We get a lot of questions in puppy class about puppy nipping and chewing. Puppies explore the world with their mouths. They nip in play with one another providing constant feedback about the level of arousal in the interaction. They may also nip in fear. Puppies chew for a variety of reasons. They may chew to relieve gum pressure from teething. They may chew for entertainment and to relieve boredom.
Both nipping and chewing are very normal puppy behaviour. As we develop a loving bond with our puppies, we create situations where they can use their natural inclinations in an appropriate way.
It is important to teach our puppies to use their mouths softly. Start by hand feeding your puppy a portion of each meal. If their teeth touch you at all; drop the food back in the bowl, put the bowl in the counter and walk away for a couple of minutes. Return and continue feeding.
Make sure your puppy gets enough exercise, rest and mental stimulation. Bored or over stimulated puppies tend to nip more. It is important that your puppy have quiet time in his/her crate every day. A couple of hours in the morning and afternoon is a useful habit that allows puppies to relax.
Once your puppy’s adult teeth start to come in, chewing becomes a useful recreational outlet. Be sure you are providing appropriate chew toys or your puppy may make some choices that are less popular!! There are lots of great commercial chewing options available. Most require supervision. We do not want your puppy to choke on small parts that may come off. (FYI, rope toys are not suitable chew toys. They are fun for interactive play but do not allow your puppy to chew them. Small bits of fiber can come off and create an impaction)
Kongs are good choice if you would like your dog to have a chew toy in his/her crate. You can fill them with what you wish and not worry about choking hazards.
When handled appropriately, nipping and chewing diminish with maturity. Nipping disappears all together and chewing focuses on toys. It is our job to help puppy make appropriate choices when they are young so they can be well mannered family members in future.
By Lisa Kruitwagen, DWD Instructor