Behavior Tip of the Month
Play Biting - #1
My arms are full of bite marks since we got our new puppy. We hold his mouth closed and say "NO", but he bites us even harder. Can you help us?
Canine Piranhas ---- that's what I lovingly call young puppies. They have needle sharp baby teeth and play with their littermates by biting. When one puppy bites too hard, the bitten pup cries out in a high pitched tone and refuses to play with the offender. This teaches the biter to soften his mouth since he very much wants to continue playing.
Play biting is normal and most every pup outgrows it. However, we human beings have fragile skin and we'd like to minimize this "shark-like" stage of development. Here are some suggestions for softening the bite of your little canine Piranha.
1. Orient your pup's play onto toys instead of human flesh.
• Always have a toy when you interact with him. Tease him with it and then throw it near him.
• Don't play games of tug of war, hands around pup's head, wrestling or roughhousing. These promote the bite reflex.
• If your pup bites, stop playing and withdraw from him for a full minute.
2. When you pet your pup:
• Hold onto the collar on top of his neck.
• Pet him under his tummy, or on his chest or back. DON'T pet near the face or on top of the head.
• If your pup play bites, the petting must stop and he gets a minute of no attention.
• Practice being boring and unexciting when with your canine. Talk in a soft voice and move slowly. Any excitement stimulates the bite reflex.
3. In my opinion, it is a privilege not a right to be off leash in the house. No play biting puppy has earned this privilege. Attach a 6' clothes line to your dog's collar so you can have control over him. If he's off leash, he's in control. If he tries to teethe on you, gently pull the leash away from your body.
4. When a very young sensitive puppy bites, cry "OUCH" in a loud voice and withdraw attention for a minute. You can either leave the room or put the pup in a dog proof boring area. However, I don't think this is very effective with older pups.
5. Do NOT hit, slap, hold the mouth, grab the collar, shake him by the scruff, pin him, hit his nose etc. These old fashioned punitive measures will usually increase his play biting or make him fearful of you and human hands.
6. Splash Bitter Apple or Listerine on your hands when you interact with your young K9 shark. This will lessen your appeal to him as a chew toy.
7. Find a Kindergarten Puppy Training class and enroll your pup as soon as possible. Do this by 3 months old if you can. Don't wait. In class, the other puppies will teach your dog to inhibit his bite.
Many dogs play bite to get our attention. Even getting yelled at is better than being ignored. Next month in PLAY BITING 2, I will share with you the ideas of Janet Smith, Behavior Program Manager of the Capital Area Humane Society. She has found ways to positively combat attention getting play biting. Please try this month's suggestions. If you do, I think your puppy will be much less likely to "bite the hand that feeds him"!
Good luck, Carole
Best Friend Behavior Counseling and Training
San Diego, Ca.
Do you have a question for Carole? You can reach her at this email address - firstname.lastname@example.org Perhaps she will use it in an upcoming article on this Web site.
The information contained on this site is in no way intended to replace that of proper veterinary advice, diagnosis or treatment.
It is meant to provide resource, so that we can better understand canine health related issues.