I’m not sure which drives people crazier when living with a puppy – the housetraining or the puppy biting. Both can be difficult to deal with and try the patience of even the calmest person you know. If I had a dollar for every time I heard “This biting needs to stop!” I could be sitting on a beach somewhere right now sipping a margarita.
Sorry to be blunt, but if it’s something you truly cannot deal with, then you should not have a puppy. Adopt an older dog who has their adult teeth and is past their main chewing stages in life. You’ll be much happier. Unless you live with a puppy who naturally does very little biting and chewing. There are a few out there, but the chances of you having one are about the same as winning the Powerball.
For those brave or foolish enough to take on a puppy, I’ll tell you the secret to saving your sanity and your skin during this stage of your puppy’s life. The secret is not how to stop the behavior. You can minimize it, but there is no way to stop it until your puppy gets past this biting/nipping/chewing stage. The secret is successfully redirecting it onto something or someone other than you and the other people your puppy encounters.
Zuzu came home with us at just under 6 weeks, so we have dealt with (and are continuing to deal with) a worse biting behavior than many do. Since most puppies go to new homes around 8 weeks, they have an extra couple of weeks to interact with their littermates and mother and discover how much is too much. At six weeks, Zuzu really didn’t have much opportunity to learn those things from her original family since she was really just getting into that experimental playful stage. She experiments on us instead. A lot. And painfully.
When interacting with us, we have an enormous supply of toys to redirect her teeth. I never play with her without having several toys in my hands or in close reach. When she gets that gleam in her eye, I make sure I have toys – and large enough ones! – to put between me and her mouth. I don’t call her Vampire Girl for nothing.
I know, you’ll say I try to give my puppy toys and he just keeps coming after me. Yep, I know. It’s exhausting sometimes. And when Zuzu is really relentless, I simply put her in her pen, give her some toys and a bully stick and remove myself. There are certain times when they are so wild and determined to shred your skin that there is no opportunity for learning. It’s a matter of survival at that point. It’s ok for puppies to have some times when they need to entertain themselves – as long as you’re not doing it too frequently.
When Zuzu is at her absolute worst, I know it’s most often time for a nap. She gets insanely “bitey” when she’s tired and cranky and doesn’t realize that what she really needs is a nap. Once I put her in her pen, she almost always passes out within a minute or so.
Now, one more secret and this is a really really important one. Puppies do need some opportunities to “get it out of their system” but in a safe way. This is where a well-run Puppy Class or Socialization Hour is a life-saver. People who attend my Puppy Preschool Classes and/or my Puppy Recess learn how to determine if what they are seeing is appropriate play or not. They learn when to intervene or not. And they wear their puppies out with other equally energized puppies. I also highly encourage play dates – but ONLY with carefully screened dogs. Whether it’s other puppies or older dogs, we need to know that they will be a good fit for your puppy. A dog park is NOT an appropriate place for a young puppy to socialize. We need more structure at first and we also need to be able to keep our puppies safe.
Zuzu goes to my Puppy Recess, goes to Puppy Preschool and has regular play dates with dogs that I know are healthy and play well with her. Nothing reduces biting on me more than these opportunities!