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Puppy Training 101: Play Biting Problem

by Robin MacFarlane

Nothing puts a damper on things like play-biting behavior.

When we bring home a new puppy we are filled with daydreams about all the things we plan to do together. It is a fun and exciting time. There is so much to do, teach, and explore together!

But if there is one thing that puts a damper on our enthusiasm, it is play-biting behavior. We go to pet or play with the little fur ball, and the needle sharp teeth come out to gnaw on our hands. When the kids try to run and play, the excitement stimulates the pup to chase and begin tugging at pant legs, shoestrings or latch on to exposed skin.

Suddenly it isn't fun anymore because it feels like little alligator teeth are clamping down on your flesh!

While some puppies are pretty easy to interrupt and redirect, other are relentless in the biting behavior.

There are a number of ways to deal with this behavior. Some puppies can be easily deterred when we utter a loud "ouch" and they immediately sense their infraction and back off, just as they would when a litter mates cry out in a similar fashion. These same pups are typically stunned if you just walk away for a few minutes and take away any attention. Their goal is to play and they can learn that play disappears when they play too rough.

Yet for other pups, any vocalization and movement stirs them on even more. They realize they got a reaction and elicit further interaction through more nipping and biting behavior.

Sometimes a simple time out is needed. That works particularly well if you learn to recognize that your pup's major infractions of biting happen around times when a nap is actually needed. Puppies can become cranky and frustrated, just as human infants do. They need a reasonable schedule adhered to and do best when they have regular intervals of crate time to decompress and sleep.

One thing I do discourage is slapping a pup across the nose to try and stop the biting. While some pups may back off quickly from this severe reaction, others will become more assertive and come back harder. Pups that have been slapped can easily become head shy when they see an open hand descending toward them. They learn to avoid a hand toward them and some become quite defensive.

A strategy that I have found to be very successful with pups, as long as you start young, is what I call the "straight jacket" routine. The puppies I work with learn from day one that if they put their teeth on me, the consequence will be finding themselves stuck in such a way that all the fun just stopped.

Take a look.

-- Robin

Robin MacFarlane is a professional dog trainer and owner of Thatís My Dog in Dubuque, Iowa. Her best-selling dog training DVDs, JUST RIGHT and JUST RIGHT 2 have helped thousands of dog owners teach their dogs basic obedience and fix problem behaviors through a system of training that you can easily work into your daily routine.
  • Robin writes for Gun Dog Supply on our E-collars Dog Training blog
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  • Pull-Quote= Is your pup part piranha? Maybe it is time to stop the play-biting.

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