We hear that line a lot in one form or another...
Chances are, if you have a puppy, he or she is biting you. If he or she isn't, consider yourself one in a million. But what about the other 999,999 of us that are dealing with a mouthy puppy? Well, for starters, do not despair. There is hope.
You've probably read some lengthy article about why your puppy is biting you... He hasn't learned bite inhibition yet. It's how she plays with her litter-mates. She views you as a littermate. His prey drive is kicking in. Etc... All of this is true, but none of it really matters because what's important is that your puppy is currently shredding your pant leg, right? Right. Let's get started on how to fix that.
1. Your puppy needs special toys.
All of those articles you've read have told you to redirect your puppy to a toy when he or she is biting you. They've told you to shove that toy right in its mouth and hope for the best. The problem is they don't tell you what to do when your puppy spits that toy right out and comes flying at you like a piranha out of water. But why did your puppy spit that toy out?
Because it's boring. Yep. You gave it to your puppy, and she played with it like crazy for a day or two, and then it got boring. Toys are inanimate objects. They don't move or talk or change in any way. They just lay there and get boring. You, however, are constantly moving, and talking, and changing. You're basically like one big piece of juicy, evolving meat to your puppy. Consider it a compliment that your puppy finds you to be more interesting and "bite-worthy" than her toy. We need to change that though if your pant leg is going to survive.
Special toys to the rescue! From here on out, you need a stash of special toys that your puppy only gets when he or she is feeling extra "bitey." At all other times, those toys stay on top of your fridge where he can't see them. When you pull one of those special toys off the fridge, your puppy is going to be WAY more interested in it than he would be if you picked it up off the floor where he just had access to it all day and clearly didn't want it... If he did, he probably wouldn't still be tearing at your pant leg.
When you pull this special toy off the fridge, don't just hand it to your puppy. Make it move! Throw it, play tug with it (we promise playing tug won't make your puppy aggressive), and make it fun! Once he's out of his "bitey" mood and all worn out from playing with his special toy, make sure you put it back on the fridge ;)
What if that STILL didn't work? On to step number two...
2. Treats are your friend.
If you tried the toy thing, and it just didn't work, it's time to bring out the big guns. Food. We all love food. So does your puppy. If your puppy doesn't love food, you're probably feeding him or her way too much and should definitely cut back on that a bit.
When you're using food to stop biting, don't just hand your puppy some food or throw a handful of food on the ground. You'd be rewarding the biting if you did that. Instead, you have to make your puppy work for the food! Lure him into a sit or down with it. Work on some heeling. Shove that food right in your puppy's face and let him follow it into different positions or behaviors. Reward when you get the behavior you were looking for.
If your puppy is not interested in the food, you are probably the problem. Yep, we said it. It's kinda true. We promise there is some type of food that your puppy will be interested in. You just have to find it. Hot dogs, string cheese, soft peanut butter-flavored dog treats, canned chicken, etc. Trust us when we tell you that your puppy has a favorite treat. Get out there and conquer the pet store with your puppy (socialization is great), and find that special treat that your puppy will go bananas for.
A lot of times, a mini obedience session like this will snap your puppy right out of his Tasmanian Devil mode, and he'll go back to napping, or doing adorable puppy things. If not, it's time for step number three...
3. Crates are also your friend.
We all have lives. Sometimes we just need to do laundry, or talk on the phone, or put the kids in bed. We can only grab a toy off the fridge or stop and do a mini obedience session so many times in one day before we want to pull our hair out. When you get to that point (or preferably just before you get to that point), lead your puppy over to his crate with some treats, throw the treats in the crate, and shut the door behind him. This is not a punishment. We promise your puppy will not bite forever but, while he is, it is much better to take away his option to bite than hit him with a newspaper, spray water in his face, yell at him, etc. Simply put him in his crate until you have time to let him back out and play with him, walk him, or start pulling toys off the fridge again.
Five to ten minutes in a crate is sometimes all it takes for your puppy to forget that he was biting you! Let him out and give him a chance to start fresh. If he goes back to biting you, he goes back into his crate until you have time walk him or train him.
Your puppy will spend quite a bit of time in his crate when he's in the biting stage, and that is okay. Consistency is key. He will outgrow it. Keep your pant leg intact while he does by following those three simple steps... Along with the following "extra tip!"
4. Extra Tip
Wear your puppy's jaws out!
Your puppy needs something that he can really gnaw on... To the point that his jaws are so worn out he doesn't want to bite you anymore. Chew sticks are great. So are bully sticks. However, with a large breed puppy, these types of chews don't last very long. Instead, you need a Kong Toy. More specifically, one of these. Purchase 1-2 sizes larger than you think you need, and then choose from the option listed next...
1. Make your puppy work for his food! Your best bet (to prevent stomach upset) is to stuff the Kong Toy with your puppy's dry food. This gets a little messy but is so worth it! You'll need to wet your puppy's dry food with water. While that's soaking, stuff a little all-natural peanut butter in the smaller hole in the Kong Toy. Then, squish the soaked/wet dry food into the Kong Toy. Fill it all the way up, and fill the larger hole with peanut butter. The peanut butter seals the wet food in. Next, put the Kong Toy in a Zip-loc bag and throw it in the freezer overnight. Give it to your puppy in the morning while he's in his crate. This will keep him occupied for a LONG TIME, and he'll be all chewed-out once he finally manages to work all of the frozen food out of the Kong Toy!
2. You can stuff the Kong Toy with other options as well. Kong stuffing, canned dog food, canned pumpkin, or yogurt are other options (be careful about upsetting your puppy's stomach). Always seal each end with peanut butter before freezing to hold the "goods" inside.
Need help with crate training or the "mini obedience sessions" we talked about in this article? Check out our website or give us a call at 423-991-6222 so we can help!