Your Piranha Puppy

Getting a new puppy is so exciting. A lot of things change overnight for both human and puppy and sometimes it can be a lot to take in.

One of the challenges people find with a young puppy is the playful biting. As a puppy trainer I have seen many owners’ forearms covered with bites and scratches and can only imagine how sore this must have been.

As you read on, if you only remember one thing from this blog it is that IT IS NEVER ACCEPTABLE FOR A PUPPY OR DOG TO BITE OR MOUTH YOU. 

A puppy biting a person's finger
A puppy biting it's owner's ear

Human babies and toddlers explore their environment at home – touching, grabbing, pulling etc and puppies do all these things but with their mouths. There is no intent or malice in their bites and nips, it is just them exploring and having fun with you and other ‘objects’ around their new house.

Before puppies reach eight weeks of age they learn from their siblings and mum about biting – what is acceptable and what is too much. If puppies are not exposed to this stage of their development then sometimes the biting with their new owners could be more extreme than ‘normal’. Whatever the history of your puppy, biting is an expected behaviour but it is the way we deal with this from the early days which is important.

I have found a common scenario would be a new owner playing with their puppy with a toy having an awesome time. Both are excited and enjoying it until things get just too much for the puppy and they may bite a little too much or too hard and the owner screams or yelps. The puppy may stop temporarily in shock but more often than not the new noise will just excite them and it’s like putting fuel onto a fire. The situation gets out of control and may end with the owner shouting at the puppy turning a happy experience into something negative.

A puppy chewing on a cushion

What I would suggest is to always have fun playing with your puppy but as soon as their teeth are on you and not the toy, the play has to stop. There are no commands like no, off, that hurts or even swearing at them. If you react like this, the puppy will interpret it as you having a conversation with them.

The best way for the puppy to learn is from ignoring this behaviour. I don’t mean let them chew you until they stop while you remain silent – that would be very painful! What I suggest is you stop the game. Get up and turn away and remain silent. Think of it a ‘time out’.

If the puppy starts to jump and try to engage you in play again, move away and if you have to, even leave the room.

With all new training techniques it is really important to be consistent so the puppy learns quickly. Please make sure all the family members do the same.

This can be much harder with young children and so you can teach your kids to stand like a tree, arms folded and to turn their backs to the puppy. It is almost impossible for kids to be quiet and not respond to a nip from the puppy, so supervised play is always important.

A puppy’s baby teeth are like needles and a nip is like a bite from a piranha! From around four months of age they generally will start to get their adult teeth. This stage in their development can be painful for puppies and is similar to teething in humans.

Good luck and have fun with your puppy but remember you won’t be able to change this behaviour over night, it takes time and consistency.

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