Some thoughts on puppy biting, puppy chewing and puppy mouthing.
Someone once said to me “puppies do puppy stuff” and it is VERY true. Puppies bite things, chew things, they get tired, they don’t always know where to toilet, they explore things for the first time… Puppies are awesome!!! But they are (and deserve) hard work.
A puppy thing that is oh-so-common is puppies taking things in their mouth to explore them. You might be tempted to think about this as puppy “stealing things”, but that is a harsh way to frame it and it predisposes you to think that they “know” they shouldn’t have it.
Frankly, they don’t “know” this – they are baby dogs coming into a human homes for the first time and these human homes have all sorts of arbitrary rules. How can they tell the difference between things left on the floor that they are supposed to have and things that they aren’t? That is impossible!
We need to understand how to teach puppies what is appropriate to chew on AND we also need to understand WHY puppies put things in their mouths.
In my experience, puppies take things in their mouths for two main reasons…
One! Puppies explore the world with their mouths as they don’t have hands.
This sounds silly, but puppies need to find out what all these new things actually are, they need to explore, because they have literally never experienced things before. Ever. They are “fresh out of the oven” and literally want to know the textures, smells, tastes of everything.
If you liken this behavior to young children, this is the equivalent of when toddlers reach out and touch, hold, grip all of the items when you take them into a shop. This is just what puppy is doing – learning, information gathering, experiencing, exploring.
Two! Puppies are teething and need pain relief.
Puppies cut teeth twice, first they get their baby teeth (or milk teeth through), these are then pushed out at around 14 to 30 weeks (approximately) by another full set of adult teeth.
Now, I think we can all empathise with the pain that teeth can cause you. Think about the last time you had tooth ache; you would have done anything to relieve the pain – right?! It’s horrible, painful and all you can think about is your teeeeeth! Now, your puppy is experiencing that but in an insanely condensed way – imagine cutting two sets of teeth in the first few months of your life? OUCH!
The bottom line is, puppies bite things and chew things for pain relief. They are in agony and teething and biting is the only way they know how (and the only way we give them) to relieve the pain.
So, knowing that puppies chew, bite and mouth because they are exploring and they need pain relief. Are we really going to punish them for that?? No way.
So what can we do? Here are my top tips for puppy biting, chewing, mouthing, land-shark behavior…
Always have good chew options available for puppy. Different textures, sizes, materials and tastes. Puppies only pain relief is to chew and bite, so we need to offer them “legal” things to be able to get hold of. Don’t keep them all hidden away in a toy box or cupboard, have options available to your puppy all of the time, on the floor, in the den, in their play pen – wherever your pup can go, have some options for them to chew upon freely!
Always swap “illegal chews” for “legal ones”. By now we know puppy is going to chew, so what happens when we see them with a slipper or about to chew a table leg? Have one of your legal chews on hand, call puppy over and give him the legal chew. Puppy will soon forget about the table leg or the slipper!
This should really be point 2(B) but you need to decide what is a legal chew. Oh AND that needs to be clear to the whole family and understood all of the time. I’ve seen it so many times, you think that you don’t want your shoes to be a chew toy so you deem them illegal chew things for the puppy. Then you come home from work, you’re tired and you notice that puppy has just picked up an old boot. You can’t be bothered and that shoe has no value anyway. But the next day, puppy picks up your work shoes or your sandals. Now it’s an “illegal puppy chew” and it annoys you that puppy has picked it up. HOLD UP! Shoes were legal yesterday?!?! You get my point…
Swap puppy mouthing on your hands to puppy mouthing on a toy or chew. If you are playing or having a cuddle and puppy begins to mouth your arm, gently swap your arm with a toy and allow them to chew on that instead. It’s often thought that you should squeak or shout if puppy bites you. Honestly in my experience this just makes puppies more likely to bite you as they find the noise fun.
Finally, there are some moments when puppy starts to mouth you and it’s all a bit manic. If this happens, it’s highly likely puppy is well over tired and needs some decompression and sleep. In there moments, pop puppy in his crate or playpen area, give them a nice long last chew and allow them to settle down and catch some sleep.
That’s it! Time and consistency will really help with puppy biting behavior. And of course some love and understanding 😊
If you would like to chat through your puppy biting, chewing, mouthing behavior. Give me a ring on 07472701887, I’d love to meet you and your puppy and invite you to one-to-one training or our group classes!