There are few baby animals on the planet cuter than a puppy, and a playful pupperino can be forgiven for almost anything — including all that nipping. Nothing is safe from those little puppy chompers whether its the couch cushions, shoes, hands, arms, or legs. Tasting all the things is part of a puppy's natural development. Nipping is both inherent to puppy play and a way to learn and explore the world. As much as we can forgive the little fluffballs, biting too hard or excessively aggressive behaviors should be stymied as early as possible. There is no set age that marks the end of puppy teething, but the need to bite starts to subside around the same time that their permanent teeth come in.
Teething Starts at 2 Weeks and Continues for Several Months
Do sharp little puppy teeth seem to have a magnetic attraction to your fingers and toes? This is hardly surprising. Like human babies, a huge part of puppy development stems from exploring the world with his mouth. Unlike human babies, puppy teeth come in as early as 2 weeks after they are born, so, while nipping starts young, puppies are usually still with their moms and breeders. It isn't until they are about four months old that those needle sharp puppy teeth fall out to make room for adult teeth — right around the same time they are coming home to your house.
As anyone who has been anywhere near a teething baby can tell you, the process of growing new teeth is not fun. Painful gums, drooling, and of course, chewing, biting and nipping are all signs that your puppy has his big boy teeth coming in. Providing your pup with chew toys and training him to avoid gnawing on furniture or feet will go a long way to help mitigate the biting as well as sooth his mouth and gums.
Teething Should Stop When Baby Teeth Are Gone
Puppies start off with 28 little mini-razors that fall out over the course of several months. Most dogs start losing their baby teeth between 4 and 6 months old, and they tend to become chewing maniacs during that time. Some continue to lose teeth until about 9 months old. After they lose their baby teeth, however, they don't need to chew to relieve mouth pain. It is important to begin correcting against nipping and biting behavior because a playful chomp from a mouth full of baby teeth may not be very comfortable, but a mouth full of full-sized dog teeth can be severe.
Nipping is a habit that you can correct. You can start training a puppy not to nip at around 6 to 8 weeks old, but he might not be able to stop himself during the teething process. Be patient during this stage; it can be uncomfortable for the puppy, but it doesn't last long.
Training Starts Early
Young puppies learn how much nipping is too much with their litter mates. While they play together, they practice nipping and biting. When one pup nips too hard, the other will cry out, letting everyone know that hurt. Usually, both puppies will stop playing for a little while as they take in this new information. The ability for a dog to control his bite and know when a nip or bite is too hard is called bite inhibition. Puppies can learn bite inhibition from their human families as well.
When your puppy is as young as 6 weeks old, you can start some basic behavior correction. When he bites you, pull away and yelp or say, "Ouch!" in a high voice. Puppies yip when they are bitten too hard by littermates, then they move away to play elsewhere. Making your version of a yip is a language your puppy can understand. Praise him when he stops to positively reinforce good behavior. He might continue to nip, but he's learning how much pressure he can exert without hurting you. Continue this practice two or three times in a fifteen minute period.
If you find that yelping doesn't work, an alternative is to give him a 10 to 20 second time out from play. When he nips or bites too hard, yelp and then stop playing or get up and walk away for several seconds. This will teach him that gentle play is okay, but rough play will stop immediately.
Playing games with your puppy is important, and using toys can help teach him not to chew your hands or arms. Be sure to teach your puppy commands like "leave it" or "let go" to prevent play from becoming to aggressive. Also, remember not to pull away from a bite because that can trigger a chase instinct and make the problem worse.
Appropriate Chew Toys are a Must
Since the teething period is prime nipping time, providing your pup with appropriate chew toys can help reduce the amount of time he uses you to gnaw on. Silicone or rope chew toys are good choices and will serve to redirect his nipping tendencies. Toys also help remind puppies that toys are okay to chew, but not people. Always end a play session the moment he starts to nip or bite at you to reinforce the idea that nipping has negative consequences. Don't play rough with him. Games like tug-of-war, or quick hand movements around his face may excite or confuse him and keep him from understanding when it is appropriate to nip and when it isn't.
It is very important to monitor your furry friend's toys to make sure they can stand up to the rigors of teething. Check his favorites often to make sure there are no holes or pieces missing. Your dog should not have toys that he is able to chew chunks off of or pull stuffing or fibers from.