[A] Mouthing, Biting & Chewing
Article copyright by: Karen Clark, Versailles Kennels UK

From approximately five weeks of age until teething is finished and earlier, your puppy may bite at your hands, heels, clothes, try to snatch objects from your hands and exercise those razor sharp teeth. Generally a puppy will treat you like a litter mate, who he expects to rough and tumble with as a preliminary to hunting and stalking. This prey behaviour will be a source of food in the adult dog and is the kindergarden training ground for the puppy. A litter of puppies will play together quite happily until one puppy bites too hard. With an agonising scream, the bitten one will launch itself at the biter. World War 3 will erupt among all the puppies and for a short time there will be bedlam. Then the bitten one will march away, snorting as if to say, “There, that will teach him” and then the litter will play happily again. The lesson we can learn from observing puppy behaviour, is that there is acceptable pressure when biting a fellow sibling. Not acceptable pressure gains loud screams of reproach and strong punishment. I am not suggesting that you over-correct a puppy as they are fragile enough. React with a loud “Ouch – that hurt”, and push the puppy down on to the floor. Be careful that he does not sense that this is a great game, to be met with equal aggression. Firmly and quickly push the puppy down into a submissive position. You should have decided already if your puppy is simply playing and does not realise that you are hurting. What type of temperament has he? Placid, excitable, apprehensive? Was the mouthing playful, or was there a strong desire to dominate you? Your response range from pushing the puppy down, a loud “Ouch”, followed by ignoring him for a few minutes to express your dissatification with the behaviour – to firm correction and turning the puppy on his side and shaking him by the soft folds of skin around the jowls. The shake can range from very mild to very severe. Be aware that he puppy may have been testing to see what your reaction would be. Is he teething and tender around the gums? Have you had a look at the huge teeth erupting from the gums? A spray bottle filled with tap water, kept in a handy reaching place, can stop a puppy in his tracks when biting behaviour occurs. Excitable biting can be stopped in the above fashion or you may put him outside when he becomes over excited. Small children can squeal and run, causing the puppy to give way to prey behaviour. He will then catch and tear a child’s clothing or trip the child and jump on top. While this can be great fun for the puppy, the toddler or small child will not be similarly impressed. The screams of outrage only excite the puppy further and make a great game of chasing, tripping and holding a child. Some children tease a puppy until it retaliates in the only fashion available to it. Pups have a defense behaviour that appears in three parts. Defense, freeze, flight and bight. FREEZE exhibits when the pup is faced with a bad situation. An older child or an adult corners it, stands stock still (the child is uncertain what to do) and as the freeze by the child is a forerunner to attack in dog language, the pup will shift gear into the FIGHT part and launch itself at the child. The puppy is only reacting to a given situation, but try telling that to the parents of an injured child. FLIGHT is, of course, ‘he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day’ (with apologies for the mis-quote).

Pups bite, that I am afraid is how they socialise within a pack, you however are now his new pack and as leader of that pack you must learn to control it. WE NEVER HIT A DOG, WE NEVER ROAR AT A DOG, what we do is this : It comes as a great surprise to many puppy owners that their little darling arrived with a full set of sharp pointed teeth that the average shark would be proud of! Worse, the puppy likes to flex them on you! This information is designed for puppies under the age of 18 weeks – which still have their puppy teeth. If you have a dog over this age that is mouthing or biting please call the office for advice. Biting during play is essential and normal for all puppies, but you need to take action to reduce it in your home. Puppies have needle-sharp teeth for one reason only – so that when they bite, it hurts! This helps them to discover what is alive and what is not! This is normal and should not be treated as aggression. However, it is not acceptable for dogs to bite people – and puppies need to be given education in how to moderate their biting.

• Puppy biting teaches a pup just how hard it can bite other living things. Clearly, it can exert a huge amount of pressure on a lifeless object such as a toy, without causing any kind of reaction, while trying the same behaviour on a litter mate – or on us – will most certainly result in a big response!
• How do litter mates respond if they are bitten too hard? Puppies play by biting each others’ ears, tail, legs and any other part that they can catch hold of! This is accepted quite happily – until the pressure becomes too hard. Then the ‘victim’ is likely to yelp and stop playing for a short while, leaving the pup that bit too hard to realise that there were consequences to his actions. We need to mimic this response when teaching our own puppies not to bite.
• The process of learning to moderate biting is known as learning ‘bite inhibition’. It is vital that all puppies learn how to moderate their bites before they lose their deciduous teeth at around 18 weeks’ of age.

