It is important to understand that during the formative period (when the puppy is 2 – 4 months old), the puppy is teething. During this time, they show a lot more interest in chewing, biting and mouthing. This is natural and expected in all puppies, but some are more inclined than others. There are numerous reasons they chew a lot around this time. They are learning to use their nose and their taste, along with how to use their mouth. They are also learning what they can and can’t eat or play with, so this is where we need to give them a bit of a nudge in the right direction.
The first thing we do around this age of teething is make sure the puppy has access to some soft toys that it can play with and chew when it desires. However, it is very important that these toys do not resemble anything that is commonly found in the house – a fake shoe is a prime example of a bad chew toy, because once your dog realises it can chew shoes, you will have a hard time stopping it. Select toys like rubber Kong® toys, a rope, or tennis balls (if you don’t play tennis!), special wood toys for dogs with no sharp edges, etc. We don’t recommend soft teddy bears, blankets or pillows, as these will encourage them to chew cushions, couches and bedding. Don’t leave your shoes and slippers or clothes around on the ground in the first few months of your pup’s life inside your home.
Bite inhibition is a natural progression and occurs at the same time as the chewing and destructive behaviour. This is seen naturally when the pups play with each other. In the wild, they are basically learning how to play and establish dominance order by play fighting with each other. The adults teach bite inhabitation by being assertive back to the pups when they bite too hard – so the pup learns bite inhabitation (bite more gently). From the start don’t allow painful biting.
At home, we teach them that it is fine to play and run around as much as they want, but they must not bite.
The lip roll and jaw pinch are two techniques we like to use to stop biting in puppies in the formative period. The way these techniques are executed is very simple: when the pup approaches to mouth, bite or nip, you simply let your hand be enclosed by their jaw and either roll their lip onto their teeth and press down slightly as they bite, until they pull away. Alternatively, press your thumb into the ‘V’ of the lower jam on top of their tongue and pinch down against your forefinger on the underside of the jaw again until they pull away. You need to do this every time they try and nip you and use a firm “no” command. It is ideal to review the Dog Zen video to see how this is done – it does take a bit of skill and timing as done correctly it can provoke the situation. It has to be effective – not too much and not too little. It is important that you never encourage biting when you are playing with your pup, and consistently respond to any inappropriate biting – doing it only once or twice will not solve the problem.
Offer alternatives. It’s all well and good discriminating against bad behaviour, but your puppy still needs to bite and chew, It is great to encourage this in the form of fetching or retrieving. We tie an appropriate toy (rope or ball) to the end of a piece of rope and throw it away, followed by a “fetch” command. When the puppy grabs the toy we pull it towards us while enticing the puppy in with a “come” or “bring it here” command, followed by a click and reward when they come (this is a trade – they get reward when they bring toy and drop it). Be careful not to start a tug of war – unless that is what you want of course. This is a multi-purpose exercise with many benefits. We are teaching bite inhibition by redirecting their biting onto an appropriate toy, and we are teaching destructive discrimination by helping them understand what is appropriate to chew. We are also fulfilling their natural prey drive and instinctive behaviour to hunt or chase things. Lastly, we are enriching their learning. This is a form of playtime that is very beneficial to their development as a well-rounded dog, and keeps them happy and fit and its FUN!
For further video instruction and techniques to teach all sorts of different commands and correct behavioural issues in your dog, check out Dog Zen at dogzen.com
ABOUT DOG ZEN:
Mark Vette’s Dog Zen is a comprehensive online training program and the culmination of Mark’s life work. It is a series of 30 videos, across five modules, which teach the viewer how to properly understand, communicate with, and train their dog.
Dog Zen teachings are firmly rooted in dog psychology and natural canine behaviour. The tagline is “Amazing Results Lovingly” – to reflect Mark’s caring training methodology and the inherent central philosophy of ‘Zen’.
Dog Zen teaches people how dogs’ brains work, so that they can correct any issue and have an easy and relaxed relationship with their dog.
Purchase of the programme gives the user unique login details, so they can access it from any device, any time, for life.
Some of the issues Dog Zen can teach people to correct in their dogs are:
– Aggression (towards other dogs or people)
– Separation Anxiety
– Basic training e.g sit, stay, heel
– Bad recall
– Jumping up
Dog Zen is now available from dogzen.com, RRP $447 AU.