So, you have had your puppy for a few weeks and suddenly the loving, snuggly, puppy breath lovebug you had disappears. In her place comes a biting machine, the likes of a small great white shark! You have just entered the teething phase and it can last until the puppy is 9 months old. But fear not, friends, we have some great advice!
Teething and Biting
First and foremost, all puppies go through biting and teething phases. Some are worse than others. If you have more than one dog, the puppy will take much of the “mouthing” out on the other dog, saving your tender skin and flesh. If not, here are some tips to help you get through it.
- Understand: that just like babies, puppies teething hurts. He is mouthing anything because he is hurting. He has no way to tell you so he may be moody, whiney and bitey. It’s a natural part of their growing up. Things that help ease that pain will ease their desire to bite on you.
- Treats: frozen treats like ice cubes will help. You can also give your puppy things he likes (that are healthy for him) but freeze them first. We will give some healthy treat ideas in another article.
- Chews: always have good chews on hand for your dog. We recommend using a company like BarkBox (http://www.barkbox.com/r/sc/BZX58PTX2X) where you can get new toys tailored for your dog each month at an affordable price. These toys and treats are safe, healthy and durable. My dogs are heavy chewers so I have to go with the Super Chewer pack. The point is, whatever you use, make sure you do not get flimsy chew toys that they can eat. That will harm your dog and end up with a problem down the road that typically involves a visit to the vet.
- NEVER: allow them to chew on your hands, fingers, or any other body parts from day one. This sends a mixed message. If you allow it in the beginning, your dog will not understand why it’s not allowed now.
- Do Not: play with your puppy with your hands only. Always have a toy to engage. This encourages your pup to know that chewing on something else is the right thing.
- OUCH: When your puppy does nip you, immediately pull your hand away and say “ouch” and “no” so your pup knows that the behavior is not acceptable. You must do this every time. There are no “cute” bites.
Teething is serious business. The teeth feel like little razors and can do some damage on your skin. When our dogs were puppies, one of them was so aggressive with her chewing, it looked like I had been in a fight with a pair of scissors, and lost! We had a very difficult time teaching her that “no” means “no” with respect to biting and teething. Having the right chew toys on hand made the difference.
Larger dogs may not cut into your skin as much when they “mouth” you but their bite force alone can crush the bones in your hand and arm. One of our dogs was so strong as a pup that although he did not cut with his teeth, just the force of his mouthing hurt more than the cuts. It only takes a minute for the tiny bones in your hand to be crushed and your large pup has no idea he or she has done anything wrong.
- Try not to overreact to your pup. Just remember that he or she is doing what is natural for a dog.
- Don’t punish your dog for play biting. Teach him to bite the appropriate things
- Do not hit your dog. This will result in an aggressive, fearful dog and nothing good will come from this for either of you.
- If you have issues with your dog biting that go beyond teething, consult a certified training. Your vet should be able to recommend someone who has experience. You need to work with this issue while your dog is young. Trying to work these issues out when your dog is big can get someone hurt.
When Biting Is Not Teething
There are times when a puppy bites as a form of defense. These are not teething bites and can get nasty especially as your dog ages, even with small dogs. For example, we adopted a small lab mix. He was a loving dog and suddenly one day he refused to allow anyone other than myself to pick him up. As soon as family members went to pick him up, he backed up and became aggressive, to the point of biting. Being more aggressive is not the answer in this situation because it was obvious from his behavior that he was already frightened. We consulted our dog trainer who specializes in this type of behavior. After working with us for only one session, we had a plan, specifically tailored to our dog. We learned that he reacted that way because he equated being picked up with always going into a crate. We began to pick him up just to love on him and we also began to use a leash system as well. If we had waited until he was a full grown dog, hoping he would grow out of it, we may have had a major issue on our hands. It’s much easier to handle a 20 lb dog than one that is 70 lbs. I am happy to report that he is well adjusted, still has a bit of an attitude but is a much more loving, well rounded almost 50 lb puppy.
We want to raise up puppies that love and respect us so we want to teach our puppies to chew on safe things, not us! And we don’t want him to be afraid of us. We just want him to know the right things to bite.
Before long, the teething will be over and you will forget all about it, until your next puppy!