How do you stop an aggressive biting puppy from becoming completely out of control? Find out right here.
Curbing Aggressive Biting Puppy Behavior
Let's face it. None of us dream of an aggressive biting puppy when we think about bringing a new canine into our homes, but once in a while that's exactly what we wind up with. Although the behavior is definitely unpleasant, it doesn't have to become a lifetime habit. You can take control of the situation and teach your pet that biting is unacceptable.
First, let's examine how puppies become biters, and then we'll cover ways to nip the aggression in the bud.
Play Biting Leads to Aggressive Biting
Biting is a natural behavior among dogs. Dogs nip each other to play, to test their strength and to show each other who is the boss. When a puppy leaves his canine family to come to us, he brings this same way of thinking and behaving with him.
Play Biting Can Escalate
You can always spot the new puppy owners in a crowd. They are the people with all of the tiny puncture marks on their fingers, hands and forearms. Puppies naturally want to test everything with their mouths, and they wind up chewing on us in the process. While the activity is harmless at first, even play biting can quickly escalate into something painful when a pup becomes bolder.
Signs of an Aggressive Puppy
Aggressive biting is far more serious than play biting. An aggressive puppy typically expresses his willingness to bite by lowering his head while growling and staring back at you. Whether the pup is guarding a toy, a biscuit or your favorite shoe, he is trying to establish control and dominance over you.
Training for Behavioral Change
This brings us to the heart of the matter. Whether your puppy is biting in play or he really means business, it's crucial to stop the behavior before it becomes an ingrained habit. It all comes down to teaching your pup his proper place in the family pack.
Teaching Puppies Not to Bite
In order to teach a puppy not to bite, he first has to understand he has boundaries. There has to be a firm rule that the pup is never allowed to wrap his teeth around anyone's hand, even if it's only during play. There's no point in sending a mixed message that biting is okay in some circumstances and not in others. Puppies simply aren't sophisticated enough to figure out the difference, so it's up to us to be consistent.
Make sure that everyone in your household understands why this is necessary and agrees to the rule from the start.
Tip One: The firm "NO"
The firm "NO" is the first step in teaching your puppy not to bite. When your pup tries to use his teeth on you, immediately wrap your hand around his muzzle and say "No" in a loud, firm voice. Your hand shouldn't be tight enough to cut off his air supply, but it needs to be snug enough to show you're in control. You will need to repeat this correction each and every time your puppy tries to use his teeth on you.
Tip Two: Time Out
When the firm "NO" isn't enough by itself to settle your puppy down, you need to follow up with a time out. This means confining him to his crate or gating him in another room. This teaches him that you are in control, and that he will not be rewarded with more attention when he bites.
Tip Three: Avoid Rough Play and Teasing
A rousing game of tug-o-war may be a lot of fun, but this is exactly the type of play that will engage a more aggressive puppy's primal instincts. Holding a toy just out of his reach to encourage him to lunge for it can also make him frustrated enough to bite.
Keep playtime in control by opting for games that don't involve power struggles.
Tip Four: Bitter Apple
Bitter Apple is a spray product that discourages dogs from chewing just about anything you spray it on. You can use it on your furniture, your carpeting, and even your hands. When your pup's tongue comes in contact with the flavor he will immediately pull his mouth away.The best way to use this product during training is to spray it on your hands, give it a few seconds to dry and then have casual contact with your pup. There's no need to encourage him to actually chew on you. Just pet him, and let his natural instincts to use his mouth on your hands lead him to the Bitter Apple. He immediately connects the unpleasant flavor to putting your hand in his mouth, and you have maintained consistency by not encouraging him to chew or bite.
You can repeat this training as needed and even combine it with the firm "NO" and time out if necessary.
Tip Five: No Hitting
If you want your pup to control his behavior, you also need to keep control of yours. Although the urge to give your dog a smack when he bites may feel like a natural reflex, avoid it at all costs. Hitting your dog will only feed into his aggression and his natural instinct to protect himself, and will in turn lead to more biting.
When your pet bites, resort to the first two tips offered. This punishes your dog in acceptable way, and removes you from the situation long enough to regain your composure.
Set Boundaries to Stop Aggressive Puppy Play
If you want to keep an aggressive biting puppy from growing up into a household menace, the boundaries have to be set while he's young. Just as with any human child, firm guidance and fair discipline are the keys to molding good behavior.