Question: My young puppy is chewing fingers. When I tell him no in a firm voice or try pushing him away, it just gets worse. How can I make him stop? —Ann
“Mouthing” is a common, if annoying, behavior that we hear about all the time. A puppy or dog needs to chew, so keep this in mind. But with patience and a little know-how, you can save your hand.
1. Stop Encouraging Your Puppy
First, make sure you’re not encouraging your puppy to be mouthy by playing roughly with him. This over-excitement could cause him to see your moving digits as something to chase and catch with his teeth.
When you don’t instantly let him know that the biting is wrong, he won’t read your mind. So you need to let your dog know what behavior is not acceptable.
However, by pushing him away, you are just getting him amped up. (Meanwhile, striking your pet, heaven forbid, is a big no-no — if you were to do this, he’d just think you are mean.)
So what’s a person to do as soon as her puppy starts chewing on fingers? It’s simple: Say a firm “Ouch!” or even a fake dog yelp, and then back away and stop playing for a while. This is how dogs in the wild know when they’ve gone too far, so it should work for you too.
2. Redirect, Then Praise Good Behavior
Redirect your dog’s attention after some time has passed. Grab a dog toy such as a large hard rubber ball or a chew bone (make sure to have these in different places around your house so you can easily grab one in a hurry), and show it to him.
If he goes for this, great. Gently praise while he chews on the toy. Your praise tells the dog: This is what you should be doing, not chewing my hand.
Don’t feel you have to stop playing with your dog altogether; playtime builds a strong canine/human bond. It’s crucial to your pet’s development as a well-behaved companion.
3. Be Consistent
Being consistent in redirecting your puppy from fingers to appropriate items will help him learn that fingers are not acceptable but that his rubber ball or chew toy is totally okay. Remember, if he doesn’t go for the toy, simply walk away for a while.
Puppies sometimes forget corrective behavior, so you might find yourself repeating these actions many times. However, with consistency and patients, he’ll eventually understand.
“Be consistent” is probably the most vital nugget of advice we can give you. Give your puppy crystal-clear feedback so he can learn to do what you want him to do. Then, you’ll just have fun.
Video Guide to Stop Mouthing in Puppies
Now that you know some of the basic procedures, take a look at this instructional video, which should give you deeper knowledge:
In some cases, your puppy may have a severe biting problem.
Try this: Smear a foul-tasting substance to on a pair of gloves. Your pet will quickly realize that if he bites those fingers, it won’t be terribly thrilling. This training method sends a powerful negative association, although some smarter dogs will realize that when the gloves go off, that sweet soft skin of your hand is again fair game.
If you’re believe that your puppy is simply too aggressive, seek the counsel of an experienced dog behaviorist or trainer.
Photos: Jez Page (top) and OakleyOriginals/Flickr
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