How to Train a Havanese Puppy to Not Bite

How to Train a Havanese Puppy to Not Bite
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon2-12 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

Puppies are adorable, and arguably a Havanese puppy more than most. With that delightful soft curly fur and black button nose, the Havanese pup could easily be mistaken for a teddy bear. However, if you've been on the receiving end of a nip from the pup, it doesn't matter how sweet he looks, the bite still hurts. 

Now is a step-through moment to nip (pardon the pun) this bad behavior in the bud before it becomes established. It's probable that you get advice from friends and family, some telling you to smack the pup, others saying it's not fair to do so. 

Once, out of desperation, you shouted at the pup, but he seemed so cowed afterward you didn't like to do it again. But what is the right way? How should you teach that adorable teddy-bear pup not to bite? 

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Defining Tasks

Havanese are a mild and gentle breed that make for a great family pet. But just like any breed, he does need to learn good manners, and this includes not nipping. Even more than this, it's important to teach him a general rule that biting as a whole is not acceptable. This means teaching the pup some self-control so that he doesn't become over-excited, which is the most common reason for biting or nipping in puppies.

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Getting Started

You need minimal equipment to teach a Havanese, or any puppy, not to bite. Most important is knowledge and understanding how a puppy's mind works and how you can get the message across. 

It is helpful to have the following equipment: 

  • Toys, such as tuggers or balls, so that you can play without your hands being near the dog's mouth
  • Treats to reward the pup when he does well
  • A place you can withdraw to when the puppy gets over excited and won't calm down
  • A watch or means of timing 15 seconds. 

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The Bite Inhibition Method

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What is bite inhibition?

Puppies learn a lot about what's OK and what isn't through play with their littermates. Biting is a perfect example. During a game when a puppy nips another, that other pup is likely to squeal and object. He may even stop the game. Thus the first puppy learns to nip more gently (or not at all) so that the game doesn't stop.

2

Why teach bite inhibition?

Bite inhibition is a form of self-control. Thus the dog learns to control their biting behavior and stop it. This is different to smacking a dog to make him stop biting. With the latter the dog stops himself biting out of fear of that one person. Although the difference is a subtle one, it matters. A dog that has learned self-control will not bite when his paw is trodden on. However, if someone other than the owner steps on the paw of the smacked dog, the dog is still likely to bite because he hasn't generalized his learning.

3

Take a lesson from the littermates

To teach bite inhibition think about how the pup's littermates react. They squeal or cry when bitten, and withdraw from the game. This gives the pup a verbal signal that the bite hurt, plus the fun stops, which is a form of punishment.

4

Put theory into practice

In practical terms, this means yelping or crying out when the pup mouths your skin. Let your hand go limp and then make whimpering noises. Most importantly, end the game he was playing. Do this every time and the pup will understand that humans are really delicate and for the game to continue he has to be really careful not to mouth their skin.

5

Walk away as needed

If the puppy is so overexcited that even yelping doesn't get through to him, then be prepared to get up and leave the room. This is the ultimate withdrawing of attention. Only return and resume the game once the pup is calm.

The Self-Control Method

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Are you mad? Teach a dog self-control!

Most pups bite not because they are aggressive but because they get over-excited. By regularly interrupting play in order that the puppy calms down, you can avoid over-excitement and reduce biting behaviors.

2

Understand the plan

The idea is to play in short bursts of around 15 seconds, then stop and wait for the pup to calm down. The game resumes once he is calm, hence rewarding the better behavior. Because play stops before he gets overexcited and starts nipping, this makes this behavior less likely.

3

Time 15 seconds of play

Start a game with a tug toy or an object that doesn't involve the dog having direct contact with your hand. Engage him in a game, but keep an eye on your watch and stop after 15 seconds. Put the toy down and wait for the dog to grow calm.

4

Praise the dog's calmness

Once he grows quiet, praise him and tell him how clever he is. This helps him understand that calm is good.

5

Restart the game

Now restart the game as a reward for being calm. Keep repeating in this cycle, so the pup has short periods of play interspersed with timeout periods.

6

Adding a cue word

As the pup gets better at controlling excitement, put this action on cue by using a command. When you stop play say "Calm" as he grows quiet, then praise him. You can also gradually extend the length of the bursts of play, by adding on 5 seconds, being sure not to overtax the pup and have him play for so long he gets over excited.

