Mouthing v Play aggression

Updated: Dec 30, 2020

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 Bite inhibition. Follow these steps over the next 3 weeks.

1.We need to go against the rule of no biting to actually allowing our puppies to “MOUTH” our hands. This way we can teach our puppies how hard IS too hard. If they were with the mother or siblings they would be told very quickly how hard is too hard and therefore learn bite inhibition if they wish to continue playing or feeding. It’s now our responsibility to do this. Whilst pup is nibbling you want to keep your hand still and boring, do not encourage but don’t discourage, as soon as you feel an uncomfortable pressure give your pup a clear signal. The majority of pups will stop as soon as you make a squeal or yelp, don’t rip your hand away but slowly move your hand and say again “ouch” at this point take a toy and replace your hand with the toy, if pup is happy to be redirected and play’s nicely with the toy praise and play with your puppy. If they turn back excitedly and look to play with your hand give them an “UtUh” and walk away for about 30 seconds.

2.After a few days to a week of following step 1 you want to move onto step 2. At this point we want to squeal earlier, even if we actually feel no discomfort. Decide a limit and reduce it bit by bit each day. So we are now reducing the pressure further so eventually over the coming week we only have a gummy mouthing going on, very gentle. While your puppy is mouthing you say “Gently”, again don’t move your hand but as soon as you feel pressure say “UtUh” or yelp and redirect with a toy or get up and leave.

Be aware sometimes a high pitched yelp can encourage a pup to bite more so a low voice may work better with your pup, also puppies who are over tired or over stimulated will escalated the biting. Never let your puppies energy go over a 4-6, if your puppy gets too excited you are going to have to put them or you in a time out for a few minutes to reset, this is especially common for puppies in houses with young children. Make sure your puppy is getting enough quiet time and sleep.

3.Teaching pup to “Leave it”. Even when your puppy is only mouthing you want to teach your pup to “Leave or Leave it” on command, so when your pup starts mouthing you say “Leave it” and pass them a toy or chew, praise them for moving on to the offered toy and continue play, if they go to do it again you get straight up and walk away, 30 seconds is enough for pup to feel the cold shoulder. Calmly come back and take a toy and gently start to play again or sit calmly and caress your fur baby with strong slow caresses.

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 train bite inhibition 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.

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. If they can’t calm, leave.

If your puppy has already started aggressive tendencies it might be an idea to have them tethered on the lead or in a 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.

While training bite inhibition you should not do any physical corrections it will just confuse your puppy and may actually make them more aggressive and it’s unnecessary.

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.

As with bite inhibition 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 bite inhibition, 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 move 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 bite inhibition, 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.

Make sure your use 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 around 5 months 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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