If your arms are covered with marks from tiny little puppy teeth daggers, keep reading! If you are fortunate enough to no longer be suffering from puppy daggers, feel free to share this with a friend that thought a cute, innocent little shark was a good life choice.
Puppy teeth hurt! There’s no avoiding that. The good news is mouthing is a perfectly normal puppy behavior, typically goes away on its own, and there are things that can be done to decrease your suffering.
It won’t last forever. Not only will mouthing naturally decrease as your puppy ages, but puppy teeth fall out, usually starting around 4 months. Soon enough you’ll have a very happy day where they go to bite you but it doesn’t hurt because they have no teeth left. But this means your cute little puppy is about to become a teenager, so enjoy them while they are young, puppy teeth and all.
Redirect: Try this first! When your puppy tries to bite you redirect him to a toy. We want to give your puppy an appropriate behavior to do instead of biting you! Playing a game with a toy is a much more acceptable behavior. If you notice your puppy bring you a toy, be sure to take the opportunity to tell him how clever he is.
Dog Friends: Have you ever watched young puppies play? Their favorite game is what we refer to as bitey face. They bite each other constantly and learn important skills in the process. Appropriate dog friends are an excellent outlet for your puppy’s need to bite. Let them play with us at Puppy Day School, or arrange puppy play dates with one or two appropriate adult dogs or other size and personality matched puppies.
Proper Chew Toys: Make sure your puppy has plenty of age appropriate chew toys. We recommend having at many toys of least five different textured toys. Bully sticks, nylabones, cow hooves, rubber chew toys, stuffed kong toys, and chilly bones all tend to be favorites for puppies.
Remove attention: Puppies often bite their humans in hopes of getting attention. If your puppy bites you too hard, make it the most boring game possible. Stand up and don’t move a muscle for 3-5 seconds. We want them to learn that biting humans is boring. If they are very insistent you might have to leave the room. Avoid physically touching them when they bite you, this will teach them one of two things. They will either think you are playing an awesome game of bitey face, or they will learn that they can’t quite trust their human to not be scary. Neither of these are helpful.
Enrichment: Bored puppies come up with their own games! These games often involve biting your hands, pant legs, and ankles. Make sure your puppy has plenty of better games to play. Feed him with food toys such as the Outward Hound Slo-Bowl or Kong Wobbler. Go on socialization trips to new, puppy friendly places. Do a short training session. Invite a puppy friend or two over to play in the backyard.
Overtired: The flip side to bored puppies is puppies who are overtired. Pay attention to when most of the biting is occurring. If it tends to be at night or after your puppy has been out playing for a while, you might be getting overtired biting. Luckily, this is an easy fix! Just give your puppy a nap in a crate with a chew toy when he’s insistent your arm is ALL he wants.
Know when you need help: If you have been struggling with biting for several weeks with no improvement, the biting is occurring when the puppy has something he wants, or it seems impossible to redirect at any time, you might be experiencing something more serious than simple puppy mouthing that goes away on it’s own. Contact a qualified, positive reinforcement trainer to help you and your puppy learn how to appropriate behave around each other.
Puppy mouthing isn’t very much fun, but given the right tools, you can successfully navigate this stage of your puppy’s development without too much trouble or pain.