The Do's and Don'ts Method

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Don't: Smack or punish the puppy

This may seem to work, but what's happening is the pup becomes fearful of you which inhibits the biting. However, he doesn't learn the more general rule that biting anyone is unacceptable. Indeed, he may even hide feelings of aggression or frustration and bite unexpectedly as a result of being fearful of your reaction.

2

Don't: Use your hands as toys

Young puppies investigate everything with their mouths. Thus, it's unfair to expect a pup not to bite your hand if you offer it out as a toy. Don't tease him with your fingers or prod and poke the puppy into reacting.

3

Do: Use toys

Chose toys that put some distance between you and the puppy's teeth, such as tuggers, balls, or cuddly toys. Use these in games so the dog doesn't learn to grip your skin.

4

Don't be bashful

It's important to squeal and cry loudly, and then play act that you are hurt when the puppy nips. You may feel strange doing this, so explain to the family what's going on and why, so that you don't feel inhibited about communicating with the pup in this way he understands.

5

Do: Seek professional help

If you are struggling with a bity puppy then call for professional help sooner rather than later. Young puppies are receptive to learning and so now is the time to correct that bad behavior. Speak to a certified animal behaviorist or a dog trainer who uses reward-based methods.

By Pippa Elliott

Published: 03/07/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Siena

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Havanese

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8 Weeks

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Question

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Nippi behavior, biting of feet and hands. Not constant.

July 7, 2022

Siena's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello AC, Check out the article linked below. Starting today, use the "Bite Inhibition" method. BUT at the same time, begin teaching "Leave It" from the "Leave It" method. As soon as pup is good as the Leave It game, start telling pup to "Leave It" when she attempts to bite or is tempted to bite. Reward pup if she makes a good choice. If she disobeys your leave it command, use the Out command from the second article linked below to make her leave the area as a consequence. The order or all of this is very important - the Bite Inhibition method can be used for the next couple of weeks while pup is learning leave it, but leave it will teach pup to stop the biting entirely. The Out method teaches pup that you mean what you say without being overly harsh - but because you have taught pup to leave it first, pup clearly understands that you are not just playing (which is what pup probably thinks most of the time right now), so it is more effective. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means leave the area, is also a good command for you to use if pup bites the kids. Check out the section on Using Out to Deal with Pushy Behavior for how to calmly enforce that command once it's taught. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Another important part of this is puppy learning bite inhibition. Puppies have to learn while young how to control the pressure of their mouths - this is typically done through play with other puppies. See if there is a puppy class in your area that comes well recommended and has time for moderated off-leash puppy play. If you can't join a class, look for a free puppy play group, or recruit some friends with puppies to come over if you can and create your own group. You are looking for puppies under 6 months of age - since young puppies play differently than adult dogs. Right now, an outside class may be best in a fenced area, or letting friends' pups play in someone's fence outside. Moderate the puppies' play and whenever one pup seems overwhelmed or they are all getting too excited, interrupt their play, let everyone calm down, then let the most timid pup go first to see if they still want to play - if they do, then you can let the other puppies go too when they are waiting for permission. Finding a good puppy class - no class will be ideal but here's what to shoot for: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/puppy-classes-when-to-start/ When pup gets especially wound up, she probably needs a nap too. At this age puppies will sometimes get really hyper when they are overtired or haven't had any mental stimulation through something like training. When you spot that and think pup could be tired, place pup in their crate or an exercise pen with a food stuffed Kong for a bit to help her calm down and rest. Practicing regular obedience commands or having pup earn what they get by performing commands like Sit and Down before feeding, petting, tossing a toy, opening the door for a walk, ect... can also help stimulate pup mentally to increase calmness and wear them out. Commands that practice focus, self-control, and learning something a bit new or harder than before can all tire out puppies. Finally, check out the PDF e-book downloads found on this website, written by one of the founders of the association of professional dog trainers, and a pioneer in starting puppy kindergarten classes in the USA. Click on the pictures of the puppies to download the PDF books: https://www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads/ Know that mouthiness at this age is completely normal. It's not fun but it is normal for it to take some time for a puppy to learn self-control well enough to stop. Try not to get discouraged if you don't see instant progress, any progress and moving in the right direction in this area is good, so keep working at it. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

July 7, 2022

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Wlf

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havanese mix

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5 Years

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Came from a shelter nervous and there a likens

June 1, 2022

Wlf's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Patti, Could you please reward your question. I am a bit confused by the word likens. What behaviors is pup displaying. Is pup fearful, aggressive, and if so what triggers pup's fear or aggression? Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 1, 2022


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