When we brought our dachshund puppy Django home in 2015, he had 28 razor sharp puppy teeth. Like a human baby, Django explored the world by putting objects into his mouth. Although we (Mike and Steph) always tried to direct Django's chewing energy towards puppy-safe chew toys, Django would put things in his mouth and chew on items he wasn't supposed to. Since Mike and I were a part of his world, he inevitably started nipping and biting our fingers, hands, and toes.
While mouthing is completely normal during puppyhood, it is important to let your puppy know what is and what is NOT allowed to be chewed on. Why do puppies gnaw on everything? How do you keep your dog from biting you? Are there outdated training techniques you should avoid? When should you seek professional help for your four-legged friend?
We spoke to Denise Harmon, the founder of Brooklyn-based dog training and consultant company Empire of the Dog, for tips on preventing puppy nipping and biting. Here is everything you need to know.
“Your puppy has a biological need to chew. It's actually something that he needs to do and should have an outlet for his entire life,” says Denise Harmon. “You should give him four to five hours per day to chew.”
Here are three reasons your puppy bites:
When your puppy bites you, he is not challenging your “alpha” dog status. He is just playing and does not know that his bite strength is between 250 and 325 pounds per square inch. Here is what you should do when your puppy bites you or other members of your family:
If you find that puppy-style yelping or verbal corrections do not work, you can switch to a time-out procedure. Here's how this works:
Herding dog breeds (e.g., Australian shepherds, border collies, and Pembroke Welsh corgis) are more likely to try to gather, herd, and protect their humans and other household pets. They are also most likely to nip at your feet and socks.
If your dog nips at your feet or ankles when you are walking, teach him the “find it” command. Whenever he ambushes you, immediately stop moving. Then toss a high-value dog toy or dog treat on the ground and say, “Find it!” Throw treats until your puppy is either too tuckered out to nip at you, or you can redirect his attention with a durable chew toy.
One more tip? Fill plastic containers with bite-sized treats. Place them in every room of your house, so you always have access to a treat when your dog starts nipping.
Do not let your child play on the ground at your dog's eye level. According to the CDC, 64.9 percent of dog bite injuries among toddlers are to their head or neck. For extra security, exercise your puppy for at least 5 minutes for each month of age before allowing your puppy and small child to interact.
Consider using a dog-friendly playpen or gate to separate your puppy and child as needed. Supervise play sessions, so you can step in if things get out of control. Consider using a flirt pole or stuffed Kong dog toy to create a positive association between your child and pup.
Consider hiring a certified dog trainer if your puppy:
Some dogs are aggressive because they have a medical condition. Before you find professional behavioral help, check with your veterinarian to make sure your puppy is in good health.
If you have any questions about nipping or biting or want to share one of your own puppy experiences, please leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you!
Also, if you are in New York City and looking for a very talented dog trainer, consider Empire of the Dog in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We did obedience training with Denise Harmon when Django was a puppy and highly recommend her as a dog trainer and training consultant. She's an incredibly skilled, experienced, and talented trainer for dogs of all ages and breeds.
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