Puppy Biting and Nipping

1. Puppies explore with their mouths just like babies explore with their hands.  Puppies have sharp teeth and weak jaws – so this is the time to teach them to bite gently – and then not at all – before they develop the strong jaws of an adolescent dog. It is important to teach your puppy to reduce both the force and frequency of his biting.

2.  To do this, play with your puppy.  Sit on the floor and purposely put your hands near your puppy’s mouth.  If you feel a hard bite, say Ouch! And stop playing. If your puppy stops biting, lure him into a sit and reward and start playing again. If your puppy ignores the ‘ouch’, and continues to bite, say OOOWWW and leave the room.  Come back after a 20 second time out and do a little sit/down training before starting to play again.

3. An excellent way to practice this is to tether your puppy in an area where he can’t have any fun except with you.  Sit on the floor and play with your puppy and when you feel hard bite, say Ouch! Then get up and leave the area for 20 seconds.  Repeat this 10 times in a row twice a day.  You should be able to play longer and longer between hard bites. Then start reacting to the softer bites as well.  If you have children, each person should practice this exercise separately, starting with the adults.

4. Another way to teach your puppy to have a ‘gentle mouth’ is to hand feed him.  Your puppy only gets the food when being gentle – and not grabby. If your puppy likes to bite and grab pant legs, stop moving immediately and interrupt him.  Call his name and then ask him to do something else such as Sit.

5. Be aware that when your puppy is excited, he’ll be more mouthy and bitey.  So first practice when he’s calm.  When he is calm, you can do a lot of gentle petting and give him a nice belly rub.  If he bites, then all petting stops for 20 seconds.  Another consequence to biting is 30 second time out in his crate.  Don’t do this in anger – it’s just a neutral consequence to his biting – “Oops – time out – in your crate.”

If you don’t see an improvement in reduced biting, consult a Certified Professional Dog Trainer in your area.

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Playing with Your Puppy!


Playing regularly with your puppy will help you form a strong bond.  The purpose of play is to develop skills that will be useful throughout their lives, such as impulse control.  The more games you play with your puppy, the more he will consider you to be the most interesting thing in his world. Encouraging puppies to play with toys provides a good outlet for their physical and mental energies.

You puppy should have two sets of toys:  toys that he can play with by himself and ‘interactive toys’ that he can only play with you.  Keep the interactive toys put away so you initiate play and keep you and the toys interesting to your puppy. 

Developing interest in the toy

Rather than just offer your puppy a new toy, take it out, play with it yourself, or play catch with another family member and act like you are having fun.  Then put the toy away.  Repeat this until your puppy is chomping at the bit to join in the play.  Keep toy moving/wiggling along the ground. Then select your special toys that you will put away after every play session.

Enthusiasm first, control later

Build enthusiasm for play first, then put in controls like sit and wait later.  Keep the games fun!!

Types of Games

Fetch – often preferred by herding dogs, retrievers and hounds

Tug – often preferred by guard dogs and bull breeds

Shake and Kill- often preferred by terriers

Rules of the Games

Invite your puppy to play with you often

With Tug of War, win more often than you lose

Do not play too roughly

Teach him to “Drop It” on command – stop tugging and trade for treat

Stop before your puppy gets bored – play several short sessions per day

Stop playing immediately if you feel any teeth to skin

Stop playing if your puppy begins to growl or gets over-excited

Always put the toy away after the game

Teaching impulse control

Teaching your puppy control during games will help your adult dog maintain control, even in times of stress or excitement.  After your puppy has developed great enthusiasm for the games, practice sits/waits, downs/waits and recalls before and during play.

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Housetraining 101

1. The best way to house-train your puppy is to consistently and generously reward him for going in the right place and prevent him from going in the wrong place.

2. You want to teach your puppy the ‘rewarding’ place to go and to give him plenty of opportunities to eliminate there.  This means pro-actively taking him out every hour or so when he’s awake, after naps, after eating and after playing, as well as first thing in the morning and last thing at night.  Stay pro-active about bringing your puppy outside – don’t expect him to let you know he has to go.  As you build up a consistent reward history for him going in the right spot, he will be more motivated to go there.

3. Make sure you bring your puppy out on leash so you can control where he walks and sniffs. Go to the elimination area and just stand there and let him walk around and sniff a bit but keep him in the general area.  Be aware that any distractions will interrupt his peeing or pooping – cars, people, squirrels, etc.  Watch for signs that he is about to go so you recognize them over time.  A small puppy may only pause briefly to pee so you need to be very observant. 

4. As soon as your puppy finishes, verbally praise him and give him 5-6 tiny treats in a row.  If he doesn’t go, bring him back and take him out 5 minutes later.  Watch him carefully when you do go back in because that may be where he is more comfortable going.  Continue to go out every 5-10 minutes until your puppy goes and then lavishly praise and reward him with high value treats. Make sure you’re with him when he goes so A) you know that he went and B) to teach him that it is rewarding to ‘go’ when he is next to you.

5.  Next, you want to start tracking your puppy’s elimination schedule so you can anticipate when you need to take him out.  When inside, watch for sniffing or circling as a sign that he needs to go and ‘when in doubt, take him out’.  If he does have an accident inside, calmly clean it up with a proper odor eliminator and take note of when and where the accident happened so you can be more diligent about preventing it next time.

6. Punishing your puppy after the fact does no good –he won’t understand why you’re yelling at him so don’t it.  Just be more observant next time. The first few weeks of owning a puppy are some of the hardest and most important. Spending extra time and effort now will pay off in a big way. If your puppy has an accident inside, take a newspaper, roll it up and hit yourself in the head with it!

7. Once he’s going regularly in his spot, start putting this behavior on command- use whatever phrase you want but be consistent:  “Hurry up”, “Do your Business”, “Do Potty”, “Potty time”, whatever.  Start saying the command as your puppy starts to go.  Don’t say it when you’re not sure – we want him to associate the command with the correct behavior.  Eventually start saying the command earlier and it will be his cue to go.  This will come in very handy on a rainy or cold night when you want him to go quickly so you can get back inside.

8. Finally and the most important, the only way for you to prevent your puppy from going in the wrong place is by using 100% management and supervision.  This means that when you can’t watch your puppy, he’s in his crate and when he is out of his crate, he’s never out of your sight.  You’ll need to gate off a small area of your kitchen or family room or have your puppy on a leash attached to your belt. 

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