Is your puppy part shark? I asked my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker, to tackle this reader’s question about how to stop her puppy’s out of control mouthing.
Q: Our new puppy’s nickname is Jaws. Even though we give her lots of chew toys, which she likes, she bites our hands and feet — hard. We withdraw attention when she bites, but it doesn’t help. Any advice?
A: Mouthing and biting are normal behaviors for puppies — it’s how they explore their new environment and people — but it’s important for them to learn that it’s not polite to put their teeth on humans.
Teach your puppy to replace her mouthing of humans with a chew or other toy. Whenever she mouths or bites your skin or clothes, freeze. Don’t move until your puppy lets go. The more still you are, the less fun you are. As soon as she lets go, give her a proper chew toy. Puppies sometimes mouth or bite humans because they learn it brings attention — even if it’s negative — so praise her for calm behavior and appropriate play with toys rather than reacting to biting behavior.
Keep chew toys in hand so that she grabs onto what you’re holding instead of the hand itself. Praise her for chewing on a toy.
You can also walk away each time she bites. This will help her learn to decrease the strength of her play biting so as not to lose your attention. The goal is for her to apply no pressure at all to your skin with her mouth.
Pay attention to when she typically mouths or bites. She may be seeking your attention, wanting to go out to potty, or still be excited after play. Knowing this will help you better focus your training and understand her behavior.
Finally, give her plenty of naps throughout the day. If she’s not sleeping enough, she’ll be less able to control the impulses that can lead her to bite you.
There’s more – including all about the Maine Coon cat – in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.