Dog Behaviour

How to I stop my puppy biting?

You will find the top searched for question on Google is “How do I stop my puppy biting?”

You’ve probably even done it yourself. The reason most people cannot find the solution they’re looking for is that the information out there is actually pretty generic and the truth is there is not a one size fits all approach.

Puppies bite for a number of reasons and it’s not just because they’re teething. Let’s face it, the biggest problem with it is that they have razor sharp teeth at this age and it really hurts!

For you to find the solution for your puppy. You need to know all the reasons and how to help them not feel the need to bite you or your clothes in different situations.

Handling, puppies have to get used to being touched. Puppies do not sit there stroking each other in the litter, in fact, dogs do not pet each other at all. We touch dogs much more than they want to be touched and far more than we would touch each other. Often puppies do not find stroking as rewarding as we think at the start, it takes a while for them to find it enjoyable. Now if you look at it from a dog’s point of view, sometimes we can be pretty annoying when we’re touching them. So one of the reasons they might be nipping hands is to say I don’t like that.

We do of course need to get puppies used to being handled because people are going to touch them with or without consent. But this should be done in a positive way pairing it with rewards, doing it in mini sessions and giving them breaks before they try to nip stroke with one hand only, gives them the choice to move away. Stroke in a calm way. Find the spot your puppy likes under the chin on their chest are normally places they prefer rather than over the head. Try stroking when they’re calm, not when they’re playing or over excited. Otherwise they will just play with you like you’re another dog, with their mouth. Keep it brief initially, always stroke then paused for a few seconds to see if they want more and then repeat.

Frustration is another cause for puppies to bite us. We sometimes are a competitive species, particularly when we’re playing a game of tug. There’s a lot of controversy around playing tug games stemming from outdated advice, one of them suggesting you should always win, firstly where’s the fun in that! This can teach puppies not to trust you around items causing them to feel the need to guard and also it makes the game pretty boring. If you do not release the toy regularly, they might resort to biting you to make you drop the toy sooner or they give up and find something else to do.

When playing tug with your puppy keep them engaged by letting it trail on the floor, bouncing it around like pray and then tug gently when they get it and then let them win, then repeat. This will drive them back to you to play more. It sometimes good to have two toys keeping it interesting for the puppy. Tug toys that are around a metre long helps keep puppies at a distance

If your dog likes to parade around with it in their mouth and not drop it or takes it to chew. This is not an invitation to play and remove it from them. In fact, this can cause distrust, lead them to chew or play with it the way they like.

Managing physically, whilst puppies are young, particularly for smaller breeds, we have a habit of physically removing them and picking them up constantly. Hands can become pretty negative to them. This can again cause frustration, leading them to nip us to say put me down or to make us get off them when putting new equipment like leads and harnesses on puppies, they have no idea what it is. With us leaning over them or grabbing them, it can be pretty scary. When putting new equipment or clothing on them, it’s important to break this process down and pair every step with treats until they’re comfortable having it on and teach a hand target and leave it to get them to move away or come to you, rather than being physically forceful.

Teething, when the biting is related to teething you will find they are trying to get what ever it is in their mouth and generally to their back teeth, fingers feel so good on teeth and for them it can appear you are trying to take their teething toy away. Always have some edible and non edible chews available to hand as they need to chew a lot. You can put toys in the freezer and give frozen carrots finding, what your puppy enjoys chewing is the trick as each puppy is different.

You can get coffee wood chews specifically for dogs that crumble instead of splinter, pizzles, other meat or vegetable based chews and yak milk chews are great, find what’s right for your puppies age. It is vital particularly when they are resting near you to have these within arm’s reach. As chewing is often common when puppies are tired, chewing releases a calming hormone so usually the thing nearest to them will be gnawed on to get them off to sleep.

Teething starts around eight weeks just at the time they’re in their new home and goes on until about eight months. Usually the worst period for teething is between 12 to 16 weeks when tooth eruption is at its highest.

Play, puppies play using their mouth and feet, it’s a little like wrestling. If it moves, puppies investigate and like to pounce on it and mouth it.

All puppies can see is everything below, the knee moving along and it’s fun. Add to this dangling clothing like dressing gown chords and you’ve just made it the best game ever! During this exciting period, prevent temptation by tucking things in, wearing clothes that are not great tug toys and keep the fluffy slippers upstairs until they’re a little older. With children it is important to prevent puppy practising chasing and biting. The long fleece tug toys are good if your child really wants to play with them however it’s also important children do other activities with puppy. Get them involved in designing enrichment activities like; searching for treats, hiding a toys or kong, stuffing boxes or making a towel burrito with treats rolled up in it, this means they’re involved with puppy but not always wanting to pick them up and play with them all the time, getting them over aroused and over tired, where the puppy then constantly bites them. Getting children involved in training is important so puppy doesn’t want to see them as something to chase all the time. Management is crucial. So puppies don’t rehearse the behaviour preempting it is important. If the chasing happens whenever the kids come home, set up an enrichment activity for puppy and children to do together or use pens and barriers when they cannot be supervised to keep them apart.

