Puppy biting?
February 22, 2010 11:14 AM   Subscribe

How to stop puppy biting?

Our 9 week old Siberian Husky puppy loves to bite (play biting, chewing, etc.) everything -- including hands, faces, skin, etc.

We need to stop this chewing problem because she doesn't seem resistant to biting people despite our attempts to stop/correct/redirect this behavior. We have tried a lot of the usual methods that I've read in various threads/links (such as giving chew toys as an alternative, corrections by holding muzzle, loud yelps or "No"s when she bites, etc.), but they don't seem to be working.

I know people say this is a phase she will grow out of, but I don't want to count on that -- I don't want to raise a dog who bites. I also believe she didn't learn "the rules" from her litter mates since we got her at 6 weeks, which I've read is a bit too early.

Appreciate anyone who could share what worked for them to get their puppy or dog to stop biting?
posted by jca to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It takes a while, and you have to be absolutely consistent. If she bites you, say "ow!" and stop playing with her. Immediately ignore her and make a point of not continuing the activity. You have to do this EVERY TIME she bites. She'll get the point.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:20 AM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Our vet suggested briskly rubbing the soft palate with your fingertips then let him sniff your hand.

The rubbing sensation on the soft palate is unpleasant and then sniffing creates an association. We have had some success with this--but be patient it takes a long time and persistency to get them out of this habit. Continuing with loud OW also helps them to learn they are hurting you.
posted by AuntieRuth at 11:23 AM on February 22, 2010

I just don't know. We tried everything with our little puppy. Nothing worked. She knew it was bad to bite us, but she couldn't help herself. It was harder for her to control her biting when she was tired. At night, she would start biting the carpet and that was when we knew it was bedtime.
Eventually, around seven months my husband's dad taught her to kiss (lick) instead of bite to show affection. After she learned that, she stopped biting us. But she couldn't learn that until she was old enough to understand. Now she bites toys and sticks and food and squirrels and her puppy friends...but not us or other people or furniture.
posted by Eringatang at 11:27 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh - and obedience class taught us that if she bites us when we are trying to give her food to stick a few fingers deep in her mouth - she hates that. That worked too.
posted by Eringatang at 11:28 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

We said OWWWWWWWWW in a high pitched yelping voice and then ignored our puppy when he was in that phase. They do something you don't like, yell that and ignore them for a few minutes, they will eventually get the idea that mouthing too hard is not allowed...
posted by iamabot at 11:35 AM on February 22, 2010

Continue on with what you're doing. You could also try augmenting the "No" or yelp by squirting him in the face with a water pistol. Just be absolutely consistent -- every time her teeth contact anybody's person, she needs to learn that this will cause a loud screechy cry and/or unpleasant face squirt, followed by several minutes of being ignored. I've had pretty good results with the soft-palate thing too, but I worry that this might cause some dogs to become hand-shy.

She's still a very young puppy, and it might take her a few more weeks to learn the behavior, especially if you haven't been absolutely consistent. Also, be prepared for her to start mouthing you again when she gets to be about 6 months old and entering the adolescent stage where dogs continually test you to see if they can dominate you. Just keep on with the corrections and you'll probably be OK.
posted by kataclysm at 11:36 AM on February 22, 2010

A trick that worked for me was to firmly say "NO" and force close their mouth by putting your thumb on the top of the nose and your fingers below, then hold it for 3 seconds. Don't do it in such a way as to hurt the dog but it is an effective way to show that you are the dominant dog (so to speak) on your pack (so to speak).
posted by lapsang at 11:37 AM on February 22, 2010

as with the other methods...be consistent.
posted by lapsang at 11:37 AM on February 22, 2010

It's false that being stern and forceful with a dog is being cruel.

Depending on the dog (and 9 weeks is veeeeeeeeery young), I've had success with everything from a growling, eyes locked response (by me!), to abject removal of all attention following the bite, to pinching behind the canine's across the top of the muzzle as though it were a twinkie, to biting the dog on the ear. I once adopted a full grown adult male dog who had never been corrected for food related aggression. I knew he would bite me when I reached in, so I gloved up and let it happen. Then, immediately, flipped him over to an alpha roll and gave him a fairly deep mouthful of my forearm until he surrendered. He's never laid a tooth on me since, and we're thick as thieves.

