Cute little puppies love to be playful, and this involves nipping, biting and discovering new things using their mouths. Learning for them includes knowing how a certain thing feels in their mouth. They may bite your finger, limbs or clothing as part of the learning process, and at six weeks this would not be a big deal. However, once they reach their third or fourth month, biting might be a problem already.
Teething for puppies usually begin at around eight weeks, producing a total of 28 teeth initially, or their “milk teeth”. Much like in little children, teething can be painful for the puppies. This is why they typically gnaw on anything they can find on the ground. This is to actually release the pressure felt during this process. By the third month, the puppy starts developing their real teeth, and biting might become a habit if you do not train them to stop doing it for fun.
The first order of business when it comes to teething is to teach your puppy not to make biting a habit. For example, if you have a cocker spaniel puppy that wants gnaws on anything they see, it would be good to train bite inhibition so they do not carry this behavior into their adulthood. Behaviorists insist that teaching dogs to use their mouth gently during human interactions enable them to bite less painfully and without breaking skin.
How a Puppy Learns Bite Inhibition
Bite inhibition can actually be learned naturally by a puppy during play. If your cocker plays with another puppy, you may notice them playfully wrestling and biting each other. When one of them bites the other harder than usual, the victim will yelp and immediately stop playing, which causes the perpetrator to stop playing as well. This interaction makes them learn how to control their bite so as not to hurt another, because it stops play time.
If your puppy is not exposed to other puppies, you can teach bite inhibition yourself. Let your pup nip your hand, and as soon as he bites you too hard, force a loud yelp and make your hand limp to show him that it hurt. Your pup will be taken aback by this, making him stop mouthing your hand. Once he does, praise or reward him for listening to you. Repeat this a few more times until he learns the pattern. If the yelping doesn’t work out, you can also use time-out. Ignore him for a few moments after he bites you too hard, and then encourage your puppy to play again. This reinforces the rule that gentle biting will make play time longer for him.
Use a Chew Toy
Since teething is a hard phase for puppies, you can help them by offering a chew toy that they can safely gnaw on to help ease the pressure from teething. You can find a lot of options in the pet shop, with some toys even offering dental grooming and teeth strengthening. Offer this chew toy when you notice them gnawing on random things, until they learn to look for the chew toy if they ever feel like mouthing.
Games that make use of their mouth can also help ease up excessive biting. Tug of war and go fetch are some activities you can use on your puppy to keep their mouths busy. Not only that, these games also effectively double as exercise, so your pup can get physical training and improving their agility.
Puppy biting is a natural behavior, but once it becomes too much, try any one of these methods. Stay away from punishment and employ reward training so they become kinder and gentler as they are growing up.