Raising A Creative Canine

The introduction of a new puppy into a reactive multi-dog household

Puppy Piranha Fish!

Preventing/Curing Puppy Biting and Mouthing Add comments

So when Greg picked me up from the Boston Hilton, I couldn’t help noticing the scratches on his arms. Yup! The puppy piranha fish was at it again!

So below is a video of what you do NOT want to do. This is my husband Greg with Austyn and watching it makes me laugh! He is doing everything wrong! Compare it with the notes that I’ve written below. What changes would you make?

Puppy biting/mouthing is perfectly normal. The difficulty is that those baby teeth (milk teeth) are sharp and needle-like! They need to be, so that as the pup grows, the Momma dog will no longer allow her puppies to suck, and hence, will need to be weaned. Pups lose these teeth between the ages of four to five months. This time can be very painful. Gums are sore and might bleed. You may see them come out or you may not. It is a good idea to give the pup something cold and hard to bite on. One treatment I use is to take a washcloth or towel and tie it into a knot. I then wet it and put it into the freezer. Once frozen, this can provide comforting relief. Some owners will make different kinds of ice cubes for their pups. Chicken soup broth a favorite! What I don’t like about this is that the salt content can be too high and the pup could damage the adult teeth as they come in. Stick with something safe!

Although puppy biting is going to happen, there are a number of things that you can do to help deal with this situation:

Only sit and pet the puppy when the puppy is exhausted. Otherwise interact with the puppy in a fun and constructive way. Play “teaching” games with the puppy, like “Hide and Seek” or “Fetch”, rather than games where human hands are darting back and forth around the puppy’s face. Avoid rough games like wrestling and tug-of-war. Never let the puppy bite and mouthe your hands, no matter what the reason.

Always have a toy for the puppy to chew on as you are interacting with him. A nice exercise is to give the pup a chew toy, (I like either bully sticks, tracheas or antlers) and as he is chewing it, pet his head and tell him in a soft calm voice how wonderful he is. Keep assorted toys up on counters and furniture so that one is always available within reach, no matter where you are in the house. Always supervise your pup or adult dog when giving chew toys. My rule of thumb is to give the chew toys sparingly and I will take them away when they are about 3/4’s of the way finished. Depending on what kind of chewer your dog is, I would not recommend giving these toys to a dog that would bite a huge piece off in one sitting. This could be especially dangerous!

If you are interacting with the puppy and the biting is unusually intense, get up and walk away. Ignore the puppy. Go into another room, if able, and close the door behind you. If this is impossible, silently escort the puppy to his Safe Space (crate or baby-gated area), give him a mentally stimulating toy (stuffed Kong or ” title=”Twist n Treat” target=”_blank”>Flying Saucer), and leave him there until he calms down. Most puppies will play with their toy and then fall fast asleep. Now you might wonder why I didn’t give the “age old” advice to say “Ouch” loudly and walk away. I don’t because I have found that many puppies find this reinforcing and only start to bite harder and more frequently.

Your puppy should be adequately physically and mentally exercised each day. A tired puppy is always a good puppy! How about doggy day care three times a week or a pet sitter that visits mid-day? And do remember to rotate the puppy’s toys each day so that he will not grow tired of them as quickly.

Anticipate the time of day (dawn and dusk, for many puppies, are the evil hours!) that your puppy gets over-stimulated easily. Plan ahead and put your dog in his Safe Space, with a wonderful mentally stimulating toy, at this time of the morning or evening. Be proactive instead of reactive!

Physically harsh methods, like slapping the puppy under the chin, scruff shaking, or forcefully holding the mouth closed are absolutely unacceptable ways to curb this behavior. The potential side effects of physical punishment can lead to even greater behavioral problems in the future like timidity, hyper-vigilance, and aggression. Please note: this is not merely my opinion but has been scientifically proven!

2 Responses to “Puppy Piranha Fish!”

  1. DawnG Says:

    I am enjoying your writing – how do you find time to raise a puppy and blog at the same time?

  2. admin Says:

    It is not easy! I also work full time as a veterinary technician and teach for the Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training & Behavior. I also always make time in my schedule to train my dogs. They do both competition agility and obedience.

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