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Why do Puppies Nip and How to Stop it

 by jaime on 25 Jul 2014 |
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What is it?
Nipping, also known as gentle mouthing is not biting. It's something that puppies do a lot of and most of the time it's while they play. Controlling the force of their nipping or gentle mouthing is called bite inhibition and usually puppies quickly learn this ability when they are frequently socialised. It's important that your puppy learns to control their bite inhibition from a young age so they don't carry bad habits into adulthood. Puppies will often learn bite inhibition while they are still with their litter and will grasp that nipping can often lead to a period of ostracization so quickly learn to control their bite so play time can continue!
 
Why do puppies do it?
Puppies nip because, well, they're puppies! Nipping is a part of their development that lasts until they are six to nine months of age, sometimes older. Other reasons for nipping include:
    •    Teething
    •    Learn more about dog culture
    •    Makes life more exciting!

Why they should learn not to nip
While it's all pretty painless and rather cute when they are puppies, if bite inhibition and nipping behaviour is not curbed it will become an unattractive and troublesome quality in your pooch as they enter adulthood. If your objective is to have a well turned out, obedient adult dog then you must teach them to control their bite inhibition.

How to stop it?
Your goal out of all of this is to a.) teach your puppy that like other dogs, humans also have very sensitive skin, so care must be taken when they use their mouth and b.) to stop mouthing and biting altogether.

To successfully teach your dog to quit their nipping habit, you will need to be consistent and regularly attend to your dog's bite strength. You will have to monitor their biting behaviour throughout their entire life. Fortunately, if you start teaching them young, your dog is bound to carry on with their excellent behaviour, without much need to intervene when they are older.

The first thing you will have to do is focus on your puppy's tooth pressure. Allow your pooch to place their teeth on you but it's up to you as to how much pressure they can apply. Every consequential play session, less pressure is allowed. If/when your puppy nips harder than allowed say a word that signifies a mistake - something like "Oops" will do. Once you say your word, stop playing straightaway and look away from your puppy for around 10 seconds and make sure you ignore your pup. Once the embargo is over, begin playing again in your usual friendly way. Like when they were in the littler, your pup is quickly learning to correlate nipping with no play so will be eager to be more careful with their teeth so play time is never over!

As soon as your puppy has mastered the art of being careful with their teeth, you will now need to teach them to not use their teeth at all on skin or clothing. To achieve this, you carry on as you were before when teaching them to watch the pressure of their teeth, except as soon as their teeth touches your skin, your say your magic mistake word and put them in to time out - even if you know it was a mistake. Following this method, your puppy will become a perfect, gentle pooch.

Tips for a nip-free puppy
  • If your puppy is coming from a breeder, try and wait for a long as possible (at least eight weeks) before bringing them home.
  • Arrange plenty of play dates with other puppies and friendly (vaccinated) adult dogs. Socialising your dog in a variety of environments, increases their confidence, which helps to eliminate nipping.
  • Make sure you have plenty of different and interesting toys for your pooch to chew on.
  • Learn to 'be a tree' for when your puppy gets a little boisterous.
  • Hand-feeding your dog increases your bond and allows more practice time for learning to mouth politely.
  • Get your puppy started in obedience classes as soon as you can!
  • Make sure your puppy is getting plenty of mental and physical stimulation.
  • If your dog is getting a little out of control with their nipping, you can distract them by feeding them treats using your other hand to encourage them to tone down their nipping.
  • Diversify with non-contact forms of play.

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