Suggestions Your puppy needs to know that biting hurts! This means that each and every time your puppy mouths your hands or clothes, you MUST:

• Yelp loudly or give a shout.
• Immediately turn away as if to nurse your wounds, and ignore your pup.
• Your puppy will probably look a little bewildered.
• Ignore your pup for about 20 seconds, then resume interacting.
• Repeat the “Ouch!” and turn away each and every time you feel his teeth.
• It is important to be consistent, that means everyone must do the same.

Biting will not stop immediately. Instead, it should become less and less hard over a period of about three to four weeks. At this point, your pup should realise that he cannot put any pressure on you at all, and then you can yelp even if he puts his mouth on you gently – finally teaching him that he cannot initiate biting. IMPORTANT! Do not play rough and tumble games with your puppy, or play any game where the pup grabs your clothes, skin or hair. (Dad, listen!!!) This is giving your puppy permission to bite and will set back all your other efforts. Help, we’re still having problems! This process works well for the vast majority of puppies. However, there are exceptions: pups which are already well over 14 weeks’ old and puppies which have learned to bite for attention! If you find that yelping and turning away has had no effect, despite total consistency for a fortnight, or if your puppy seems to become more excited and snappy if you yelp, you may need a different strategy.

• Take all the fun out of the behaviour! This means no laughing, squealing or shouting if your puppy bites.
• As soon as your dog puts his mouth on you, even in play, say “Wrong” or “Quit it” in a normal voice, then immediately put him in the kitchen or behind a door or baby gate.
• This social isolation should only last about 3 minutes, then he can rejoin the family.
• However, if your puppy gets excited by being picked up, simply say “Wrong” then get up and leave the room yourself, shutting the door behind you. Children can do this very effectively.
• Be consistent! It will take many repetitions before your puppy understands that biting results in the loss of fun.

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Decide who is responsible for feeding and cleaning up after her. Don’t deviate from the schedule. Routine is especially important for your puppy. Don’t spend all your time with her. If she is going to be alone during the day or night, she needs to start getting used to it now. If she wakes up from a nap and whines, resist the urge to run in and comfort her. When more than one of you get involved it just confuses the pup and problems begin that are a nightmare to stop. Since puppies are so impressionable, it is important to begin explaining the rules right away. Don’t give her special license to get away with anything just because she is a puppy. If you allow her to have her way about certain things now, she will only be confused later when you decide to change the rules. Puppies learn very quickly with proper instruction.

Never hit your puppy or give harsh reprimands. They don’t mean to misbehave – they are just doing whatever comes naturally. Instead, show your puppy what kind of behavior you want. Teach her to play with her toys. Make them fun and exciting. Let her know how happy you are and how good she is when she chews them.

Then, when you see her chewing your furniture, firmly tell her, “OFF” and immediately show her one of her own toys. Encourage her to play with and chew on it. Praise her profusely when she does so. If you don’t catch her in the act, anything you do will confuse her. The only way you can instruct your puppy is to be there. If you can’t be there, don’t allow her to have access to places where she can get into trouble.

Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian immediately. Discuss your puppy’s vaccination schedule and when she will be allowed outside. Puppies are susceptible to many canine diseases until they are fully vaccinated; so don’t take your puppy outside until your veterinarian says it is OK.
Your puppy’s emotional and mental health is just as important as her physical health. When your schedule your puppy’s first veterinary visit, also schedule her into a puppy socialization class. She may not be able to attend yet, but reserve your place now so you don’t miss out. Puppy socialization classes give your puppy an opportunity to meet a variety of people and dogs in a controlled situation.

If your puppy is to be a well-adjusted adult dog, she needs to learn how to act properly around other dogs and people. Dogs that are not socialized frequently grow up to be aggressive and excessively fearful.

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