Q&A: How do I stop my puppy from biting?
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Q: My 4-month-old Lab-mix puppy bites everything — my kids, their clothes, our hands, my robes. Everything. We’ve got a wide variety of chew toys and edible bones, which she likes, but redirection only works about one out of three times. What else can we do? She isn’t fun to be around for the first few high-energy hours of the day. — Sara L.
Andrea Arden, CPDT at Andrea Arden Dog Training in New York City, writes:
Pups mouth their littermates in play as a way of having fun and learning valuable information about bite inhibition. That is: When they nip too hard, the other pup stops playing.
Likewise, your pup needs to learn that nipping delicate human skin results in the end of the good stuff, albeit just temporarily. Here’s how you can teach her:
Have your pup leashed when she’s with you. For the next three to four weeks, have your puppy on a leash at all times when supervised. This way you have a gentle, but very effective, way of giving a time-out.
Give time-outs for nipping and rough play. If your pup nips, hold the leash at arm’s length and wait for her to calm down. When you puppy is calm again, re-initiate gentle play.
Schedule extra exercise for high-energy times of day. Like us, all pups have times of the day when they are most energized. Be sure to reserve some of your puppy’s favorite plush toys for those times. You can play “fetch, then give” as a way of focusing her energy — and mouth! — on something appropriate. Simply toss your pup’s favorite toy and have her bring it back, then drop it. To get your puppy to release the toy, you can offer a tiny treat.
Have your children reward calm play from a distance at first. I strongly suggest that you tether your puppy’s leash to a stable object when your children engage her. Tether her to a spot with a six foot leash. Then have the kids sit in a safe zone — out of reach of her teeth — and interact with her by hand feeding and practicing “sit” and “down.” This should last until your puppy can show some self-control in regards to nipping in play.
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