Puppy bites aren't the most painful thing in the world, but a young canine who constantly snaps can become a hazard once he's all grown up. Training puppies how to interact with people, animals and new experiences will help him grow up into a friendly adult dog.
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The first few weeks of your puppy's life are crucial to his understanding of boundaries. When a pup is playing too hard, his sibling's yelp lets him know that he went too far. If your puppy bites at your hand, yelp in pain as if you were a puppy. If he keeps doing it, yelp then firmly say "stop that" or "that hurts." Do this up to three times in a 15-minute period and no more, according to the ASPCA. After the third time, withdraw your hand and ignore the puppy a minute or two. Try again after a short break. Your puppy wants your attention and he wants to play, so he'll learn to be gentle if he wants affection.
Playing with Puppies
Hands are for petting and holding, not biting. This rule is simple, but you can't expect your puppy to understand it if you use your hands to wrestle around with him. If you want to play a little rough, use a rope toy instead of your hands. If your dog puts his teeth on your skin, immediately offer him a chew toy to sink his teeth into instead. If your puppy goes nuts and tries to play rough every time you reach out to touch him, offer him treats with one hand while you pet him with the other. Don't stroke or scratch him until he's calmed down.
Praise your puppy when he licks or sniffs your hand without biting and offer him a tasty reward for his good behavior. Encourage him to explore his surroundings and expose him to various smells, sights and sounds in controlled environments. Reward him for tolerating new experiences and ignore him when he cowers or barks in fear, according to Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Sciences. This conditions him to react to new experiences with curiosity rather than aggression.
True aggressive behavior is motivated by a desire for dominance, fear, pain and protective instinct. While puppies rarely exhibit aggression compared to adult dogs, it's not outside the realm of possibility, according to Georgia SPCA. If your puppy consistently snarls at you or his siblings and doesn't let up when his target yelps, consider contacting a pet behavioral consultant. It may seem extreme to bring in a specialist for a single puppy, but fixing the problem early is much easier than training adult dogs who have learned to express themselves with their teeth. Schedule an appointment for a particularly aggressive pup to make sure there are no health issues affecting his behavior.
By Quentin Coleman
Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Sciences: Preventing a Puppy From Becoming an Aggressive Adult
Georgia SPCA: Play Biting in Puppies - Is My Puppy Aggressive?
ASPCA: Puppy Mouthing
About the Author
Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.