April 21, 2016
The thing about puppies is that they have to be cute, otherwise we'd never keep them. They are a pain in the neck, and can literally be a pain in other body parts.
This is because by the time your little ball of bird-hunting potential goes home with you, he will already have sharp teeth. And he will want to use them constantly.
Some people wait for their dog to outgrow the phase, much like we do with children but there is a much simpler way to take put the fire out on this annoying habit. This is necessary for all puppies, but is especially pressing if you've got children at home. My most recent puppy, a black Lab, came into our lives while my twin daughters were 1.5 years old, so this is something I understand pretty well.
It was clear from the onset that I needed to get Luna to kick her biting habit quickly, although in my girls' defense, they did bite back a few times. This, however, is not the best strategy to deal with the problem.
Instead, it's better to look to the experts. When I say that, most of the time I just mean Tom Dokken, owner of Oak Ridge Kennels and dog-trainer extraordinaire. If a dog - especially a sporting pup - has an annoying habit, Dokken has dealt with it 1000 times or more. Such is the case with biting, so I reached out to Tom to see what the quickest way is to go from a constant chomping phase to something much less toothy.
Dokken further explained his methods by saying, "Most puppies want to bite, especially retriever puppies. They are always using their mouths with their litter mates, so the first few days I don't discourage it because I don't want the pup to fear me. It's just a fact of life at first, but if after a week or a week and a half the puppy is still a hardcore biter, I start to correct him.
"At this stage, I'll simply hold the puppy to my chest and then I'll place a hand in front of his mouth. He won't be able to resist it. As soon as he starts to try to bite my hand I'll pinch the jowls under his teeth lightly while saying, 'no bite.' He should almost immediately release. When he does, I put my hand right back in front of his face.
Usually, he'll take the bait again. When he does, I'll pinch the jowls again but with a little more pressure this time.
"It's necessary to repeat this as many times as it takes to get the message across that biting results in a correction. The puppy will find a level where eventually he realizes it's just not worth it to try to gnaw on your hand. At that point, it's only a matter of brushing up on the drill if he slips into his old ways."
It's important to note that this is a method for getting young puppies to stop biting, this is not recommended for older dogs. If you've got an older dog that is biting, the problem is much larger and much more complicated.
All On The Same Page
It seems simple enough, right? Dokken's method is a good one, but it's not enough for you to teach the puppy not to bite. All of the members of your family who are capable of this type of correction need to go through it as well. It may only take a minute or two for each family member, but it's critical that the puppy learns that biting anyone is a bad idea.
Some people frown on this type of correction because it might hurt the puppy, but if you do it right it won't. It's also exactly how other dogs would correct this type of behavior when dealing with a snappy pup, which may not mean much to us on the surface but is exactly why it's so effective.
Dogs sort things out pretty well amongst themselves, and there is a language between them that the understand. This simple correction for puppy biting is one way to speak that language and remedy a very common, very annoying, and oftentimes painful bad habit.