Direction, Redirection, Facilitation
NORMAL Puppy Biting Facts:
- Puppies investigate with their mouths, and learn bite inhibition and whether a bite causes a reaction by practice. It is part of their normal development.
- Biting is also part of the normal teething process to alleviate pain.
We need to support the normal biting behaviour onto something appropriate. This might be a chew toy or food that is long lasting.
When they try to bite a person or animal, it’s important to have an alternative option close by to offer instead
It’s also important for the puppy to go to a safe place, a quiet place where they can experience the “feel good” hormones that are released when experiencing this type of biting/nipping. Without associating the activity with another person or animal.
‘Normal’ Puppy or Aggressive Puppy?
The context of biting is important. Always check the circumstances and make judgements and decisions based on the context of the puppy’s situation.
Play biting is accompanied by friendly dog body language. This is ‘normal’ and neurotypical behaviour for a puppy.
Play biting is seen with:
- Interactive body language
- Will be engaging
- Looking for feedback
- Soft eyes
- Loose body language
- Play bows
- A wiggly body
- High pitched barking
- Bouncing around
Biting that may suggest an aggressive motivation will be accompanied by different body language.
Look out for:
- Dilated pupils
- Stiff body
- Hackles along their back
- Lifting their lips
- The bite is purposeful
- The puppy perceives the thing they are biting as a threat.
How do we know that this isn’t playing?
A playful puppy looks different. See the pictures and videos below. Every puppy is different but this can give you an idea about whether or not you need to get some professional help with your puppy.
If a puppy is play-biting, create a safe place where they can engage in that behaviour away from people – this way we are setting them up to win. Some people encourage their puppies to bite them to learn bite inhibition and encourage play, but we discourage this because it is confusing to the puppy’s learning. The puppy learns in those situations that the hand or arm is a good thing to chew and may put a person (young or old) in danger without that being the intention.
If a puppy is not play biting and the biting is accompanied by some of the above signals of aggression or worry, we recommend seeking professional help to assess and help the puppy – it is very important to the puppy and people around it having positive social experiences in the future.
The responsibilities of owning an aggressive dog are big. Click here to read about How to handle a dog that bites.
Recognising safe and unsafe dogs is instrumental to a healthy community and the Dog Bite Prevention Program focuses on this Register your interest HERE.