Everybody loves puppies! Getting a puppy
is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. And you know what else that
means? Puppy biting. Desperate calls come in all the time about this one thing and
the solutions may surprise you. Ian here with Simpawtico Dog Training,
and before we address that puppy biting, please make sure you are
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links, and resources about the stuff we talked about. Now puppy biting is easily
in the top 5 things I get asked about.
Usually people reach out desperately and
ask, "How do I stop puppy biting?" Here's the thing: you don't want to stop puppy
biting. I know it's frustrating but people misunderstand what it's all about
and come at the problem all wrong. Most of what you see on the internet or have
people tell you completely misses the point. Let's start with why puppies bite.
Play biting and fighting is absolutely one of the most important developmental
pieces puppies. Do the only things puppies do more than bite is poop,
pee, and sleep. That tells us that it's important. There is a reason why Mother
Nature has programmed them to do it so much. Puppies play bite because they must
receive feedback for their bite pressure so they can acquire the skill of
monitoring and adjusting the force of their jaws.
That process is what develops
"acquired bite inhibition" or ABI. Good ABI is what makes a safe dog in
adulthood. This can only be done in the early stages before it's locked in
forever. There are presently no methods to alter this after adolescence. Thus
play biting for puppies is not only natural, it's absolutely necessary. If you
were to observe your puppy playing with another puppy, they'd bite the other one
during the course of play.
Puppies bite so they can receive
feedback on the force of that bite. This is why they have such sharp teeth—so
they can get a reaction with their relatively weak jaw muscles. An adult dog
that has never adequately developed ABI will not know how to monitor and adjust
the force of their jaws when they have big adult teeth and big adult jaw
muscles. Consider this scenario: a dog is asleep in the family room and a toddler
accidentally steps on it. A dog with good ABI
won't even make contact, whereas a dog with poor ABI might bite that poor kid,
maybe even badly. In this case an ounce of prevention is worth a kiloton of cure!
So the bottom line is you don't want to stop puppy biting because then the bite
training stops too. Okay so what do we do about it?
Well first, we focus on intensity before frequency. In the correct progression you
will see a reduction in the intensity before you see a reduction in frequency.
This is a training master key.
Biting will get softer and softer before
actual incidents of biting diminish. Force MUST be trained before frequency.
They're separate variables in the brain and force has a time limit on it whereas
frequency does not. Second, provide meaningful feedback. The first part of that is to
socialize your puppy. Dogs do the work of feedback 50 times faster and better than
we do. Get your puppy to off-leash puppy classes or playgroups as soon as
possible. You can do this after the second round of shots. You can also have
other puppies over to play—lots of them. A good puppy class or a series of
playdates will make a tremendous difference in your puppy, not just with
The second part of your feedback game is that your puppy has to
believe that humans are super sensitive. Every time they bite you, you cry out.
Don't cry out like a puppy, and don't try to yip like a puppy. You're not a dog,
you're not fooling anyone. You're a grown adult, act like it hurts
(which it probably does). Loudly say, "Ouch! That hurt!" Here's the secret to making
that work. The internet tells you to cry out but never fills in the rest of the
First, do not jerk your hand (or whatever body part) away. Quick movement
is stimulating and that triggers chase drive. They'll just go harder for it.
Instead, leave it there your puppy needs to be the one to back off. Second if you
say "Ouch" loud enough and sharp enough, your puppy should buck their head back.
Immediately start praising and allow them to re-engage.
If they're softer tell
them "good puppy." If not keep up the feedback. Ramp it up a little with tone
and volume without making it scary. "Good [praise and sharp sounds when biting] "good boy good boy that was fantastic
that was fantastic" This commentary needs to be both binary—right and wrong—and
constant. One or two times ain't gonna do it. It takes weeks to do it right.
progression and we just talked about progressions in the last video. And
remember you're not trying to stop biting with this strategy. You want to
see it getting softer and softer and softer over time. Also make sure to cry
out even if they grab your clothing or hair; your puppy doesn't know the
difference between these and skin and should eventually be gentle with both. "Ouch! Ouch!
Good, good boy! Thank you!" "Good puppy, sweetheart. Good puppy. Oww-ouch! Good
puppy. Good." If however during a session your puppy is too jazzed up and is not
responding to the work then leave, simple as that.
Don't put the puppy somewhere else for a timeout; that's non-instructive and it's
not fast enough.
