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Puppies will go through various stages in their growth where chewing and biting behaviors tend to be more or less common in all breeds. These are similar in many cases to the chewing and biting behaviors that human infants go through, especially around teething time. Small puppies will also go through a period of mouthing everything. This is part of their way to explore their environment and find out what is good to eat and what is not. While these stages are all normal, they can become problematic when the puppy starts to destroy the house, furniture, clothes and everything else he or she can get his or her mouth on. Biting becomes a more serious issue as often puppies biting is considered cute and even encouraged by unsuspecting owners, but a full grown dog, even a toy breed, can seriously injure a person through biting behaviors.
Since chewing is a natural behavior for dogs when they are bored, playful and even happy, it is less important to stop the behavior and more important to direct it to appropriate objects. Starting your puppy off by providing a variety of chew toys and not ever having the puppy start chewing on your shoe, backpack, cell phone or pillow is the best possible option. When you first bring your puppy home have a variety of chew toys available, especially ones like he or she is used to playing with at the breeders. A good selection of check toys can include:
Kongs or tough, rubberized toys available in many different styles and sizes.
Nylon bones are also available for most small to giant sized dogs.
Hard rubber balls, not too small to possibly be swallowed.
Dog quality stuffed toys for small dogs are typically acceptable but they will not last with medium to large breeds of puppies.
Knotted thick ropes are great to play with and very safe.
Avoid using socks tied in knots, old shoes or even old clothing that is cut in strips and braided into a toy. Although these things are great to play with, it may be confusing for the dog to tell these items from the good clothes and shoes. Never leave these types of items where the puppy can get into them if at all possible. Do not use human toys or children's stuffed animals as dogs can simply shred and destroy these items, often swallowing small parts that can cause serious health problems and even death.
Use the chew toys in games and when playing with the dog. Encourage chewing of these toys and praise the dog when he or she is chewing on them. If you catch the dog chewing on something they shouldn't, substitute the incorrect item for the correct chew toy. Don't punish the dog or hit or yell at the puppy, this will only frighten them and will not help with training in any fashion.
Additional exercise and socialization can also help with minimizing chewing behaviors when you are not home or with the puppy. Puppies that have lots of attention and exercise are more content to relax and sleep when you are gone and wait for you to get home to play.
All puppies start out biting. Mother dogs and brothers and sisters typically teach the puppy what is known as bite inhibition, or the puppies ability to regulate its biting behavior. If a puppy bites the mother dog she will growl at it once as a warning, then will often snap at the puppy if it persists. Brothers and sisters will yelp sharply and run away, leaving the biting puppy alone and isolated. Through these two different types of interactions puppies learn to not bite to get attention and socialization.
Humans can use these two training methods as well. If a puppy bites, a high pitched "Ouch, no bite" followed by ignoring will typically get the message across to the puppy. If he or she continues to bite a more direct method of "Ouch, no bite" followed by firmly holding the puppy by the scruff of the neck until he or she is still, then releasing and ignoring will usually get the point across. Do not pick the puppy up by the scruff off the neck or hurt them in any way, all you are trying to do is show that you are dominant and that you will not tolerate rough play. Mother dogs will use this same behavior to correct a puppy that is too aggressive.
Biting puppies will need to learn different games to avoid biting encouragement. Don't play games such as tug-of-war with these puppies as that is a dominance game, and if the puppy thinks he or she is allowed to growl or act aggressive in games this can often spill over into training. Don't wrestle or rough house with these puppies either. Play games that allow the dog to interact with something else, other than a human. Rolling the ball, playing with a Frisbee or just playing hide and seek with the puppy is a much better option. Absolutely never allow the puppy to chew on your fingers. Many people do this when the puppy is small, especially with toy and small breeds. This tends to lead to dominance issues with these dogs that can become very problematic as the puppy matures.
There are some breeds, particularly the working dogs or pastoral dogs as they are called in the United Kingdom that are prone to nipping as a way of herding. These breeds, most commonly the Border Collies, Sheepdogs, Shepherds and Corgis will naturally go through a period of trying to "herd" their owners and other humans. Correction is important and puppies will quickly learn not to "heel" or nip at people. This correction can be done by the "Ouch, no bite" command followed by the person immediately stopping and ignoring the puppy. In some cases a squirt bottle filled with clean, fresh water can be used in conjunction with the command to help persistent nippers understand that they are not to engage in that behavior with people. If you have one of these breeds don't use chase games where you may be encouraging the puppy to develop his or her natural herding instincts.
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