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What you can do to

Stop a Dog or Puppy

from Nipping


Why your Puppy Nips - and 5 ways to get him to Stop

Here’s a news flash – puppies nip!

Okay, I guess you already knew that. But here’s the surprise –
you may actually be encouraging your puppy to nip. Let’s talk
about how to stop this behavior before it grows up to be an
adult-sized dog problem.

Puppies are a lot like babies – they use their mouths in part to
explore their world. Little kids are forever sticking things in
their mouth – from your favorite house plant to the bar of soap
in the tub. That’s one of the ways they experience taste and
texture, and figure out what’s good and what’s not. It’s all
about experimentation.

Puppies are the same. They want to see just how soft your finger
is, or what that leash tastes like. In addition, biting or
nipping is an important part of learning social skills in their
“wolf” pack – the social structure that makes up your dog’s life.

And with some breeds, such as Border Collies, biting or nipping
is even more instinctive because of the nature of the breed –
they’re born and bred to herd livestock, and that’s how a 50 or
60 pound dog will control a 1,000 pound cow – by biting at the
heels or nose.

If your dog was allowed to remain with mom and his littermates
for an appropriate amount of time (until at least 8 weeks of
age), then mom should have taught him the beginnings of bite
inhibition. As the pups began to grow and develop those
needle-sharp little puppy teeth, mom would have disciplined him
for being too rough, either with her or his littermates. Junior
soon learns that all play will stop and he’ll get smacked down by
mom if he gets carried away.

But when you get that puppy home, and he becomes part of the
family, you may be encouraging him to nip by letting the kids run
away from him, squealing and giggling in an effort to play
“chase” games. While this is cute at the beginning, it can soon
turn into a full-fledged problem when he’s no longer such a
small, cute puppy, and views any child running away as fair game.
You can also encourage this kind of bad behavior by teasing him
with toys – holding them just above his head and yanking them out
of range when he jumps for the toy or nips at it. (This also
encourages another bad habit: jumping.)

Here’s 5 things you can do to stop your puppy from nipping.

1. When your puppy does nip – stop all play

If your puppy nips too hard, say “Ouch!” in a loud-enough voice
to surprise him (don’t start off by screaming!) and stop all
play. Turn your back on him, and refuse to continue the game. He
should come around to face you and find out what’s wrong – tell
him “bad dog – no bite” in a firm tone of voice. Do this every
time he nips until he gets the idea that nipping means no more

2. Replace your flesh with a toy

When you’ve resumed play, and if your puppy tries to nip again,
try replacing your hand or arm (or whatever’s being nipped) with
a toy. Teach your puppy that you’re not the toy. Put a toy in
between you and those needle-sharp teeth!

3. The Nose Tap

If your puppy nips turn to him immediately and give him the “sit”
command. Take your forefinger and hold it up in front of his
nose, then tap him on the nose and say “no bite” in a stern tone
of voice. It’s important to note two things here: 1) the nose tap
isn’t designed as a dire punishment – you’re not trying to hurt
him, but rather startle him into stopping the behaviour; and 2)
your tone of voice is just as important as the nose tap. Don’t
scream at him – your voice should be stern and give a clear
warning – think of it as a verbal growl – something that he can
understand as a dog.

An interesting result of this manner of breaking this habit is
that down the road, when your puppy has learned to recognize the
raised finger – he’ll usually stop whatever behavior he’s
engaging in just because he knows what’s coming. You won’t even
have to raise your voice – just lift that finger.

4. Don’t encourage biting or nipping in the first place
Don’t let the kids start “chase” games – that encourages dogs to
think that the kids are prey. Don’t play games that involve
waving your hands in front of your dog and encouraging him to
jump or nip.

Don’t play tug-of-war with your dog – it will not only encourage
him to think he’s your equal, it can promote nipping if you use a
rope toy, for example, because he’ll try to bite at your hands to
make you lose your grip on the toy.
Play games of fetch and retrieval, but be sure that your dog
knows the “drop” or “release” command so you’re not fighting over
the toy.

5. Be consistent

Stop the nipping behavior as soon as it starts, and be
consistent about disciplining your puppy for it. Don’t let him
get away with nipping on one day, and then discipline for the
same behavior the next. Dogs don’t understand “sometimes it’s
ok,” or “maybe it’s ok it you don’t nip too hard and I’m in a
good mood.“ They understand “Don’t ever do that,” and “No more
treats if you do that.”

Author, “Secrets of a Professional Dog Trainer!“ which you can
read more about at:

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