Your new baby arrives and all is bliss for about the first 48 hours, you’re convinced that little Baxter can’t put a paw wrong, he’s held and cuddled and cooed over & otherwise adored. Unfortunately it’s too easy to spoil these little characters, that’s why it’s so vitally important that as love-able as he is, your puppy knows without a doubt that everyone in the house is a leader of the pack & that he’s firmly at the bottom of the pecking order! Puppy biting can be a problem with even the sweetest of four-footed babies, here’s how to nip it in the bud!
Sooner or later, a puppy will begin to ask if there are rules and if he has to obey them, it’s your job as leader of the pack to be help him clearly understand that there are things he is not allowed to do. EVERYONE needs to treat puppy the same way, so it’s important that the kids know that certain things are not allowed, no matter how cute Baxter is while doing them.
One behavior that needs corrected from the start is play biting, especially when puppies and children interact. Games will escalate with kids running through the house with puppy sailing along behind & everyone laughing at how adorable he is as he pulls on shoe laces or pajama legs. Puppies are like children and can get carried away when the excitement level gets too high. If your puppy begins to growl and nip, even though it’s in play, immediately scoop him up and bring him to eye level (eye to eye contact is SO important!) tell him in no uncertain terms what a bad dog he’s been, use a good strong “NO!” and a mild swat on the bottom. It’s time for everyone to settle down and allow the puppy to return to a more relaxed mindset.
Most puppies are going to put fingers, toes, tennis shoes in their mouths, this is so important, immediately when teeth touch inappropriate items, hands, shoes, rugs etc, the instant he begins to playfully bite or chew something off limits, a sharp double hand clap & a quick, “NO!!!! NO BITE! BAD DOG!” will usually stop puppy in mid-taste and make him ponder other ways to have fun. If he persists, then your correction was too mild. The biggest problem I see is using a weak correction, “Nooo,, nooo, baaaad boy,,, nooo, stop” etc… often spoken in a tone that doesn’t imply your displeasure. No yelling please, practice using a tone that is firm and louder than normal, your voice is a valuable tool, use it with great timing, use it firmly, do your puppy a favor, say NO like you mean it!
It’s also OK to put puppy in his crate for a brief time out, or even simply ending contact with an erring puppy will help him mend his ways. If the children turn away after scolding him for being a bad dog, think of it as giving a “cold shoulder” to the puppy, that’s what litter-mates do when puppies chomp down on tender ears in a playtime that’s gotten too heated. Suddenly the game is over, the offended puppy will yelp (great trick for you or the kids to try, YELP if puppy touches his teeth to you), and sometimes even snarl a bit and stomp off in puppy outrage and indignation, leaving the badly behaving puppy all alone with the game ending abruptly, sad puppy indeed!
Try to use a deep voice, not high pitched, and very short, quick sounds. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of a quick firm correction. So many dog training “experts” just advise a time out, or substitution of toys,,, but without a firm correction, even a bit of a swat on the bottom if he’s getting too excited and playing too roughly, it’s just a disservice to your puppy to under-correct. Don’t allow anyone to encourage him to be too wild in his play, no tug-a-war with toys etc.
Speaking of toys, I’m definitely not a fan of rawhides for a not so typical reason, when you are at your local pet store perusing the isles for treats and things you know puppy will love, steer yourself firmly away from beef basted, chicken roasted, hamburger heaven flavored toys or chews of any kind! Giving your puppy such an amazingly delicious smelling chewy will almost certainly bring out his instincts to guard his new treasure, from you, from the kids, you get the picture. Suddenly the ungrateful little creature is under the couch with his prize and growling fiercely when anyone approaches. I promise he’s not turned into Cujo, but just given too much for his little brain to process.
IF you insist on giving treats of that category, be firmly prepared to reward any growling or guarding of his treasure with quick action. This swims upstream from the plethora of not so sound training advice that abounds on the internet “Training must ALWAYS be POSITIVE”, sometimes puppy people, a well applied swat on the bottom (and I mean a mildly stinging swat, not a slap), will work wonders with a puppy who’s starting on the wrong path. You must be a strong enough pack leader to swoop little Baxter up to eye level and give him a telling off in no uncertain terms. (If anyone tries to tell you to distract him with a favorite toy swat THEM with a newspaper!) Dogs are pack animals and the leader of the pack owns everything, even Baxter’s beloved beef basted bone! That means you can take it away if you so desire and he’ll albeit perhaps with a puppy sigh, will allow and yield to your decisions even though he desperately WANTS to hide under the couch with said bone!
All of these interactions layer behaviors and attitudes that will shape who your puppy will someday become, day by day, moment by moment, each time you tell him “No in a way that helps establish your leadership, his role as follower and your loving companion is more firmly planted in his heart and mind.
Remember, balance is the key, lots of love to balance lots of leadership. Make doing the bad things unpleasant and doing the right things ever so much fun, be sure to overlay the corrections you must use with lots of praise and affection so your little charge knows that even when he forgets and is a bad puppy, you still love him,, most importantly, helping him learn that you are firm but you are always loving, always fair.