Puppy biting often comes as something of a shock to new dog owners. Picture the scene...after weeks of excited anticipation you take the kids to go and collect their new puppy from the breeder. As soon as you get home, everyone wants to play with Buster, he’s just so adorable.
For a while, everything is jolly and there’s lots of laughter. But, next thing you know, your six year old daughter is in floods of hysterical tears and screaming if Buster gets anywhere near her. You finally manage to work out that Buster has given Amy a bite – and now your 10 year old son is also getting nervous too. Meanwhile, Buster is now uncontrollably excited and racing around nipping any human limb he comes into contact with. It’s not the best introduction.
In the worst case scenario, Buster would be labelled ‘aggressive’ and may even end up being abandoned in a rescue centre. But this kind of situation could so easily be avoided if puppy owners understood that puppy biting is completely normal canine behaviour and, in fact, an essential part of growing up.
What Are Puppy Teeth For?
A puppy’s teeth and under-developed jaw muscles are not capable of tearing meat, chewing bones or any other kind of adult dog activity. In fact, the sole purpose of those needle-sharp puppy teeth is to cause pain and so learn ‘bite inhibition’ – ie, to learn how to regulate their strength of bite.
During rough and tumble play with their litter mates and mother, puppies that bite too hard on their sibling’s ear will learn, from the resounding yelp of the victim, that they have bitten too hard. And the nip that they get in return teaches them what it feels like to be bitten too hard.
Puppies will generally leave their mothers and litter mates at about 7 weeks of age but keep their sharp puppy teeth until about 18 weeks of age. Learning bite inhibition, therefore, continues with us humans as tutors. And our reaction to the pain of being bitten will have an enormous impact on whether or not our puppy grows up to be a well-adjusted and sociable dog.
The Best Way to Stop Puppy Biting
If, as so many puppy owners do, you shout at your puppy for biting and give him a smack (often across the nose), you will, unfortunately, simply be teaching him to be fearful of humans. You will also rapidly destroy any trust your puppy has in you as his leader. A dog that grows up to be fearful or nervous of human contact will often show aggressive behaviour – and this is not good news: if the puppy hasn’t learned bite inhibition by the time he gets his adult teeth, he poses a real danger – sadly, through no fault of his own.
The best way to manage puppy biting is first for all of the family to be prepared. Everyone, including the kids, needs to understand that puppy biting is normal behaviour and that the new arrival has to be shown that such behaviour is unacceptable in a firm, but kind, manner.
In the meantime, it should also go without saying that children – and particularly babies and younger children – should never be left unsupervised with a puppy.Popular search terms for this page:
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