ALL Puppies BITE! – Toes are Tasty!
“Heads, shoulders knees and toes!” This is a song Im often being reminded of when a pup is nipping at my toes (which when you have a litter of the cheeky monkeys you can be heard – aghhh get off my toes rather a lot!)
Like it or not we have to accept that our cute pups do bite. It is perfectly normal behaviour for puppies to do play biting, nipping and chewing.
The puppy nipping obviously DOES hurt and shouldn’t be regarded as aggressive. It is part of how they learn to play and learn where they may be in the pack, combined with the fact they are teething.
Puppies can look like they are totally coming at you, it will be repetitive nipping at you. This can feel upsetting as you love your puppy and you don’t understand why they are being (as you perceive) mean to you! It can feel as though your pup has become aggressive when in fact he is treating you as his litter mate! It is part of puppy play and social structure within the pack!
The level of biting can vary from pup to pup, partly based on whether they are teething or not and partly down to how boisterous the pup is. They are generally exploring everything with their mouth – so unfortunately for you – you might be the soul focus of their attention for chewing on your nose, ears or toes. Ironically out of all puppies it can be the Labrador pup that needs more understanding in this particular puppy issue. Labradors are soft muzzled and have been bred to pick up game. To achieve this, means they will be very happy to pick up anything. Labradors are very mouth orientated.
People can feel disillusioned by their Labrador puppies behaviour as they will have chosen the breed quite likely for the reliability of how gentle and soft they are. Which is the case…. they ARE soft and gentle and easy to train. The big but contradiction is puppyhood! If you can remain patient, firm and fair to your puppy. Enable your puppy to deal with his teething with appropriate toys. (raggers, deer antlers) Play games that do not involve pulling on the toy, but play games that are involving the puppy retrieving a ball. You will survive the puppy nipping with the right tools!
Now clearly – we have to accept it is a fact that puppies need to chew and go through a nippy stage BUT what do we do to help?
If a puppy is nipping you in a repeated coming at you kind of fashion. You do need to make sure you are firm with your puppy and say NO If you are nipped whether it hurts you or not you need to make the puppy believe you have been hurt. You would need to squeal – it gives your puppy a direct message of his action causing a reaction.
Puppies through playing with their litter mates learn to react to their sibling yelping. It takes a time for them to learn that the squealing has been caused by their biting.
Aside from yelping realistically at your puppy you can also try distraction methods. Use a toy to put into the pups mouth to save your hands! Or rolling balls to get the puppy to chase away from you. Games are always a good way of improving behaviour as it has a more positive outcome!
Most importantly DONT GIVE UP if you feel upset with the nipping…. it does resolve I promise.