Welcome to Day 3 of Puppy Preschool
(Don’t know what we’re talking about? Click here.) Today we’ll cover play biting and chewing.
Most mouthing and playbiting in puppies and juvenile dogs is normal play behavior. Completely eliminating this type of behavior is unrealistic. However, modifying it to appropriate levels and redirecting it to appropriate outlets is a very important part of training your companion pet. If left unchecked, this behavior can quickly get out of control and that once-cute little puppy tugging at your pant leg now is a 50-pound dog playfully biting at anything that moves. Set your ground rules early and ensure everyone in the family is interacting appropriately and playing the right games with your new pet.
How to Correct Playbiting
Most playbiting can be brought under control by redirecting the behavior to appropriate chew toys. If your puppy starts to playbite, offer him the toy, and always praise your pet for accepting petting without playbiting.
Training is best in small doses when your dog or puppy is first learning a new behavior. Games and activities with your pet should be kept within acceptable arousal levels. If your dog or puppy becomes overly excited during play, take a break and let him calm down. Roughhousing and wrestling with your pet may be great fun, but if you are having a problem with playbiting or your pet is too rough during play, these activities will only make the problem worse. Play should be kept low-key and under control.
If your Puppy Continues to Playbite
There are some cases where the playbiting has been left unattended long enough to become a stubborn habit, and adding a time-out exercise may be necessary to curb the behavior. When your puppy bites during play, react how another puppy would by voicing a loud cry or “Yip!” This should be loud enough to interrupt play. Then ignore the puppy completely for about one minute then resume play.
If the puppy bites again, and he probably will, increase the penalty by getting up and walking away for one minute. Time-outs should be for short periods of time, no more than 30 seconds to one minute. Repeat this interaction over and over again and he will get the idea that when he bites, you go away. This communicates negative punishment to the puppy – basically you are removing something good (the play) to decrease the likelihood of the undesired behavior reoccurring (the biting).
Destructive chewing is number one on the hit list when it comes to problems with destructive behaviors. There are others, but inappropriate chewing probably outnumbers them all! Chewing is a normal behavior for a dog (like most destructive behaviors). Chewing to a dog is like reading a good book is to us. It is relaxing and a good way to spend some downtime. Dogs will engage in destructive behaviors for a variety of reasons, and in order to deal with the behavior you must first determine why your dog is being destructive.
Encouraging Appropriate Chewing
There are lots of things you can do to help your pet make good choices. It is up to you to train your dog or puppy to chew the right things and set him up for success. Limiting his ability to make mistakes will prevent bad habits from forming.
- Good supervision is critical to this type of training. Use baby gates to limit his access to your home and keep him close to you. You can also put your pet on a leash while indoors and attach it to your belt loop or around your waist.
- Provide appropriate chew toys and rotate them frequently. If you leave all the toys out all the time they get boring but if you keep a few stashed away and switch them out every couple days it’s like getting a new toy!
- Use some chew toys that can be stuffed with kibble and treats, like a KONG. This will make it more interesting to your pet and keep him busy for hours.
- If you catch your puppy chewing on the wrong thing, interrupt the behavior with a loud “HEY” or clap your hands and then redirect him to an appropriate chew toy. Don’t forget to praise him when he takes the toy and begins chewing on it.
- Confine your pet when he cannot be supervised. A crate or a long-term confinement area like the kitchen or a bathroom may work well for you. Remember to puppy-proof the room before leaving your pet alone.
- Make sure your puppy is getting enough exercise.
- Family time is very important to your pet. Providing plenty of one-on-one time to play, exercise and just hang out is going to build strong emotional bonds and ensure a better-behaved household companion.
- Never punish your pet after the fact. Punishment will not only fail to correct the problem, it may even make your dog or puppy afraid of you. Other behavior problems could be the result of using punishment incorrectly.
About the Puppy Preschool Blog Series
Over the next few days, we’ll touch upon a variety of puppy-parenting issues that are covered, in detail, by our Behavior Training Programs Manager in her full Puppy-PreSchool Course. If you like what you get a taste of in these blog posts, sign your little guy (or gal) up for the full course,here.
Topics to Be Covered
- Sunday: About Positive Reinforcement Training
- Monday: Potty/Crate Training
- Tuesday: Play biting/Chewing
- Wednesday: Exercise and Appropriate Play
- Thursday: Socialization
- Friday: Conclusion
Stay tuned throughout the week as we deliver multi-media lessons on how to raise your puppy right. By Friday, your puppy could be a fully-fledged preschool graduate.
For more information…
…on our Puppy Preschool course, or any of our other obedience classes, just visit our website.You can also speak to our Behavior and Training Department at 954.266.6819. Classes are held at the Humane Society, 2070 Griffin Road, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312.