By Yulia Sysoyeva
Nipping and mouthing are very natural behaviors for puppies. This is the way littermates play with each other and greet each other. In a litter, if one pup nips another too hard during play or greeting, the other pup will most likely yelp very loudly, turn around and walk away, ending all the fun. The offending pup will then learn quickly that if he bites too hard he does not get to play.
If you adopted your dog as a very young puppy, he may have been taken out of the litter too soon to learn how to interact with other dogs and what the consequences are for being too rough with brothers and sisters. Therefore he must learn this from you.
Learning from You
You will have to teach him that if he is being too rough, all the fun will end. Dogs are social animals like humans. “Turning off” all the attention and social interaction is a very effective consequence for mouthing and nipping, but also be sure to praise him whenever he is being good.
First of all, if you play with your puppy using your hands (rough playing, face slapping, grabbing his cute little snout, etc.), stop it immediately. He will learn to view your hands as toys. NEVER use your hands as toys. Hands are for petting, scratching and grooming only.
Second, set him up for success and encourage acceptable behavior. You know he will want to nip and chew when you try to pet him o play with him, so have acceptable toys on hand to redirect his attention to them instead of your hands.
Third, when your pup nips you, yell in sharp voice “OUCH” (or whatever word you want to use) as though you have been mortally wounded and then completely ignore him. You can even leave the room. Your puppy will most likely follow you, wondering what the heck just happened. Give it 15 seconds or so. Wait for him to calm down and then start interacting with him again. If he nips again,
repeat the exercise.
Keep using this technique until your puppy understands that EVERY TIME he nips, you end the fun. If you let him get away with nipping even one time, you will have to start the training from the beginning. All that work will be for nothing.
Nipping When Petting
Now let’s work on a specific situation. I hear a lot of complaints about nipping while people are trying to pet their puppy. When this happens, do the following:
Reach for him with one hand as you offer a toy with the other. This will keep his mouth busy while you scratch behind his ear and will help him associate petting with things he likes.
You can also use a treat instead of the toy. Keep the petting exercises short at first, increasing the sessions in small increments until he is accepting petting for longer periods of time without mouthing or nipping.
Be Consistent – 100% of the Time
YOU HAVE TO BE CONSISTENT 100% of the time for training to work. If you are not consistent and let your puppy do the wrong thing sometimes, he will not take you seriously and will not be consistent with his behavior either. Dogs cannot differentiate that sometimes it’s ok to mouth your hand and other time it’s not. It is way too confusing for them. It’s ether ALWAYS or NEVER.
Keep in mind that your puppy is not going to stop nipping and mouthing within a few days or even weeks. He may have been getting away with this for some time and expecting him to stop the behavior he is so used to in a short period of time is just not fair or realistic. Also, remember that training is a lifetime commitment that requires strong, fair and consistent leadership. Good luck!