"Nom...or BE nommed!"
Repeat after me: "I am NOT a chew toy!"
Puppy teeth hurt! Those baby teeth are like sharp little needles and puppies can slice and dice our hands, arms, legs and clothing without meaning to be evil. I've been working with some new puppy clients recently, so this seems like a good time to post some practical tips on teaching puppies not to chomp on their humans.
Nipping and growling (and jumping) are common play and attention-getting strategies for puppies. They’re OK when puppies play with puppies—but not when they play with humans. You can (and should) stop these before they become bad habits. Try all these methods. See what works best with your dog. Always offer a chew toy as an alternative and praise your puppy when she chews the toy instead of you!
• If your pup nips you, spray your hand with GRANNICK’S BITTER APPLE. (It's a liquid in a spray bottle, available at most pet-supply stores. Other similar brands don’t seem to work as well.) Then offer your hand back for a taste—to serve as unpleasant negative reinforcement. If your puppy recoils (as most dogs will), offer a chew toy and praise.
• Bitter Apple does evaporate within a minute or two—so be ready to re-spray repeatedly as needed to convince your puppy that you are willing to be one step more persistent than he is.
• YELP! loudly. A sharp, high-pitched yelp of pain mimics the sound a puppy makes if bitten too hard by a playmate. Hearing this sound from you may help teach your puppy to avoid this behavior. However, if a puppy is already really riled up, this yelp may sometimes make things worse.
• Give a gentle tug on his leash, along with a firm "NO." This works much better than grabbing a puppy by the collar. The leash gives you more control, allows your hands to stay away from the “Puppy Jaws of Death”—and lends a sense of enforcement power to the word “No,” which otherwise becomes meaningless. Grabbing by the collar is an invitation to bite.
• Stand up! When you’re sitting on the floor, you’re a playmate—and a target. When you stand up, you’re a human leader. This is especially true with kids, who spend more time on the floor than adults.
• Teach your puppy to “Kiss” gently rather than bite for attention. Spread a little peanut butter, cream cheese or olive oil on your fingers and palm. Hold your hand out with an open palm—and as your pup licks those tasty fingers, say “Good kisses! Good kisses!” and pet her (with your other clean hand). This will teach her to lick instead of bite for attention and praise.