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Mouthing v Play aggression

Updated: Mar 17, 2021

How hard is too hard? Is my puppy being aggressive? Should I discipline or redirect? When will biting end? Is my puppy normal?

Have you ever asked yourself these questions and feel like maybe you’re the only one?

As soon as you bring pup home you want to teach your puppy Not to bite human skin.

We need to give pup a consequence if they make contact with our skin with their teeth if their play turns to mouthing or nipping we need to give them am “UtUt”, "Oh Dear" "Whoops", or "Too Bad" and walk away for about 30 seconds.

If we return and pup tries to reoffend then they may not have been given enough time to reset and calm, then you should give pup a longer time out of a few minutes.

Be aware sometimes a high pitched yelp can encourage a pup to bite more, puppies who are over tired or over stimulated are more prone to bite and bitting can escalated very quickly. Never let your puppies energy go over a 4-6, if your puppy gets too excited you a time out for a few minutes to reset before they result in play aggression. This is especially common for puppies in houses with young children. Make sure your puppy is getting enough quiet time and sleep.

Some dogs are not good with Tuggy, it can be a game that over stimulated them and causes them to get over excited and aggressive, in this case you may choose to play “Find it” games or “Fetch and Drop” encouraging pups energy away from your body.

Only play when your puppy is calm and you have time to play gently. Should pup get over excited you must be able to get away paying pup as little attention as possible. A play pen can be a real asset.

If your puppy can calm with a slight massage, you can place your hand on their chest and gently massage their backs with strong slow caresses shoulder to butt. If they can’t calm, leave.

If your puppy has already started aggressive tendencies then you really need a pen or an area where, should you need to, you can get up and move away and they can’t follow and bite your ankles etc after a couple of minutes your pup should have reset and you can calmly go back to play.

By surrounding yourself or carrying toys in the early stages of training will mean you can redirect as soon as it is needed.

SO you’ve missed this part of the training and your puppy’s playful bites have turned into Lunging, Snarling, Growling, Baring teeth and biting so hard that your hands are bleeding and are black and blue, well we’ve moved into the category of “Play Aggression” and we need to stop it now and interrupt it each and every time.

We need to teach our puppies how to play nicely by redirecting their energy from your hands etc to a toy or chew but if play starts to get too rough you must end the game and give pup a time out to reset.

To interrupt the behaviour you need to stop it when it starts so if pup growls, or bites you have to walk away as quickly and safely as you can, trying to discipline or explain to pup at this stage is futile because all attention to a puppy is positive attention so will only serve to encourage him further.

If you have children we suggest you use a training lead until you have taught your pup not to put teeth on human skin, that way should your puppy start to get over excited with your children, guests, or simply with you, you can take them to a time out place or remove them quickly from the game.

Never leave your children alone with your puppy until you are 100% confident that they won’t “wind each other up” and pup won’t get over excited. Teach them the same rules that you are now following.

Put into place teaching your puppy not to bite, keep a diary so that you can monitor when your pup gets excited, is there a pattern, are they over tired, over excited, can you distract them or give them some time to rest, what is working and what isn’t?

This will help you to form an understanding of what is triggering your pup and how to make it stop.

Socialise your puppy with other pups so that they can teach each other manners.

Try using a cue word such as “Leave It” so you can catch the bite before it happens, and keep your pup calm during play times.

Puppies tend to change their teeth at around 18 weeks so give them plenty of things to chew on. My favourite is cold carrots. Leave whole carrots in the fridge and when you need them cut one into sticks and hold them still and strong in your pups mouth and they can move it to where they NEED it, this will help them. You may find the stick or chew comes out with blood on it, don’t worry thats the tooth gone, you may find it or your puppy has swallowed it and thats perfectly natural.

Remember all dogs investigate the world with their mouths, mouthing and biting are a right of passage that unfortunately for a few months we need to help them with, if you follow these guidelines your pup will learn quickly and kindly how to redirect their natural instinct and you will have a well rounded playful puppy!!

Good luck Training!

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