Solving Nipping Problems

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As a puppy owner, you quickly realize that your very cute fluffy ball of wonderfulness also has very sharp teeth that can easily draw blood, bruise, and scratch. Owners have called me in tears because of puppy nipping problems. This isn’t an easy issue for any pet owner and for those of you experiencing this issue; you are not alone.

A Soft Bite
Years ago we taught puppies to not bite at all by punishing them every time their teeth came into contact with skin. However, research shows that if a dog was never allowed to put his teeth on skin, he missed the opportunity to learn that human’s skin is very tender. Because of this knowledge, we now teach puppies a soft bite, or also known as “bite inhibition.”

Exercise for Soft Bite: This exercise should be implemented when, and only when you are okay with the puppy interacting with you. Also, it goes without saying that this exercise is for adults only. When you are okay with the puppy interacting with you, allow the puppy to “nibble” on your hand. Anytime a bite is harder than what you think is okay (even if it doesn’t necessarily hurt you) then squeal with a very high pitch, “Ouch!” Make sure that the “ouch” is very dramatic. Usually puppies will back up and look at their owner. As soon as the puppy looks at you say, “Good” and continue interacting with him.

If you said the high pitch, “Ouch!” and he didn’t stop nipping, give him a time out by crossing your arms in front of you and do not look or talk to him. The moment he backs up away from you, continue interacting with him.

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Use Toys to Redirect (Larger Toys Are Better Than Smaller Toys)
As a puppy, Morgan my Golden retriever mix needed something to chew almost constantly.  I always had something for her to chew on, no matter where we went. Every time she would try to chew on me, I would immediately redirect her to the Nylabone or her bully stick.

Petting
When petting a puppy, our hands can sometimes become a game. The exercises below will help him learn that hands are not toys.

Training Exercises For Petting:

1. Place ten treats in the opposite hand that you will use to pet your puppy. Sit in a chair. Now reach over and pet your puppy one time. Before the puppy begins to nip present the baited hand and food lure him away from the hand you are petting him with. As the puppy is turning his head away from the hand petting him say, “Good” and treat. Your puppy will learn to look to the other hand when petting and you can soon replace the food reward with toy or a treat.

2. Place five treats in opposite hand that you will use to pet your puppy. Sit in a chair. Now present baited hand closed. Place directly in front of the puppy’s nose. If he sniffs or nuzzles the hand say, “Good” and treat. If the puppy puts his mouth on your hand, use your correctional sound “eh eh” and stand up, cross your arms, and do not look at puppy (form of a time out). Ignore him until sits or stands and then repeat.

3. Present baited hand to the puppy. If the puppy sniffs, then pet by stroking his head and neck one time. Say, “Good” and treat. Gradually increase the number of times you pet your puppy before you say, “Good” and treat.

Of course, with all treatment plans you must be consistent. If you don’t allow nipping, but someone else in your family does, this will cause confusion for the puppy and not produce the desired results.

If you are not consistent with the treatment plan you can’t expect a consistent response!

Other Nipping Tips:
• Avoid getting the puppy overly excited.
• Keep play time manageable. For example, you know at seven minutes of play he’ll be too excited, so only play for four minutes.
• Exercise, exercise, exercise. This includes an outdoor walk involving mental stimulation.

What to Do When Puppy Nips:
If your puppy starts to nip, quickly fold your arms in front of you and ignore him. After two seconds of no nipping, calmly start interacting again with the puppy. If the puppy starts to nip, repeat the process. If you’ve done this twice and the puppy is still nipping, get up and leave the room for a few seconds (sometimes I shut the door behind me which seems to get my point across).

Blog written by: Michelle Huntting