Our Puppy Training classes addresses nipping, play biting and mouthing.
Malinois, Australian Shepherds, German Shepherds and Huskies can be more prone to this behaviour. They are “prey driven or herding dogs – meaning, its in their DNA to want to herd and chase things (squirrels, rabbits, etc).
Dogs have natural herding tendencies or like to nip at your heels, shoes or hands. New dog owners mistakenly confuse this behaviour for aggression. This behaviour certainly needs to be addressed before the dog becomes full grown.
What Can You Do To Stop or Help Play Biting In Your Dog?
This is a question we answer daily at Off Leash K9 Training London.
Understand what dogs and puppies do during play and replicate this same behavior. When litter mates are playing in their early life (typically 8-weeks and below), they learn something called, “bite inhibition.” Bite inhibition means that your puppy learns how to control or regulate the force of his/her bite while playing with the other litter mates.
When one litter mate bites another litter mate too harshly, that litter mate will let out a “yelp” and the play terminates. The offending puppy learns, “I used my mouth too hard and now the fun stops.” You know the famous quote among us humans, “It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt?” Puppies and even adult dogs use this same quote, they just speak it in a different language.
When your puppy starts biting you, let out a little “yelp” and then end the play session. You can either put the puppy in a different room or you can go into a different room. After 20-30 seconds, come back out and resume the play, then repeat.
If you find this is not a deterrent for your mouthy puppy, you can go to any dog store and get something called, “Bitter Apple Spray.” This a liquid in a spray bottle that was developed specifically for dogs (safe and effective) and it has a very bitter flavor to it. When your dog starts play biting or mouthing your arm, you can say “NO” and then spray this into their mouth. Your puppy quickly learns to associate mouthing with this bitter taste in their mouth.
Another thing you can do is anytime your puppy begins tugging/biting on your shoes, shirt, etc, try “replacing” it with something that they CAN have (toy, bone, tug, etc). So, you are correcting the behavior AND redirecting the behavior. You are telling your puppy, “Doing this is not acceptable, however, you can can play with this instead.”
Try not to wrestle or roughhouse with your puppy, this will only instigate him/her play biting, nipping, or mouthing. If you are still having troubles with your puppy or adult dog play biting, mouthing, or nipping, you should find a qualified trainer in your area to help with these issues.