Puppy Play Biting
Why is my puppy biting so hard?
Almost all normal puppies play bite. They do it to other puppies,
to adult dogs who will let them and to their owners, especially
children. As puppies, they do not know how hard a bite really is
– so they need feedback from all sources to tell them.
The ability to bite without force is rehearsed in puppy hood during
- play biting! Puppies are programmed to play bite so they can learn
about their jaw strength. When one puppy bites another too hard
with those needle sharp teeth, play grinds temporarily to a halt,
which provides a potent consequence to the biting puppy. If you
watch puppies play together, when one bites too hard, the other
YELPS and then walks away from the biting puppy (essentially a time
out). Over time, the puppy learns that in order to keep play going,
the bites must be consistently gentler. Without this constant feedback
about their jaw pressure, puppies are at higher risk to grow up
without acquiring the capacity to inhibit the force of their jaws.
What Should I Do About Puppy Biting?
The best policy for owners of young puppies (age 6 - 18 weeks) is
to allow play biting provided it is not too hard. Hard bites should
result in very loud “ouches” or mother’s yelps
and time-outs, (leave the puppy alone or put him in a "penalty
box" for a minute) – as a consequence. Only when the
puppy has gotten reliable about biting more softly should play biting
be phased out altogether, by re-directing the puppy to toys and
giving consequences for all bites. It is critical to train your
dog to bite nicely, instead of screaming “no” every
time they bite. This way, the dog has a much better chance of growing
up with good bite inhibition and possibly doing minimal damage if
they ever bite. Free-play with other puppies and friendly adult
dogs is another good forum for puppies to develop bite inhibition.
Is my puppy aggressive?
It is important to be able to identify play biting from aggression.
Aggression biting would be when a dog threatens (growling, snarling,
snapping at hands) and/or bites over possession of food, toys, people
etc or when a dog is uncomfortable in a situation. Puppies can be
aggressive and if your puppy is showing signs of aggression, we
can work together to diagnose what is causing the aggression. Many
kinds of aggression can be resolved and I can work with you on a
case by case basis.