Witching hour, puppies are crespuscular, which means they’re more active at dawn and dusk. This normally ties in when you’re getting ready for school and work or when everyone is home in the evening trying to relax. It’s important to get the balance right of your puppies routine. Puppies need a lot of sleep between 16 to 20 hours a day, overtired puppies nip, they become restless and they get zoomies which often looks like their biting is more deliberate and is then often made worse because everyone is trying to grab them and there are more people in the house. The biggest mistake new owners make is thinking walking them and playing with them loads tires them out but this does the complete opposite, sniffing, chewing, enrichment activities and training are the things that are more calming not play, which is why it’s important to end play with an activity like this to dissipate their arousal levels. It’s important that they get good quality rest where they are not disturbed, touched or woken, they should wake up naturally where ever possible. If they do not get enough sleep in the day, they can get restless at night too. When they get like this, it’s about getting them in a quiet space providing a chew or stuffed calm to bring their arousal down.

So what do you do when puppies do by first always have toys and choose within reach of you and rotate them to keep them interesting? You can never have too many. Start using a finished signal to let puppy know when it’s the end of training, treats, play or fuss, this helps them learn how to switch off. I will let puppies mouth me a little if it’s gentle and not hurting. I need them to know the difference and what a soft mouth is. If there is firm contact, stop interacting for a second and slowly move your hand or any other part of you that’s in the mix. Teaching them pain means that play stops briefly. As soon as they stop divert to a toy and play with that toy, moving it away from them, getting them to chase it. Do not try and force it into their mouths as this will make them more likely to just latch back onto you. If the puppy is biting continues and the toy is not satisfying them, remove yourself for a few seconds, making sure you take a different toy on your way out and then go back and offer the toy to play with.

If they are overstimulated or tired, they cannot learn anything. So at this stage, you need to calm them down by giving them an activity in their crate, pen or bed to bring them down, remember sniffing, licking and chewing are things that will calm our puppies.

If you need further support take a look at my puppy training page for the services I provide or book a free 15 minute call with me.

Dog Behaviour, Puppy

How to overcome the puppy blues so you can enjoy your puppy!

Having a new puppy can be a bit of an emotional roller coaster at times, but it’s often the lesser talked about reality of new puppy parenthood. It can leave you feeling a little isolated, frustrated, and even perhaps regretful. It’s the puppy blues in full effect! 

I’m going to let you into a well-kept secret that I think will help you. A large percentage of the issues we see with puppies are not actually training issues at all. 

There are two things that are leading to you feeling overwhelmed, conflicted, and possibly even guilty about life with your new puppy. You might be surprised to learn that they are both fairly easy to overcome once you identify them. 

So what are they, Jo? I hear you cry. 

Expectations and too much information. 

In this puppy blues blog, we will delve into both of these factors so you can recognise them, manage them and come out the other side with your sanity intact and a dog you love deeply and understand. 

So, let’s start with expectations. 

Puppy Blues: Is it normal to feel regret after getting a puppy?

You had a vision of what life was going to look like when you welcomed your puppy or rescue dog home. And this isn’t it. 

You’re exhausted. You’re monitoring your puppy’s toileting habits constantly, you’re sleep-deprived, and you’re frankly covered in bite marks gifted to you by your little shark puppy’s razor-sharp teeth. 

It’s disappointing, upsetting, frustrating, and you might even be feeling like getting your puppy was a terrible idea. Don’t panic! It’s also normal!

Guess what?! Your puppy is more than likely behaving like a puppy. The problem is not you, and it’s not your puppy. He isn’t some devilish spawn that you should never have invited into your life.

The problem is that you weren’t given an honest reflection of what these early weeks and months might look like. It’s not your fault. 

You read all the books and boffed up before getting him home, but now it’s like everything you read was written for someone else. 

I’ll tell you why. There isn’t much out there that highlights the fact that your puppy will not master everything you try and train immediately. And that’s not because you’re not doing it right. It’s because there are developmental milestones that have to be reached before that training will cement. Training takes time. 

Why is my puppy so hard to train? 

Your 9-week old puppy cannot physically hold their wee and poo in. They are not developed enough to do so. Your puppy doesn’t have the capacity to be fully toilet trained until approx 16 weeks old, when he can begin to learn to hold his toileting needs until he’s in an appropriate place. 

That doesn’t mean there’s no point in doing any toilet training. There is. But it means that you can allow yourself to relax a little and enjoy the little successes which are slowly adding up. 

Let go of berating yourself (and your puppy) whenever you find a puddle somewhere you’d rather not. It’s going to happen. Stock up on kind words for yourself and your puppy, enzymatic cleaner to remove odours and stains, and treats for celebrating the toileting that is happening in the right places. 

And trust that it will pay off. These little accidents may be frustrating, but they won’t be forever. 

The puppy biting you’re experiencing is also normal. Your puppy is teething, prone to becoming overtired in the blink of an eye and learning about the world with her mouth. You can do things to help your puppy with their sore teeth, but it is unrealistic to think you can completely eradicate any biting. 

Those sleepless nights or hideously early mornings? Yup, normal! Again, there are things we can do to make it easier on you and your puppy, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be gifted a puppy who sleeps 12hrs straight as soon as they enter your life. 

