Training A Puppy To Stop Nipping
Does your Puppy Nip? Kilo the Pug sometimes still nips and paws me for attention, or when he needs a pee. He also loves to play rough occasionally. Most of the time he is gentle with his mouth, but if he gets excited, he can nip pretty hard. The texture of flesh is obviously very rewarding to him as he would often rather chew a finger than a toy. I would like to get him to stop nipping.
I have also been spending time with friends’ with new puppies. Boy can their puppy teeth be sharp and they seem to like to chew everything, especially fingers and toes. A playful nip in the wrong spot can be extremely painful (we had one friend in shorts sitting with his legs apart- OUCH!).
Nipping and chewing…all in a day’s work for a puppy.
Key Puppy Training Tips
Read Key Tips on How To Train your Puppy Successfully from expert trainer and founder of Who’s Walking Who Dog Training Centres, Gillian Ridgeway.
It is very common for puppies to exhibit behaviors like nipping and chewing, but it is important that you teach your puppy manners in a respectful fashion. There is no need for frustrated tones when dealing with a puppy that is in the learning phase. By teaching your puppy what behaviour you prefer, you should be able to curb the nipping, and make sure he/she understands what is expected.
Keeping your cool when handling and training your puppy is important. You don’t want to set up an escalating scene that frightens or over stimulates your puppy. Training and life should be fun and enjoyable for both of you! Your dog won’t learn anything if he/she is in a state of fear or excitement.
Set yourself and Your Puppy Up for Success
First, aim to set yourself and your puppy up to be successful.
Try not to play games that involve lots of rough-housing that get your puppy excited and using its mouth for play. Instead use play time in a productive manner. Teaching him or her how to fetch a ball is a better choice. Provide toys that are OK to chew or chase.
Identify why your puppy is nipping. Puppies do explore with their mouths and play nippy kissy face with each other, so often they just need to learn limits and manners. However nipping may also be an attention-seeking behaviour (as in Kilo’s case).
Behaviours will repeat again and again if your dog feels there is a payoff or they get rewarded. One of the biggest problems is telling your dog to stop it or pushing them away. These types of actions teach your dog to continue being a pest.
The simplest and fastest way to get rid of any unwanted behaviours is to ignore your puppy during unwanted behaviour and reward for good behaviour. It may be hard, but it will send the clearest message to your pup.
Steps to Stop Nipping
If your puppy does nip you, call out a sharp “yikes” or “no” and remove your hand immediately. Then, quickly put the palm of your hand in front of your puppy’s muzzle. In about 99% of the cases, they will lick it. At that time, use a marker word like “gentle” and reward. Soon your puppy will learn this new action is more effective.
If your puppy is persistent, you can use a house lead and guide him/her into an alternate action such as a sit or lay down. Reward the alternate action. I am using this technique with Kilo as ignoring him or putting out the palm of my hand usually does not work. I try to give him a way to get my attention by doing a sit or going to his mat and then reward that.
If you are still having trouble calming your puppy, try tethering him/her to something near you for a time out to cool down. By removing your puppy’s favorite reward (playing with you), this will make it clear that nipping is not a good idea. Kilo and I are working on this. If he is too rambunctious he gets a time out on a tether, or in extreme cases, in his crate (he loves his crate so it is not a punishment- just a cool down time away from stimulation). He is learning slowly. Make sure whatever you tether to is safe if your puppy pulls like Kilo does.
Gillian suggests working on developing a strong “leave it” marker from early on. Begin by holding a treat in your closed fist and only opening the fist when your dog backs his/her nose away. This will teach your puppy that something great will happen if he/she keeps his/her little puppy teeth to herself.
By repeating this process, your puppy will learn that when hands come towards its face, it will be for something positive and not to bite the hand that feeds.
I also redirect Kilo’s teeth to a toy if he starts to play too roughly for me and let him tug and chew that (He seems to need to chew. It really relaxes him). I am teaching him a drop by trading for treats once he has had a good tug.
It may seem easy to stop a behaviour in the short term by using intimidation, physical force or shoving a fist in their mouth or a finger down their throat, but it will probably not be the best option for the future.
Look at your long-term goals and relationship with your puppy. It is important to consider the consequences prior to your actions.
Positive does not mean permissive.
Being clear, kind and consistent. Reward your puppy for the actions you want. Positive Reinforcement training is always the best option for a long-term relationship with your dog. The results won’t come overnight, but the effort you’ve put into this aspect of your dog’s training will be plainly seen in the rest of your dog’s life. And that’s your reward.
Happy Training Tuesday!