What should I do about my puppy nipping?
How to prevent puppy nipping from becoming a habit2 minute read
LIZ: Hey Harper, I've got a dog training question. I'm curious…My puppy is about 3 mos old. He is a golden lab mix and we rescued him about 3 weeks ago. He is mouthy and bites (not trying to hurt) sometimes. He especially goes after my 4 year old son, mostly his clothes, I think because he’s the littlest person. How can I correct this behavior? I know he won’t stop until the puppy teeth are gone. But I don’t want the nipping habit to be established as an ok thing to do.
HARPER: Thanks for the questions and for including some cute pics! (Editor's Note: Cute pics not included here. Sorry.)
It sounds like you're already thinking of this the right way. You really are just trying to manage this while at the same time making sure it doesn't become a thing they think is okay. Along those lines we typically employ these strategies:
Do give them some indication that it hurts even if you have to fake it. A loud, high pitched "ouch" is what you're going for. They might not (and actually probably won't) stop immediately but these signals help them understand the boundaries of acceptable play. You witness a similar back and forth when they're learning to play with other dogs.
Switching for a Chew Toy
It's hard for them to nip when they have a chew toy in their mouth so another easy thing to do is to try to engage them with a chew toy when they start nipping. Again, it probably won't work all the time, but you are building up their understanding that children's arms are NOT an acceptable thing to chew on but toys are.
Active Rest aka a "Timeout"
Sometimes they're just too excited and sometimes you just need a break, in either case, we recommend putting them in their crate with a chew toy for some alone time. This stops them from practicing the behavior and helps restore some calmness. Three month old pups are totally fine spending most of their day in the crate and at Harper, we encourage this. It's a safe place for them, it makes house training easier, and it also just keeps them from rehearsing bad behaviors that are harder to unteach.