The fun and joy you expected from puppy life are in there. You will enjoy your life with your dog. The puppy blues will pass! 

You just need some help to adjust your expectations so that you can revel in your training successes and actually recognise when they happen. You might find that your puppy training is actually going swimmingly, you just need a different perspective… and perhaps a couple of small tweaks to help you on your way. 

Who can I trust – there is so much conflicting information

I remember when I first had my son, Logan. Yes, I’m talking about a human child, but stick with me, it is relevant, I promise. 

I drove myself round the bend, worrying about whether I was getting it right. I’d read so many books while pregnant, but my views were completely different when he arrived. 

So what did I do? I turned to Google, of course! 

And I didn’t stop there. I read various books, talked to friends, and tied myself in little knots once I’d acquired a ton of conflicting advice. 

It was overwhelming, confusing, and very unhelpful.  

We all have really good gut instincts, but we go down these rabbit holes seeking information, and we often end up ignoring or even fighting against our gut.

I have clients who have achieved great results using books or videos from YouTube. They have developed amazing skills which have helped them to train their dogs. But there is still something missing. 

For a lifetime of success, understanding, and a strong bond with your dog, you need to not just be able to teach behaviours but to have a clear understanding of your dog’s behaviour. 

What’s beneath the problems you are experiencing? When you understand your dog’s specific needs, what motivates him, what he struggles with and what emotions he is experiencing, you are both set up for an incredible relationship.

That can’t be taught in a generic video or picked up from a well-meaning dog friend because your dog is unique. There will be different motivations, life experiences, breed traits and so much more that affect your dog’s perspective on the world. 

Let’s go back to Logan for a minute. Imagine I told a friend he screamed all night, and I was at my wit’s end. And imagine my friend told me that she had a similar experience, and her baby was hungry, so she gave her an extra feed before bed, and the problem was solved. 

So off I toddle, and I give Logan a huge top up feed before bedtime. Only he doesn’t sleep soundly. He screams even more and for longer. Because the reason he couldn’t sleep was reflux, and the extra milk just made that 10x worse. This is a made-up story, but I just want to highlight how if we seek out information without a two-way exchange, it can quickly lead us into bigger problems. 

Just like children, our puppies and dogs need us to be consistent. And with the best of intentions, when we bounce from pillar to post trying different techniques from various people, it simply doesn’t work. In fact, a lot of the time, it creates bigger problems, because we are now unpredictable to our dogs (or kids), and that doesn’t foster confidence or security. 

What should I focus on with my puppy?

Your puppy is like a baby, he/she needs you. The absolute best thing you can do for your puppy (and your future self) is to help your puppy to grow in confidence. The typical dog training obedience stuff can come later. The early weeks and months are all about supporting your puppy and helping him/her to feel secure and safe. 

This solid foundation will enable you to build a strong relationship with your puppy. And that foundation will make it a million times easier to teach your puppy the vital skills they need to grow into an assured, confident, and happy dog. 

You can begin teaching cues such as drop and leave to help keep your puppy safe, of course. I don’t mean that you should completely ignore all elements of training your puppy. But the area of most importance is your relationship and their feeling secure. 

So, if you’re not going to Google everything and ask every dog owner you know, what’s the alternative? 

“I wish I had got help from the beginning” is a phrase I hear from clients all the time. Initially, they tried using a book or the internet to help them with their puppy woes, but the reality was they became even more overwhelmed. 

They wound up pulling their hair out and making things so much harder for both themselves and their puppy. 

Prevention is better than cure

Don’t put off puppy training until you have a problem. It will be so much harder for you and your puppy. 

Being proactive to prevent problems or getting help as soon as they arise sets you and your puppy up for success both now and in the future. Whether you’re having a tough time or you’d like to try and prevent a challenge from occurring, having a professional you can call on to discuss your individual situation is a huge relief. 

How choosing one to one puppy training support can help you overcome the puppy blues

Group puppy training classes usually teach general obedience training covering things like sit, stay, recall, and drop. And while these can be helpful skills to learn, you then have to take what you’ve learned in a class environment and progress it in the outside world alone. And that can be tricky without someone coaching you through the little hiccups that occur in day-to-day life. 

Choosing one to one dog training support means that we work on your specific challenges and your unique goals. We consider your lifestyle, the things that are important to you, and we work on a bespoke plan for your puppy or dog and support you through putting it into action. 

I’m not just a dog trainer and behaviourist, I support the humans I work with. If you have a safe person to turn to it makes it a million times easier for you to be the safe person for your puppy. 

And it helps you get over those inevitable humps without falling down a Google hole, only to emerge confused, even more exhausted, and utterly fed up. 

Instead, you have one person to reach out to who will give you consistent, tailored advice and support that meets your needs and those of your puppy. Hurrah!

So that vision you had of life with a confident and calm dog by your side that can stride through life with you no matter what happens is your reality. 

If you’re struggling with the puppy blues, then please don’t suffer alone. Reach out and get in touch with me, and let’s banish those puppy blues so you can enjoy your new pup! 

Since you’re here and tackling all things puppy, you might find this blog on socialising your puppy a useful read.