Dealing with a chewing, mouthing, biting, nipping puppy.


Biting and mouthing behavior in puppies can be a very frustrating time during puppy development. It is important to keep in mind this is a phase and will not last indefinitely.

Our goal during this difficult time is to understand why the behavior exists and how to deal with it in an effective and positive way.

Puppies bite and mouth for these reasons:

  • To determine social hierarchy in the group
  • To relieve discomfort from teething
  • Social play
  • Boredom
  • Exploration (of textures and taste)

It is important to understand what is driving the behavior in order to develop a strategy to deal with it. While one method may be effective in one instance, the same method can elevate the nipping and biting in another instance. Knowing the temperament of the puppy is instrumental in knowing which tactic to use.

The Dominant Puppy

If you have a prey oriented or dominant puppy, you do not want to engage in activities that will bring out these qualities. In this case, we want to avoid quick moving gestures or engaging in power struggles as this would only elicit more mouthing behavior.

The Shy Puppy

The shy puppy will be in conflict between the desire to engage in social play and avoidance behavior. It is imperative to use positive and gentle interventions in this type of pup.

The Social Puppy

These will be the easiest to deal with. Social puppies are more likely to accept guidance and are less likely to challenge their owner.

The Intervention

First of all, it is imperative to have control of your puppy. He should be on a leash or at least have a leash attached and be allowed to drag it around the house. He should have plenty of toys to chew on, and it is best to have a favourite toy that you have control over.

I like to use a rag and always have it in a pocket. When a puppy is unable to control his mouthing, I will offer him the rag to chew as I walk him to his crate for a time out. This is particularly beneficial for the dominant/aggressive puppy that is unable to calm himself or goes higher in drive.

For the shy puppy, a time out in the crate is usually sufficient to get the point across. For the shy puppy the goal is to build confidence to avoid the possibility of later fear biting behavior.

Puppies need lots of socialisation. They need to learn proper behavior in their interactions with humans and other animals. Lack of proper socialisation can lead to biting problems later in adulthood. Even if you don't have children, it is important to expose your puppy to kids so he learns how to behave. The same goes with other dogs, he need to learn how to interact with other dogs otherwise dog aggression can result.

As in all training, the three cardinal rules are: consistency, consistency, consistency.

Mark Weston has been training dogs for 30 years. Mark has titled dogs in Obedience, Schutzhund, Ringsport and Tracking. He owns and trains German Shepherd Dogs.

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