I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten a phone call from a panicked new owner
because the puppy is biting them or their child, and they think that perhaps their pup is
too aggressive. Sometimes the parent has contacted a trainer who has said something like
“never leave a puppy and a young child together unsupervised” and the parent took this to
mean that combining puppies and children is dangerous. Puppies and families CAN co-
exist in the same household, but it will take a bit of work, understanding, and supervision.
Unfortunately, puppies are at their most oral at the same time that their teeth are the
sharpest, and yes puppy teeth do hurt. It's normal for puppies to bite as they develop and
grow. Dogs need to have exquisite control over their mouths. They need to be able to exert
the precise amount of control to gently lift and carry fragile items, and also to be able to
rip and tear food. Super sharp puppy teeth guarantee that the pup will get lots of feedback
about how much pressure they are exerting. When puppies play with each other they
wrestle, and bite, and grab onto each other. If one puppy bites another puppy too hard, the
hurt pup will give a high pitched yelp and go a bit limp. The biting pup will immediately
back off. If the biting pup persists with biting too hard, the one being bitten will refuse to
play with the biter. Thus puppies learn exactly how hard they can bite each other without
hurting, and they gain control of their mouths.
The longer a pup stays with Mom and littermates, the farther along in their bite inhibition
training they will be, but even a 12-week old pup won’t have mastered his or her mouth so
you’ll need to take over where Mom and the littermates left off. Some people punish a dog
for using his or her mouth, and while in the short term this may solve the problem of sore
hands, in the long term, the dog doesn’t learn sufficient bite inhibition. Bite inhibition is
critical. To teach this, you want to solicit play with your hands.
Puppies, like human babies do eat and bite everything. Puppies are learning about their
world, and they are exploring, and everything, including your fingers and your child’s
hands, are things your pup wants to learn about so into the mouth they go. Puppies don’t
have hands, so where your human baby patted things and rolled things in his or her hands,
your pup can only use his or her mouth. Not to mention soft fingers have "give" which
feels good to a teething puppy. When the puppy bites you too hard loudly say "OUCH" like
a hurt puppy and let your hand go limp, then turn or walk away and ignore the puppy.
Social isolation and time outs can be an effective form of punishment for a pack animal.
Your pup should immediately back off. When the pup backs off, start the game again. If
the pup is over-stimulated, or overly tired, the pup may have a bit of a temper tantrum,
and may repeatedly bite too hard. If this happens, your goal should be to calm your pup
down, perhaps by giving the pup some time away from people, or using gentle friendly
restraint. Another effective way of calming down an overstimulated puppy is to hold him
upside down (feet pointing towards the ceiling) high above your head for a couple of
minutes. I don't know why this works, but a groomer taught me this once and it really
As with most things in dog training, repetition is important. The more frequently you
work on this with your puppy the sooner your puppy will learn to control his mouth. In
addition to teaching your pup about bite inhibition, you want to provide your puppy with
plenty of puppy-safe toys to chew. Stuffed Kongs, especially ones that are frozen, are a
great toy for pups, but take a look at your local pet supply store, and try things out. Check
out www.Chewy.com for Kong toys and stuffing ideas. Ideally, you should get enough toys
so that you can rotate the toys out. Toys that a dog hasn’t seen in a couple of weeks are far
more exciting than toys that the dog sees on a daily basis. Remember — puppies NEED to
chew, so if you don’t provide things for the pup to chew on, your pup will find things to
chew on, and you won’t like your puppy’s choices. An inexpensive chew toy can be easily
made. Just squish an empty plastic water bottle and put it inside an old sock. Another
good chew item is Elk Antler Splits. Our dogs and puppies love these. It does need to be
the petite splits so that they can eat the bone marrow, and then you can throw away the
Depending on the age of your children, you’ll need to involve them in this process to a
greater or lesser degree, but unless your child is a baby/young toddler, your child will need
to participate in the bite inhibition training. Fortunately for many children, their initial
instinct when nipped by a puppy is to scream in a high pitched voice and to refuse to play
with the puppy. But you still want to practice. Start before your puppy arrives (or if you
already have a puppy, start with the pup out of the room). Have your child practice
yelping like a hurt puppy. Make this a fun game. Also, have them practice freezing, and
going limp. Make sure that your child does NOT hit the puppy, or get aggressive toward
Of course, puppies are learning a lot more than just about how to control their mouths,
and puppies, like small children, can have temper tantrums or lose control of themselves.