High pitched noises aren't good for corrections. You want baratone "I WILL FCKING EAT YOU DOG" sounds. High pitched squeal sounds like "ooh fun time".
posted by TomMelee at 11:54 AM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

nthing above. Our puppy was totally a bitey bastard, but we corrected him every time (strong no's, howling, etc) and eventually he grew out of it. It's just what puppies do. Another thing that will help A LOT is to socialize your puppy around other dogs and puppies. They learn bite inhibition from other dogs and socializing our dog helped more than anything else.
posted by Kimberly at 11:58 AM on February 22, 2010

The trainer I used for our dog (and her fear-biting of other dogs) recently wrote this post on this topic. I'd also suggest emailing her for follow-up questions.
posted by questionsandanchors at 11:59 AM on February 22, 2010

Our trainer said that pinching his tongue will help teach him not to bite. Not super hard but enough force with the fingernail to simulate a mom bitting the tongue. Saw it in action at the puppy kindergarden and it worked.
posted by stormpooper at 12:43 PM on February 22, 2010

I found this out accidentally, but I had amazing success with "ow!!!" in a kind of surprised/that hurts (not an angry/admonishing) way, briefly ignoring puppy, and then slowly going back to playing with her (not in a way that let her be dominant, more in an okay, I will play with you now way).
posted by KAS at 12:48 PM on February 22, 2010

Try this site (and if link doesn't work, just create an account and navigate your way to puppy training, getting rid of unwanted behavior, and nipping.) I've had huge success with Karen Pryor's techniques.
posted by bearwife at 1:05 PM on February 22, 2010

Keep in mind that your objective is to keep this puppy from biting, but not necessarily to break her of the "mouthing" habit. Mouthy dogs are always mouthy dogs, imo. But using some variant of the techniques described above, it's relatively easy to teach the dog where the line is that they can't cross. (While she's still a puppy, she make backslide even once she knows where the line is, when she gets very excited. But over time she'll develop enough self-control to stop short of that line, every time.)
posted by DrGail at 1:17 PM on February 22, 2010

Keep in mind that your objective is to keep this puppy from biting, but not necessarily to break her of the "mouthing" habit. Mouthy dogs are always mouthy dogs, imo.

My dog was very oral - while we were teaching him not to nip - we also began teaching him the concept of "gentle." He was rewarded for remembering to be gentle and deprived of fun when he forgot. He now has the gentlest mouth I've ever seen on a dog.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:22 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Puppies do like to explore the world with their mouths, so be sure the puppy has lots of other things to bite and chew, in addition to the above "Owwwww" followed by removing yourself from play for 5 minutes.
posted by theora55 at 1:27 PM on February 22, 2010

I also did the high pitched OW yelp and it worked after a few times. I got the advice from The Loved Dog by Tamar Geller (I had about 5 puppy raising books, not just this one). The reasoning of why this works is because puppies make a similar noise when they are hurt so they understand that they hurt you in their language.
posted by spec80 at 1:40 PM on February 22, 2010

I find that the yelp does work very well on young puppies who missed out on the hurting-each-other-and-yelping time that teaches dogs that their biting can hurt their playmates, which is why I suggested it. TomMelee is absolutely right in that a high-pitched noise is not an appropriate correction, and may actually be a positive reinforcement, in a mouthy adolescent or adult dog. However, since your puppy is essentially an infant, she is probably young enough that the yelp is an appropriate training tool for her.
posted by kataclysm at 3:57 PM on February 22, 2010

Many methods will work if you are consistent. Just remember, as others have suggested, that you are dealing with a baby and you don't want a dog to be fearful about using her mouth - you want her to lean self-control. Which may take time because she's a baby dog. Backsliding to biting doesn't mean she's deliberately disobeying - she's a puppy.

If the yelping isn't working - and you've tried it consistently - you might also try snubbing her. If she bites, get up and walk away totally ignoring her. Every time. If she bites, she doesn't exist for three to five minutes. Don't look at her, don't listen to her. Being ignored is very stressful for a dog.

Also, be sure she has things to chew and mouth and bite.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:53 PM on February 22, 2010

When they are that young, I don't think there's a single solution because the biting doesn't have a single purpose. When one of ours was very little, he was a biting machine (seriously, I didn't know it was possible to hate a puppy, but I did sometimes), and when I wasn't threatening to UPS his ass to the moon I recognized that he just had no interaction skills that didn't involve his teeth, and he was biting for lots of different reasons. So we yelped for play-biting, redirected him to chew toys and tried to teach him other ways to play for wanting-interaction and teething biting, exercised him extra ("extra" - we never managed to exercise him enough, even taking shifts) for boredom biting, and reminded him where his food was and took him outside on potty runs when we couldn't figure out what the hell he was biting about. He'd bite when overstimulated too, and sometimes one of us would have to hold and soothe him while the other kept the rope toy right in front of his face until he calmed down.

As we got closer to what was probably 3 months old, we started working on gentle mouth training. After that, we got more stern with corrections and withdrawal if he bit, but also kept up with teaching him to play in other ways and redirection until he started to learn to redirect himself.

We didn't realize when we found him (he was a stray running in the street) that he was going to be a big dog, until we reached a point where he was outgrowing collars every 10 days. I imagine he had his share of growing pains, including in his mouth and jaws. Yeah, his little demon eyes would light up with joy as he tried to remove my fingers, but it's very possible that it felt good too.

I don't really think that bitey puppies automatically grow into bitey dogs, even if you accidentally reward the biting sometimes. There's a big chunk of it that they grow out of, no matter what you do. I would stick to yelping and redirection for another month or so before you really do any training work, and then start with that when you begin to see a decline in the random biting.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:22 PM on February 22, 2010

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