Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What to do About Out of Control Puppy Nipping

I recently started taking care of a 10 week old puppy - the cutest and smartest thing! Here's the issue.

He was nipping mildly last week but it has now escalated to the point of bloodshed. The "ouch!" did not work and rapidly escalated into a non-stop shout fest which the dog ignored. If ignored, the dog will draw blood.

Today I brought a spray bottle which worked...the first few times. Pup apparently loves water and being squirted. I'm afraid bitter apple might injure his eyes so I don't want to try something like that.

The owners admitted to having a rough go of it this weekend with him. Any thoughts?


Those puppy teeth sure are sharp, aren't they? Puppy nipping can be a frustrating and sometimes painful problem, luckily there are some easy tips to help get the little shark under control.

While the basic technique of saying "ouch!" works for many puppies, others seem to ignore or even get more excited by the sound. For these puppies we need to make it completely clear to them that nipping people is unaceptable.

The easiest way to do this is is to completely remove yourself from the puppies reach the moment you feel his teeth. Get up and walk away, if possible leave the room he is in. Completely ignore him for at least 30 seconds, then return and resume play. You(and anyone else who plays with the puppy) must be 100% consistent with this. Everytime you feel teeth the play session must end. The first few times you try this technique you will probably be getting up and leaving quite often, but pretty soon the puppy will figure out that the only way to keep his playmate is to be gentle with his mouth.

Many people suggest putting the puppy in "timeout" when he nips, however I've found it's much more effective to remove yourself from the room instead of putting the puppy up. The time is take to pick up and place the puppy in his pen or crate means there is a gap where he is actually getting atttention for the nipping(even if it is negative attention). You can remove yourself from the situation much faster which means there is an immediate consequence to his action.

Instruct the owners to avoid playing with the puppy using their hands. They should play with the puppy using appropriate toys. Instead of rough housing suggest they play constructive games with him such as "hide and seek" and fetch. Make sure he is rewarded often for choosing to play with his own chew toys.

Training some basic manners using reward based methods will be a benefit for this puppy as well. Teaching a behavior such as a nose touch to your hand can be used as an alternative to nipping.

Karen Pryor recently wrote an excellent article on some great clicker training techniques that can be used to control puppy nipping. Check it out here.

Hope these tips help, good luck!

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