Puppies who get overly tired,or over stimulated, may nip more, may fling themselves
about, and may even air snap. Puppies benefit from having a rhythm to their days, and to
having plenty of nap time. Puppies tend to be energetic in bursts, and then need to sleep.
Puppies that miss naps are often fussy, and grumpy. Make sure that your pup is getting
plenty of downtimes. Puppies that don’t get enough exercise also have trouble controlling
themselves. You don’t want to go on overly long walks, or runs with your pup, but you do
want them to have plenty of off-leash play time.
In conclusion, spend a lot of time teaching your puppy about bite inhibition, give your pup
plenty of things to chew, teach your children what to do if the puppy nips them but try to
avoid the pup nipping the children as much as you can, play games that teach positive
ways for child and pup to interact, have a rhythm to your day that includes both active
times and quiet times for the puppy.
STEP ONE: INTERRUPTION
Loudly saying "Ouch" when your puppy lays teeth on you will give feedback to very young
puppies about what is acceptable playing and what isn't. React consistently to bites. If
necessary, when you say, "Ouch" you can also turn away from the puppy for 30-60
seconds. Return to engaging with the puppy. If they have calmed down, wonderful. If not,
STEP TWO: REDIRECTION
Grab the nearest toy and offer it to your puppy. You can also redirect your puppy's
attention using teething toys. When he has calmed down, gently talk to him and stroke
him. Keep your hand away from his mouth. Start playing again and avoid getting the
puppy excited. This time, use toys instead of your hands to get your puppy engaged. Start
playing fetch, so that you are tossing toys away from you and using the puppy’s prey drive
for positive fun. Playing with toys can be used as training reward or break and keeps your
hands away from the puppy's teeth.
STEP THREE: WALK AWAY
If neither your “Ouch!” nor redirection worked to draw your puppy’s attention away from
you, try removing what they perceive as the “reward” in the interaction: YOU! This is
really puppy time out...time away from you.
STEP FOUR: STARTLE THE PUPPY
You can use a water spray bottle in severe cases. In cases where biting is exceptionally
strong or persistent, keep a water spray bottle handy. Accompany your firm "OUCH!" with
a squirt of water in puppy's face to interrupt the behavior. Take care to set the nozzle to
spray and not a hard jet spray. You just want to startle the puppy, not harm him. Be aware
that the puppy will associate the water spray with you, and this could make him wary of
you at other times. Never threaten the puppy with the squirt bottle or create fear. You
also don’t want to create a situation where the puppy only behaves if the squirt bottle is in
Play safely while you supervise training, and never play roughly with a puppy that bites.
Rough play will only encourage this behavior and strongly establish it in the puppy's mind.
Never use your hands as toys. You should also closely watch children playing around or
with the puppy. Don't let children play tug with the puppy unless an adult is present, the
puppy fully understands the rules, and only if the puppy’s size does not pose a risk to the
child during the game.
Always REWARD good behavior. Praise good behavior with lots of gentle love and cuddles.
Use rewards effectively to reinforce good behavior. For example, if your dog successfully
responds to your request to drop a toy, say, "yes!" or "good boy/girl!" Verbal rewards work
well when you're playing and may have your hands full of toys. Schnauzers love to please
you, and verbal praise works!
Just remember that if you allow your puppy to bite, it may get out of control and your
puppy will never learn to control his bite. This can lead to serious behavioral issues when
your puppy reaches adulthood. It is not acceptable for puppies to bite people, or other
animals unless they are in true physical danger and need to defend themselves.
|Texas T's Toy Schnauzers
|How to Stop Puppy Biting
|Petite Elk Antler Chew