Biting Puppy; Why?
March 20, 2006 2:42 PM   Subscribe

Why does our puppy look like she is biting other dogs?
posted by pettins to Pets & Animals (19 answers total)
why you see your puppy biting other dogs

A little more info would be nice.
posted by jenovus at 2:48 PM on March 20, 2006

Response by poster: Sorry - It was our first post so I was keen to be brief!

18 week labrador, loves to jump up at all dogs regardless of their size and tries to bite their ears or neck.

Thanks for any info / links
posted by pettins at 2:51 PM on March 20, 2006

It seems like this is a common puppy socializing behavior. Puppies don't have the jaw strength to actually do any real harm to another dog, but this jumping and biting is a way to get other dogs to play. It's not an issue until they start nipping at you, in which case there are a lot of websites to help training.

Google search for "puppy biting play" provides a lot of training websites and info.
posted by jenovus at 2:57 PM on March 20, 2006

(I am not a vet or dog trainer)
posted by jenovus at 2:58 PM on March 20, 2006

IANAV, but my puppy is a biter, too. I think they learn bite inhibition at this age. Puppy bites dog. Dog growls at puppy. Puppy learns to bite, at least not so hard. Allow dogs to correct your puppy, as long as they are being safe.

Puppies are also teething. Teething makes it easy to try to understand the world through your mouth.
posted by lalalana at 3:25 PM on March 20, 2006

She is biting other dogs, but it is play-bites, not aggression. Puppies mouth things the way human babies walk around and touch things (Well, OK, the humans start off mouthy too). A dogs' mouth is also its' hand. It's how they meet the world. When they bite an older dog too hard the older dog will let them know. Your best bet with this is to not interfere. Eventually they'll get a good sense for what is a playfull nip and what is a real bite.
posted by Ken McE at 3:29 PM on March 20, 2006

Dog play can look incredibly rough to us, but they seem to enjoy it. I think all you have to be concerned about is making sure the older dogs are patient enough to deal with her reasonably gently (i.e., a warning growl or a disciplinary nip). Don't let her do it with dogs you aren't sure of: a bad scare now can cause behaviour problems that can last for years.
posted by timeistight at 3:32 PM on March 20, 2006

Also....just be careful to watch the behavior to make sure it doesn't continue to the point of aggression. As the puppy gets stronger, the behavior, if not checked, can turn from play to aggression.
posted by Todd Lokken at 3:36 PM on March 20, 2006

That's how dogs and puppies play. It's totally normal, and will likely continue if your dog is able to have a relatively unconstrained relationship with other dogs. It's important to do a lot of this now so that the dog learns where the limits are. Other dogs WILL teach him/her, whether now or then. But "teaching" an adult dog by another dog could, depending on the dog, be a lot rougher than most people are happy to experience.

As a general rule, people drastically UNDER-estimate the roughness of dog play. People get worried that a fight is breaking out when two dogs are really just rolling around having fun. You'll know when two dogs are fighting - they will literally be trying to kill one another. It's unmistakably different from play. Anything short of that is playing, and most likely won't escalate to anything else.

The problem socializing dogs is other owners. Dogs know their limits and are pretty effective at communicating those within the group. Many owners though go nuts and think that owners are evil for not stopping their dog at the equivalent level of doggie scrabble, when the pups often want to go all the way to laser tag or something really fun like that.
posted by mikel at 4:16 PM on March 20, 2006

I frequently "wrestle" with the family poodle-mutts, generally by circling my hand around their heads until they nip at it, 'biting" them gently with my hand. They "bite" back but don't actually bite; they mouth my hand and apply a little pressure, but it's nothing like a bite even at their most frantic excitement. Throughout this, they'll growl (and I'll growl back) but it's all in play. Occasionally the one will, if I lay on the floor, "attack" my ear, but it's nothing more than a little nuzzling.
posted by orthogonality at 4:16 PM on March 20, 2006

I'm not sure how you were expecting your puppy to interact with other dogs -- invite them over to play Barbies? Ask them out for coffee? They're dogs, not fluffy little animatronics. Young mammals imitate their species' adult behaviors, especially aggressive behaviors. Spend some time at a dog run and you'll learn to recognize the difference between play and real aggression. Really and truly, this is the best thing you can do for your puppy.

