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Training your puppy when you bring him home with you is generally the number one task on any new dog owner’s list. From obedience to house training to preventing separation anxiety, there are tons of issues to tackle during his journey through puppyhood, and managing them all at once is not always easy. There are bound to be things here and there that fall through the cracks,
One of the issues that puppy owners come across often is the painful nipping that comes along with some rough play. Puppies have sharp little teeth that can cause some discomfort for other dogs if they’re uncertain of their own strength. Socialization with other dogs is important for puppies to develop good manners, but dealing with a nippy puppy can be a chore all on its own for both the owner and the other dogs in the area.
Biting and nipping is natural puppy behavior and it is common for a puppy to not have manners when it comes to interacting with other dogs. Puppies learn manners from their mother and littermates and sometimes, the provided role models are not quite what we’d hope. Puppies can also pick up bad habits from their environment, whether it was accidentally reinforced or not. Despite this, your puppy should learn the appropriate behavior as soon as possible, starting from when you first bring him home, and should be reinforced for at least three to six weeks in order to assure that the better, more appropriate habit is established.
Positive reinforcement for the appropriate behavior and interrupting bad manners are both tools to utilize during this training, as it can keep a small problem from developing into a much larger one later on.
Before your training begins, make sure your puppy is fully vaccinated. Puppies shouldn’t interact with other dogs outside of their litter until they’ve received all of their vaccinations in order for them to stay happy and healthy.
Once that is done, invest in a few chew toys and other items that are good and healthy for your puppy’s teeth. Treats and snacks that are made to be a little tough and chewy are ideal, but remember not to get anything too hard, or this could damage the teeth! Use these items often for downtime, play time, and rewards.
The Socialization Method
Wait to bring your puppy home
Ideally, your puppy should be kept with his mother and littermates until at least eight weeks of age. This is where he will develop some of his bite inhibition and manners.
Start socialization as early as possible
Once your puppy is home and vaccinated, begin exposing him to plenty of other dogs and people.
Use good role models
Focus on meetings with dogs that are calm and well behaved, as they can help teach your pup good manners and how to properly use his teeth without causing harm.
Have continuous play dates
Have play dates as often as possible! The more exposure your puppy gets to other dogs, the better.
Avoid dog parks early on
Dog parks are notorious for being free-for-alls where both good and bad influences are likely to mix. Avoid bringing your puppy to a dog park where you aren’t sure of the sorts of confrontations he may come across. Biting at a cranky park visitor can result in some extremely dangerous circumstances.
The Bite Inhibition Method
Watch for inappropriate behavior
Keep an eye on your puppy as she plays and interacts with other dogs. Supervise each and every time to prevent any incidents from happening without you knowing.
Stop play when necessary
If she begins to bite and nip excessively or inappropriately, put a stop to play time as soon as you see the behavior.
Take your pup and place her in a separate area, away from the other dog for a few moments. This will help teach her that as soon as she starts biting, playtime is over.
Reintroduce when possible
Once she has calmed down some, bring your puppy back to the play area to continue to interact.
Repeat often to offset bad behavior
Continue to separate your puppy whenever she exhibits bad manners with her teeth. Eventually, she will realize that not using her mouth will get her what she wants: continuing to play and interact with the other dog.
The Redirection Method
Offer plenty of alternatives
Set out plenty of toys and other things for your puppy use his teeth on other than the other dog.
Rotate options out
Take out and put new toys into the area often so your puppy always has something exciting to explore.
Reward for appropriate use
Toss in some treats on occasion when you notice your pup behaving appropriately.
Prevent instead of interrupt
Keep hands and fingers away from your puppy’s mouth and teeth to discourage biting. This can translate over to his behavior with other dogs and he may be less likely to use his teeth.
Use ‘leave it’ to your advantage
Use obedience training to teach your pup to ‘leave it’ when you don’t want him to bite something or someone. Reward him for focusing his attention on you instead of the thing he wants to bite.
By TJ Trevino
Published: 04/13/2018, edited: 01/08/2021