Just as it is natural for babies and young children to put things into their mouths, it is natural behavior for a new puppy to nip, bite or mouth. It is a lesson which your puppy needs to learn, that he should not bite the hand which feeds him.
Generally, when puppies use their mouths in nipping or biting when being petted, they do not intend to cause any harm. However, if this behavior is left unchecked it becomes unacceptable, and a habit which is difficult to break. As part of the learning process, aim to channel your puppy’s chewing and nipping towards quality puppy chew toys specifically for the purpose. At the same time, he must learn to be gentle if a hand is near or even in his mouth.
Encourage what you find to be acceptable behavior. Whenever you pet your puppy, make it a habit to offer a chew toy with your other hand. Continually redirecting your puppy’s nipping energy to an appropriate object will eventually result in acceptable behavior. This method is particularly useful whenever children may want to pet you puppy, so that no unforeseen nipping accidents occur.
Do not always use the same hand when petting your puppy. Alternate which hand you use for petting, and also have a variety of chew toys to offer with your free hand. Over time, your puppy will come to associate being petted as a nice sensation, at the same time enjoying having his mouth occupied. Initially you may need to keep ear-scratching time and petting to short periods, since the longer the duration of petting, the more likely it is that your puppy will become overly excited and may tend to nip.
Discourage any unacceptable behaviors. With the best of intentions, you may still suffer the occasional nip or bite from your puppy. When such an incident happens, you must firmly show him that his behavior is unacceptable. Respond immediately by looking your puppy in the eyes and loudly saying “Ouch” as if you have been seriously injured. Then ignore your puppy. If necessary, leave the room to allow your puppy time to calm down. When he is calm again, return to the petting with one hand and chew toy with the other method.
Jumping up on you is an indication that your puppy wants your attention. Here’s one method of stopping your puppy from jumping. When your puppy jumps up do the following:
Turn away from your puppy with your arms folded in front of you. Reinforce the feeling verbally, by saying “off” or “no”. Keep turning away until your puppy remains on the ground, with all four paws grounded. Then praise him gently, not excitedly, and give him a treat. If your puppy is familiar with the command to “sit”, then give the command whilst he is standing, and reward him when he complies. If your puppy persists in jumping whilst you are praising him then stop, turn away and ignore him until he stops jumping. This action may be necessary on a number of occasions before your puppy grasps the lesson.
In time your puppy will come to learn that jumping up on you does not result in you giving your attention, and is no fun for him. Once your puppy does learn his lesson and does sit quietly waiting for your attention, do not ignore him. Reward his acceptable behavior verbally and with treats when appropriate.
For another method of correcting jumping, and a more in-depth discussion of the problem, visit:
Correction & Consistency
OK, so here’s what not to do: NEVER tap or slap your puppy in the face, however gently, as a punishment for nipping or jumping.
Depending on how severe the correction, your puppy may start to cower or cringe whenever a hand comes near to his face. He will likely become afraid of you and probably will not want to come near to you at all. Alternatively, your puppy may resort to defensive behavior and might bite you in order to defend himself. A mild slap or tap may also be viewed as you wishing to play with your puppy, and he may become excited at the prospect.
It is important to set boundaries with regard to your puppy’s behavior, so that he knows when playing at “tug of war” or when wrestling is acceptable, and when playing is inappropriate. These games do have their place, and help to teach your puppy restraint when potentially playing too roughly.
Be patient and remain consistent. If your puppy is to develop acceptable behavior it is best if all members of the family work together to maintain consistency in training. This way, your puppy will not suffer from conflicting messages about what is and is not acceptable.
A note about children and puppies: Bear in mind that young children under the age of eight or nine tend to find it difficult to enforce the behavior modification discussed above. A child’s natural reaction to being nipped by a puppy is to yell in fright or pain, and to push the puppy away. Such a response of pushing is likely to be understood by the puppy as an invitation to play and may result in further nipping. Adults should pay close attention to interaction between their puppy and their children.