YOU be the one to get up and leave. This is how puppies do it with
each other. A hard bite produces a yelp and play stops momentarily. Well, nobody
wants that so they learn to monitor and adjust. If you—the Playmate of the moment—
gets up and leaves unceremoniously that's a big thing to a puppy. Come back
in 30 to 60 seconds and try playing again. This is precisely one of the
reasons we don't let our puppies have free reign of the house yet.
They exist in
gated off rooms for a while and earn more space over time. In the meantime you
have to be able to get away when the puppy is too intense.
You also can't keep labeling play biting as bad behavior—it's not. It's
inconvenient for us humans, but we don't call it bad behavior when a baby poops
its pants or cries at night. You know this is part of what
you signed up for, inconvenient as it is. puppy biting is natural and necessary!
Don't waste the opportunity you've been given to create a safe adult dog. As you
work you should be seeing the ABI progression. You'll notice your puppy's
biting getting softer and softer over the weeks if you've given consistent,
timely, and appropriate feedback.
The play biting will eventually just be soft
mouthing. At this point it is appropriate to start addressing the frequency of
incidents. We can begin addressing the number of incidents because we've
cultivated a dog that thinks differently about the way they use their mouth.
You should ideally have been integrating obedience training into your puppy work
all along the way anyways, so it's a simple manner to use incompatible
behaviors to stop the mouthing. By now the mouthing behavior is more about
controlling their environment than it is trying to elicit feedback, so now you
can focus on polite behaviors, redirecting, building impulse control,
engaging them in interactive and instructive play, and simply continuing
to give good representative feedback on their behavior.
Chew toys for quiet time
come back into play here. If you're a follower of this channel you know that
we have preached the gospel of creating a chew toy addicted dog. Settling down
with a toy is emotionally satisfying and teaches them to learn to occupy
themselves. Gentle tug for playful opposition and energy expenditure is also
one of our favorite teaching tools. This provides an opportunity to build manners,
impulse control, and more motivating reward structures. Also make sure you're
using good food handling to short-circuit nipping. Take a look at our
Power Tip Number Two video for more info. By about 18 weeks the brain chemistry
starts changing and your window for learning acquired bite inhibition will
start closing. Don't wait! By six months it will be pretty much closed and the
strategies we talked about won't work any more.
If you have an eight or nine
month old dog jumping up and grabbing your arms or sleeves, and you haven't
done that work already you're gonna be in a pickle. You'll need different
methods to fix that because off leash classes, crying out, or walking away won't
work anymore. Now you can really only focus on a frequency and the force of
biting is what it is. Contact a qualified trainer or behaviorist near you to help
you out. Now let's do some myth-busting! There are a lot of solutions offered by
articles on the Internet and well-meaning friends, and
most of these are total rubbish. Let's dissect them. Using leave it or drop it—
these prevent any opportunity to learn bite inhibition because they're not
providing the right kind of feedback. These are important to learn on the side
but useless for play biting. Use these for mouthing after they've mastered
their bite inhibition. Shouting no bite— This only works if they've had specific
lessons on the meaning of that phrase away from the situation they're biting
It also stops the bite training altogether, so it's no use for us at all.
Tap them on the nose—this is great if you want to teach your dog that you're a
bully. Also great for creating a head shy dog. However it does nothing for bite
inhibition. Actually you'll probably get some relief from the biting though
because the puppy will just stop interacting with you altogether. Stick
your thumb in their mouth and smash their tongue against their teeth—oh my
god! This makes no training sense whatsoever. It's abuse. Please stop doing
that. Using a squirt bottle—do we squirt
babies in the face when they're doing something that annoys us? Using a muzzle—
this prevents all mouth interaction and pretty much guarantees a hard biter as
an adult. Also it means no eating, drinking, playing with toys, or anything
else related to just being a puppy. It's lazy and irresponsible. Redirecting to a
chew toy—Puppies aren't trying to relieve teething pains when they play
bite. As you've learned they bite to learn ABI.
You might get a temporary
respite but it'll be short-lived and you missed a teachable moment. Chew toys are
awesome but they're for chewing during quiet times. Chewing is relaxing and it
does relieve teething discomfort but play biting serves a whole other purpose.
Don't waste the opportunity. All right everyone,
I hope this has helped you learn more about your puppy's instincts and how to
deal with them constructively. Now, questions for you:
what other mouthy conundrums are you running into, and how has this video
helped you redesign your puppy plan? Let's connect in the comments. In the
meantime don't forget to thumbs up this video and as always: keep learning, keep
practicing, and we'll see you again soon. Thanks for watching!.