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How to Stop Play Biting and Mouthing in Puppies

How to Stop Play Biting and Mouthing in Puppies

The Adorable Razor-Toothed Menace

Ah, the joys of bringing home a new puppy. Those fuzzy little faces, those wiggly bodies, those…incredibly sharp teeth? Yep, that’s right – one of the first (and most common) challenges new puppy owners face is learning how to handle that incessant mouthing and play biting.

I remember when my pup Rufus first came home. He was the cutest ball of fluff, but man, those needle-like puppy teeth really packed a punch! I’d be petting him one minute, and the next thing I knew, I was yelping in pain as he latched onto my hand. Not the warm and fuzzy bonding moment I had envisioned.

Turns out, mouthing and play biting are completely normal puppy behaviors. They’re just exploring the world with their mouths, reliving those rambunctious play sessions with their littermates. But as adorable as it may be when they’re tiny, that habit can quickly become a problem as they grow bigger and stronger.

The good news is, with a bit of patience and the right training techniques, you can teach your pup to keep those sharp teeth to themselves. And I’m here to share everything I’ve learned on my journey to stop Rufus’ mouthing for good.

Bite Inhibition: The Key to Gentler Nibbles

The first step in curbing that pesky puppy mouthing is to focus on bite inhibition – teaching your pup to have a gentle mouth. This is a critical skill they would normally learn from their mom and littermates, but as the new pet parent, it’s up to you to step in and continue that education.

The ASPCA explains that puppies learn bite inhibition through their play with each other. When one pup bites too hard, the other yelps, and they both stop playing for a moment. Eventually, the pups learn to moderate the force of their bites so the play can continue without interruption.

You can mimic this natural process by yelping “Ouch!” in a high-pitched tone every time your puppy bites down too hard on your skin. This startles them and helps them understand that human skin is much more delicate than their littermates’. With consistency, they’ll start to recognize their own jaw strength and develop a gentler mouth.

Redirecting the Urge to Chomp

Of course, simply yelping isn’t going to magically stop your puppy from mouthing altogether. After all, chewing and mouthing are deeply instinctual behaviors for them. So in addition to the bite inhibition training, you’ll also need to provide appropriate outlets for that natural urge.

Animal Humane Society recommends keeping a variety of puppy-safe chew toys on hand to redirect your pup’s chomping when they start to target your fingers or toes. When they go for your skin, quickly swap in a toy and praise them for chewing on the right thing.

You can also try engaging them in interactive play, like tug-of-war or fetch. Just be sure to set some clear rules, like “I start the game, I end the game,” so they learn not to get overly mouthy. And remember to praise and reward them when they play nicely without biting.

Preventing Puppy ‘Temper Tantrums’

Now, not all mouthing is simply playful exploration. The ASPCA warns that some puppies may resort to more aggressive biting out of fear or frustration. These so-called “temper tantrums” are a bit more serious and require a different approach.

If you notice your pup’s body stiffening, their lips pulling back to expose their teeth, or their bites becoming significantly more painful, it’s a sign they may be feeling threatened or overwhelmed. In these cases, avoid yelping, as that could actually escalate the behavior. Instead, stay calm and gently but firmly restrain them until they settle down.

When they do calm down, even for just a moment, be sure to praise and reward them. The goal is to show them that aggressive biting makes playtime stop, while gentle behavior earns them your attention and affection.

Puppy-Proofing Your Home and Family

Of course, preventing mouthing issues isn’t just about training your puppy – you also need to make sure your home and loved ones are properly prepared. Blue Cross advises taking precautions like keeping tempting items like loose clothing and fluffy slippers out of reach, and supervising any interactions between your puppy and young children.

It’s also crucial to make sure your pup is getting enough physical and mental stimulation throughout the day. A bored, under-stimulated puppy is much more likely to turn to mouthing as a way to entertain themselves. Regular walks, playtime, and training sessions can help tire them out and discourage that unwanted behavior.

And of course, don’t forget the power of the almighty puppy nap. The ASPCA notes that just like human babies, overtired puppies can get cranky and mouthy. Make sure to build in plenty of quiet rest periods throughout the day to keep them happy and well-rested.

Patience and Persistence Pay Off

Stopping play biting and mouthing in puppies isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes time, consistency, and a whole lot of patience on the pet parent’s part. But I can tell you from personal experience, it’s so worth it in the end.

Rufus is now a happy, healthy, and – most importantly – gentle adult dog. Those sharp puppy teeth have been replaced with a soft, careful mouth that knows how to play without causing any ouch-worthy injuries. And our bond is stronger than ever, all because I stuck with the training and gave him the time and space he needed to learn.

So if you’re in the trenches of puppy mouthing right now, hang in there! With the right approach and a little elbow grease, you and your furry friend will get through this phase and come out the other side with an even deeper connection. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying all the cuddles and kisses your pup has to offer, without any painful nips in sight.

And who knows, maybe one day you’ll even be the one sharing your own puppy mouthing survival story on I Have Dogs. Happy training!

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