Updated: Mar 16, 2021
Puppy teeth start to come through at around 3 weeks of age, their jaws are not very strong so the teeth need to be sharp like needles. It isn't until puppies are 12 weeks that their jaws becomes strong enough to do the work and so the baby teeth will start to be pushed out by the adult teeth, an adult mouth will have around 42 adult teeth so you can imagine the pain your puppy experiences as they push through.
Puppies investigate the world with their mouths; is it alive, how does it taste and feel? the razor teeth help with pups world inspection.
Puppies learn biting inhibition from their mothers and siblings but when they join our families we have to take over and become the teacher, so HOW?
When a puppy is playing too hard with another puppy and they get over excited and bite too hard the playmate will yelp and that usually is enough to stop the puppy in their tracks releasing their bite and taking a step back from play for a moment. After a pause the two will usually start the game again but the puppy will more often than not be more gentle. Should the puppy reoffend the victim of the bite may choose to walk off and end the game.
Through this type of play and interaction puppies learn to control their bite, how hard and the intensity, they don't intentionally want to cause harm and they really don't want play to end.
Human skin is more sensitive than the skin of puppies and dogs so we will feel it at a higher intensity which is difficult for a puppy to gage at first. Pups teeth are like little needles and so the process is a challenge for us to get right, mostly because we want to get our hand away from those little weapons quickly.
Play biting is a right of passage for all Puppies and thankfully it doesn't last forever, PHEW!
We do need to educate our Pups that biting us isn't acceptable and so we need to keep play biting to a minimum.
The first rule is to not handle your puppy when they are in a state of arousal, if you pick pup up and they bite you, you have inadvertently taught your puppy that biting works.
You can interact with you puppy when they are calm and relaxed, you can stroke them and gently play with them with a toy. Feeding from your hands will let them learn how to interact with you hands, and you can show them how to take food gently.
Unlike when playing with their siblings or peers, we do not accept pups teeth on our skin, as soon as they do we are going to make it clear that that was a mistake, you can say something like ut ut, oh dear, too bad, or simply oops, and with that you will walk away. This works particularly well if you are using a play pen, when you need to you can escape from pup easily and return once you have allowed pup to reset (calm down again).
This way we give pup a consequence of teeth on human skin, should they do it we leave the game, all play and attention stops.
Don't get me wrong you will do hundreds of repetitions before pup gets the rule completely. Try to leave in a calm relaxed way, you leaving should be enough of a consequence, there is no need to punish, shout or physically reprimand pup.
The times that pup does bite, try not to pull your hand away in a fast motion by turning your hand into a prey toy to chase. Make it limp and boring so pup is uninterested and knows it's not part of the game. Yelping in a high pitch voice also isn't advisable as this can stimulate some puppies.
Just say your "Oh Dear" and leave.
Time outs are often very effective for curbing mouthing.
After the time out return calmly and start a gentle game with pup. Try throwing a toy or do some training of "Sit' etc to mentally stimulate them but not over excite them. If your puppy repeats their over excited play then repeat the time out until pup learns that play only continues when they are calm. Try to always end on a positive training move where pup gets a treat or a fuss.
What we are teaching our puppy is that gentle play is great but play ends if they make contact with our skin. Practice gentle play.
If your puppy bites you even when you are stroking them then get them used to you touching them slowly with one hand and drip feeding treats with the other.
I suggest in the early days you carry some toys around with you or have them within reach so that should pup start to bite your trouser leg , pull on your pj's and try to play tuggy as you are walking (a lot of puppies like to ambush your leg) you can redirect with a toy. Instantly stop walking. If you have a toy start waving the toy around enticingly and either throw it for them to chase or start playing a bit of tuggy, then start walking again, if they reoffend repeat the process of stopping and redirecting. If you don't have a toy stay still until they stop pulling your trousers and praise them and say "lets go look for a toy" and find them a toy to play with. If they are going crazy and you feel they will damage your clothes take the material in your hand close to their mouth and hold it tight and repeat "Drop it", the trouser will be boring now as they can't do anything with it and will release, again don't pull it or they will see it as a game. Once they have let go praise and say "Drop it, Good" and fuss and say "lets go get you a toy" and play or treat them.
Try and provide some puppy play and good socialisation, which you can do in puppy class and the park itself once your pup is fully vaccinated, until then check with your vet to see if they have any puppy parties. Also let them interact with friendly adult dogs so that they can also learn how to interact gently with them.
Mix your puppy with humans and, where possible, children in a controlled environment. Never leave children alone with your puppy until they have both learnt how to interact safely for both the puppy and the child's safety. I will write a blog on that soon.
Your puppy will soon learn boundaries but you must be patient and understanding.
Playful mouthing is normal for a young puppy, stay patient and have faith that it will end.
Play bonds us with our puppies and so we don't want to discourage play or go about it badly.
You want to teach your puppy gentle play rather than no play at all.
Avoid jerking your hand or feet away from your puppy they will only see this as play and chase more.
Let your hand go limp/stop walking or hold the material so that it is not fun any more, this includes sock stealing etc.
Slapping, hitting or just shouting at your puppy may only encourage them to bite harder and become reactive, and play aggressively.
Physical punishment will also make your puppy afraid of you and could create more problems futher down the line.
There are a few reasons a Pup will chew, Teething, they're Bored, Investigating or simply cause they Found it lol.
Getting upset serves no purpose.
If it's teething then you really have to appreciate the pain your puppy is feeling, the amount of teeth that are coming through cause constant discomfort at around 18 weeks, this is not a pleasant time for you little Fur Baby, and when you think of it this way you can see why you getting upset is really unfair to pup.
Chewing alleviates the pressure they are feeling from the teeth pushing up and also helps to encourage the teeth to come out.
Chewing is quite relaxing for our puppy as it releases endorphins.
The best thing I can offer as advise here is Control Management.
Give your Puppy something that will sooth the pain, cool carrot sticks help to sooth and also for them to chew, I highly recommend you hold the stick so that they can navigate the stick to the tooth that is causing the most discomfort. You could take a Pull it Rope toy, wet it and put it in the freezer, not frozen but really cold so that it can help.
As far as furniture, they can not differentiate, they have investigated and found the table leg and it feels good, so Control Management at this time require eyes on and using a crate when you can't be there to redirect. We can't and shouldn't stop chewing it's really important for pup to chew, so we need to provide enough "Legal Chews" (things we want pup to chew, such as toys, Kongs, Safe food chews etc to replace our table leg, hands, cables etc. illegal chews.
If pup chews an illegal object and you didn't have eyes on then it's your fault. I learnt this the hard way when my Dog Pinky, when she was a puppy, climbed up on the table and took my Louis Vuitton handbag, a pair of shoes and my passport.....yep my fault, they are now totally unique with Puppy designer marks. I learnt that if I love it, put it away!
Put pup in their crate or safe area when you're not watching.
We have conditioned our Puppy using the Marker word "Good" in our puppy training classes, we can use this as a positive interrupter, instead of yelling when pup is about to bite a table leg or some type of illegal chew object we can use our "Good" which will make pup look up at you and when they do you can encourage them back to you and treat them, redirect onto a legal chew or play with one of their toys.
If you haven't conditioned "Good" yet then you can condition this happy sound by making the sound and then following it with a treat, repeat this over and over until pup has a real positive reaction to the sound and word "Good". It's the sound that predicts the food, not the other way around.
This period in you puppy's life doesn't last forever, you will get through this.
Good Luck Training!!