“Shark teeth! Ouch!”
Okay, so your dog doesn’t really have shark teeth, but a puppy’s sharp baby teeth certainly seem to be as deadly!
Puppy nipping, or dogs using their teeth to gently nibble on human skin or clothing, is a behavior that we need to train our pups not to do.
Dogs have amazing control of their jaw muscles. They must learn what is known as “bite inhibition” at a young age. We see other dogs teaching each other this muscle coordination – how to be gentle with their mouths – during puppy play. If a puppy is too rough with another puppy (the “friend” puppy) during play, the “friend” will yelp and run away. The puppy learns to play softer and be calmer if they want to keep playing with their friends.
Let’s use this same concept to teach our dogs how to interact with humans. I recommend teaching your pup that using their teeth on human skin or clothing is never okay. To do this, you must yelp (like a dog) or say “Ouch!” the moment your puppy puts their teeth on skin or clothing. Then, leave the room for 10 seconds (no longer). By applying this method, the puppy learns that they lose their best friend if they play too rough. The puppy thinks, “Wow, humans are so sensitive. I need to be gentler if I want to keep playing.”
5 Tips to Put an End to Puppy Nipping
- Yelp or say “Ouch” even if the dog accidentally nipped you.
- Do not allow the dog to nip you several times and then leave the room -- leave the room after the first nip.
- Take whatever measures necessary to ensure the puppy does not follow you out of the room.
- If the puppy chases you out of the room and nips at your heels, you may want to keep them on a leash and have another family member hold the leash so they cannot follow you. (Never leave a dog dragging a leash unattended. The dog could get tangled.)
- Have all humans who interact with your puppy follow this method.
Tired Puppies Are Good Puppies
In addition to utilizing the tips noted above, don’t forget that a tired puppy is a well-behaved puppy. Puppies offer fewer negative behaviors when they are tired and content. Consider budgeting for the cost of a trainer or dog walker, as this may save the relationship with your new canine.
Also, be sure to provide lots of stimulation for your puppy each day, such as:
- Physical exercise: This includes walks and playtime, such as fetch, tug, doggy camp, or play dates with other dogs.
- Mental exercise: This includes training sessions and brain games like doggy puzzles. Consider taking your dog to a puppy or family pet obedience class for even more mental stimulation.
- Appropriate toys and puppy-safe bones to chew: Always supervise your dog when you first give them a new type of bone or chew toy. Some examples of safe toys for dogs include Nylabones and Kong toys. Many dogs do well with green dental chews or chews that are treated with enzymes to reduce the risk of a blockage if ingested. Both types of dog dental chews are commonly sold at veterinary clinics. While you're there, ask your veterinarian for other safe chewing options for puppies.
- Consider a pet sitter or dog walker: Having a pet sitter help with puppy or dog walking is an excellent way for your new addition to meet someone new! Pet owners may benefit from having a budget for extra assistance, since raising a puppy often takes a village.
Puppy Teething: The Other Reason Young Dogs May Nip
While many dog owners are aware that puppy teething happens as part of the growing and maturing process, they may not be aware of how dogs actually “teeth.” Unlike human babies, puppies do not cry or alert those around them vocally when their teeth and gums hurt. Instead, puppies are prone to act out, using anything they can find to soothe their aching mouths. The best way to prepare for this phase is by always having teething dog chews available to your teething pup.
Also, it's important to remember when playing tug of rope with your pup or giving them chew toys to never let them engage in play biting of any kind. To avoid this kind of canine nipping, be sure to keep your arms and hands on your side of the toy -- after all, it is not the dog's job to keep your appendages out of the way!
In the end, don't worry: your puppy's baby teeth won't be around forever -- you can expect an end to your dog's teething around six to eight months of age, depending on their breed and size.
Stop Nipping and Take Care of Growing Puppy Teeth
Dogs and puppies will often try to get our attention by nipping and presenting other problem behaviors when they’re hurt or feel sore.
Sometimes a retained tooth or a baby tooth is still present even though the adult tooth has fully emerged through the gum. When they don’t fall out, this can be painful! Retained teeth can cause crowding and your puppy may nip because their mouth is sore.
To ensure that your puppy's teeth are coming in properly, or if their nipping seems to be excessive after training, you should visit their veterinarian for a check-up or get referred to a licensed veterinary dentist. This type of specialist can take an in-depth look at your dog's teeth, gums, jaws, and oral cavities to ensure that everything looks as it should.
The Cost of Owning a Puppy
Pet ownership is not for the faint of heart. However, there are ways for pet owners to save money, as the cost of owning a dog can add up over time. You may be looking at thousands of dollars spent after wellness vet visits, a spay or neuter, training classes, adoption fees, and dog food.
How much does a puppy cost? The cost to own a dog varies, but certain dog breeds may need more veterinary care. Also, working with a responsible breeder is important, so you bring home a quality puppy. Visit the American Kennel Club for reputable breeders in your region.
While keeping your dog's teeth clean at home is the first step in oral hygiene, dental cleanings provided by a veterinary professional are a necessity… and pet insurance for dogs can help with the costs. If you have DefenderPlus coverage offered by AKC Pet Insurance (underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company), you may be reimbursed for a portion of teeth cleaning costs.