Her behavior is completely normal. When she crosses the line with another dog, it'll growl at her, and she'll back down. If she pushes things, the other dog will make horrendous noises and snap like a fiend and your puppy will squeal as if she's being flayed. She's not. She's learning how to behave among dogs.

You have to supervise that process and protect her without interfering. (Which is why it's useful to recognize play v. attack, and the stages between the former and the latter.) You also have to teach her how to behave among people, i.e., don't bite them, don't hump their legs, don't jump on them. Maybe it seems counter-intuitive but trying to teach her those things via human thinking and methodology is the very worst thing you can do.

She's a dog. You're not. You need to learn her language, since she'll never learn yours. (Which is only fair, since who's got the bigger brain?) Take a look at the method developed by The Monks of New Skete, who train working dogs. Just learn how to interact with her in a way she understands.
posted by vetiver at 4:23 PM on March 20, 2006

She looks like she's being bitey because she is. It's how they play, and it's perfectly normal. Dogs don't have hands, so they grab and tug and feel with their mouths. Dog skin is tough and puppy teeth, while needly, won't do any damage. As vetiver said, the dogs being mouthed will let your pup know if they've had enough, but if the mouthee wigs out, it's on you to extricate the pup.

Watching dogs play is a great way to learn how they communicate. They operate mostly on body language, and it's fairly subtle most of the time. Turid Rugaas has done a lot of work at dog-to-human translation, and she's damn good at it too.

And finally: it's very easy to teach a pup not to mouth people. Just yelp, as though she's hurt you, and ignore her for a little while. That's all it takes. One loud YIPE! and no more play will teach the girl that humans are fragile and really hate being mouthed. Play is very important to dogs, and they're more than willing to soften their mouths around people.
posted by cmyk at 4:36 PM on March 20, 2006

I recommend you get a book called "Before and After Getting Your Puppy" by Ian Dunbar.

It sounds like you haven't done much research at all, and this will help.
posted by MrZero at 4:39 PM on March 20, 2006

Seconding the Dunbar book, it's great. Also Jean Donaldson's The Culture Clash will really help you understand your dog better.
posted by biscotti at 5:09 PM on March 20, 2006

As a fellow lab puppy owner, I feel compelled to pass this along: taking your dog to the dog park is a great way to get 'em socialized and whatnot, but not everyone understands that's how dogs play. So... yeah, just be on guard for that.
posted by ph00dz at 5:15 PM on March 20, 2006

I'm not sure letting your four-month-old puppy loose in your average city dog park is that great an idea. Not all dogs like puppies, and some of them can be pretty mean.

Much better, I think, to get her together with small groups of puppies -- puppy classes are great for this -- or older dogs who you know tolerate puppies well.

Like I said before, a bad scare at this age can effect her for the rest of her life. Many dogs have a life-long hate for dogs of certain breeds, sizes or colours and it usually stems from an incident in puppyhood.

Oh, and I second The Culture Clash; terrific book.
posted by timeistight at 5:32 PM on March 20, 2006

I second The Monks of New Skete.

Oh. And don't worry about it. Keep her socialized with other dogs and they will correct her if she crosses a line.
posted by tkchrist at 6:38 PM on March 20, 2006

I would find people with known-to-be-friendly-to-puppies dogs and arrange play dates rather than a dog park - dog parks can be great, but they can also be extremely bad news, and a really bad experience at a very young age can lead to a lifetime of issues for some dogs.

The Monks of New Skete have some good things to offer, but if you choose to buy a book of theirs, please be sure to buy the newest one, in which they specifically retract and recommend against some of the dangerous and counter-productive recommendations included in their earlier books.
posted by biscotti at 6:55 PM on March 20, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks all - Thats some really good advice and a few options for us to follow up.

Thanks again.
posted by pettins at 11:36 AM on March 21, 2006

« Older For the birds   |   Building stamina Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.