure exuberance. The idea is to play in 15-second bursts and then stop briefly, only resuming play when the puppy is calm. This prevents the pup getting hyper and into trouble because he's too excited to stop himself.
Know ahead of the game what you intend to do. Also, apply the rules consistently so the Frenchie understands the consequences if he doesn't calm down. It's helpful to have a watch or phone in order to time 15 seconds and prompt you to stop play.
Engage in a game with a toy
Sit on the floor with one of your Frenchie's favorite toys. Wave the toy around to get his interest and start a game of tug. After 15 seconds, stop the game and put the toy down. If the pup continues to play with the toy, ignore him but let him play. However, you will only pick the toy up and resume the exciting game once he has sat down and is calm.
Wait for the pup to sit
When you pause the game after 15 seconds, wait for the dog to visibly calm. He may well sit down and look at you , wondering why you stopped the game. As soon as he is calm, praise him, pick up the toy and re-engage for another 15 seconds. Keep repeating this cycle of short play followed by a brief period of calm. This is usually sufficient to prevent the pup becoming hyper and biting out of excitement.
When to walk away
If when you pause the pup keeps mobbing you, jumping and mouthing in an attempt to get your attention, then get up and walk away. If necessary, leave the room for a few minutes. Only return once he is calm. Again, you are teaching him that calm behavior is rewarded with more play.
By Pippa Elliott
Published: 02/22/2018, edited: 01/08/2021