How to Stop a Puppy from Biting and Nipping
For young puppies, biting and nipping are
natural behaviours. When they are very young puppies learn to play by wrestling
with their litter
mates. However, as they don’t
have hands, they often grab onto each other by biting and nipping each other. Although this
behaviour is natural and normal, you must nonetheless have a zero tolerance level towards it. From day one, biting and nipping must be unacceptable towards other dogs, other animals, and especially
people. If you do not stop this behaviour when they are puppies, they will continue to do it when
they are adults. Dogs must be taught that putting their teeth on any skin, but especially human
skin, is forbidden. A single dog bite is enough for the authorities to take a dog away
and destroy him.
Here are some guidelines that you should follow to ensure that your puppy doesn’t start down the biting and nipping
1) Always be
consistent. Don’t allow biting during play, and then try and stop it at other
times. Biting is always wrong and should always be corrected.
2) Don’t play games in
which you pit your strength against your dogs, like tug of war or wrestling. This encourages
your dog to see you (and therefore other humans) as equals, and will encourage biting.
3) Don’t allow a puppy to
chase children, nipping at their heals.
4) Teach your children to
play quietly with your puppy. No roughhousing allowed. Your puppy must not see your children as littermates.
5) Don’t allow your puppy
to grab his leash, chew on it, or mouth it.
If you follow all of the above rules, and your puppy is still threatening to bite, take the following corrective
1) Carry a squirt bottle
filled with 1/8 vinegar and 7/8 water. If you puppy is nipping at your heals, give him a spray
while saying “Acck! No Bite!” Praise him gently when he back off.
2) If you have your hands
on your puppy when he tries to nip you, use one hand to grab his collar (or the scruff of his neck) while you use the other one to grab his
snout to keep it closed. Repeat the “acck! No Bite!” command while keeping his snout gently
but firmly closed. You will want to keep his snout closed until your puppy visibly
relaxes. Make sure you wait your puppy out on this.
3) If he tries to bite you
or anyone else, give the “acck! No Bite!” command and immediately put him in his crate. Leave
him alone for a bit so that he can think about what he did.
Whenever you discipline your puppy for biting, make
sure that you never lose your temper. If you do, your puppy will pick up on this, which will only
make him more aggressive.
Here’s another interesting point. When you give the
“acck! No bite!” command, you are actually trying to simulate what happens in a
litter. If a puppy bites one of his siblings too hard, the sibling will let out a yelp and the
puppy will back off. This is how puppies learn how much they can bite without causing
injury. However, if a puppy is removed from his mother too soon, he may never learn
this. What you must do is to get across to your puppy that no amount of biting, no matter how
gently applied, is acceptable. This is why you need to instantly yelp “Ack! No Bite” whenever
your puppy even attempts to nip.
It needs to be pointed out that the above advice is only meant for puppies. If you
have a dog that is a biter, you need to see a professional trainer or animal behaviourist immediately. Only professional help can potentially save your dog from this destructive behaviour.
PS If you are still having trouble with your puppy nipping and biting, you should check out the dog training program that Dove Cresswell has put together. Dove trains dogs for film and television in
Hollywoon North (otherwise known as Vancouver, Canada, my hometown!). Her program uses online video's, which makes it very easy to
understand. Click here or on the picture to the right to learn more.