How to Nip Puppy Nipping in the Bud

Every time your kids play with the new puppy it turns into a chase game with the puppy nipping at their heels. The kids squeal, the puppy gets excited and next thing you know one of the kids is crying because the puppy nipped too hard.

It may seem cute when dogs display this kind of behavior when they are pups, but it isn’t so cute after they get older and are still doing it. Nipping, while not an abnormal activity for dogs, it is not an accepted behavior when we bring dogs into the human world.

Too many dogs end up in animal shelters because no one took the time to teach them acceptable behavior. Don’t let this happen to your dog, as there are ways to make him a good citizen you will love to have around for a long time.

Puppy Nipping

Our dogs don’t have hands like we do, so the only way they can pick up things or investigate new things is with their mouths. Puppies are very curious and it’s not uncommon for them to playfully nip or bite a person’s hands or clothes. At this point in their lives, this nipping is not an aggressive behavior; it’s just how they explore their world. It is also likely the only world they have known so far.

From the beginning, puppies interact with their litter mates by playfully chewing and nipping each other. This is actually very important because the pups learn just how hard they can bite before the other pup yips and stops playing. The pup that nipped too had now knows that if he bites that way again, he won’t have anyone to play with. Soon, he learns other ways to play that don’t involve nipping or chewing.

One reason why a new puppy may nip or bite his new human family so hard is that he was taken from the litter before he learned this valuable lesson. Usually, a puppy should be at least eight weeks old before he can be removed from mom and siblings so he won’t miss out on learning not to bite. With some breeds, it is even better to wait until they are closer to 12 weeks of age.

Sometimes, even if a dog did learn not to bite from his siblings, he needs just a little bit of reconditioning when he moves in with us humans. And this lesson is important for a dog to learn before it becomes an adult, as while some people may think puppy nipping is cute, adult dogs can really hurt someone and that’s not cute at all.

Why Adult Dogs Nip

Once a dog gets older, it may be nipping for other reasons too. It could be scared, nervous, excited or otherwise overly stimulated. It may never have been taught not to bite and doesn’t know any other way to handle the situation. This is another reason why it’s very important to literally nip nipping in the bud in young puppies before it becomes a habit no one can control and the dog comes to a bad end. It isn’t impossible to teach an older dog not to nip or bite, but it takes a lot more patience and training than if it is a puppy and you might need help from a professional trainer if the dog’s problem is serious.

Breeds that tend to nip

Some breeds of dogs are more inclined to nip due to the fact they were born and bred to herd livestock and that’s how they controlled them. Some of these are border collies, Australian cattle dogs, and Welch Corgis to name a few. With these dogs, it may take a bit longer to teach them to go against their natural instincts. However, it is possible with a little persistence.

Ways to Stop Nipping

So, now that you know some of the reasons dogs nip, here are some possible methods to try to get your dog to stop:

When your dog nips, stop playing that very second. Give a loud “Yip!” just as if you were another puppy. It will startle him into stopping just like it did with his brothers and sisters. Soon, he will figure out that nipping will just get him ignored and no one will play with him or pay attention to him. And no puppy wants that to happen! After about 10-30 seconds, return to playing with him and give him lots of praise if he plays without nipping.

Teach your dog that people’s fingers, and shirt sleeves are not toys. If he starts to gnaw on your hand or bite at you, then trade him for an appropriate toy he is allowed to chew on, such as a rawhide bone. Puppies sometimes nip or chew because they are teething, so you can also offer him a hard rubber toy or a Nylabone to chew on instead. He will learn that the toy is much tastier than you are.

Or, you can raise your finger up and say “No! Be Nice” in a stern voice. Say it loud to startle the puppy. The tone of your reprimand is as important as the finger raised. It’s a human version of when his mother would growl at him if he did something wrong. Eventually, you will just have to raise your finger up and say “No! Be Nice!” and he will stop before he even starts since he has learned it isn’t fun to nip.

If all else fails, if you pups continues to bite, just turn your back on him,  leave the room and shut the door so that he cannot follow you.  Once they learn that they will lose their playmate, they tend to stop the biting.

Remember to be patient. Unlike TV shows which depict a perfectly trained pup in 30 minutes, inhibiting you pup from biting could take weeks.  But most of all, be consistent.  Don’t reprimand him for nipping one time and then ignore it another time. Always do the same thing and he will soon learn what acceptable behavior in his new human world is.  If however you pup is still nipping after 6-months of age, consider seeking the help of a professional trainer.


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