Bringing your new Labrador puppy home is one of the best feelings. For some of us, we know that this is when the painful nips start. Although the mouth of a Labrador retriever is soft, puppies are little from gentle.
Trainers have a variety of methods under their belt, which leads to confusion on our end. Which is the best way? Should I scold my puppy or give them a time out?
In this article, we hope to help you find solutions that will stop the biting without being overly harsh.
Why Do Puppies Have Sharp Teeth?
Although we’d prefer them not to have prickly teeth, a puppy’s mouth is filled with sharp incisors and canines. Pet Helpful goes in-depth behind a few of the most researched reasons for this adaptation.
When they were Defenseless in the Wild
Since dogs are domesticated from wolves, scientists have been able to compare the rearing of our dogs and their closest living relative, the wolf.
Of course, domesticated litters don’t feed off of meat, but puppies in the wild had sharp teeth to take a bite out of what was provided for them.
Sharp Teeth Aids in Being Weaned
It has been brought to the attention of dog breeders that the sharpness of a puppy’s tooth can help to wean a dog off its mother.
According to Daily Puppy, puppy nurses for approximately 7 to 8 weeks of age. The sharp teeth irritate the mother dog, as one would imagine, making her start to encourage the puppies to rely on other food.
How Do I Know if My Puppy is Being Playful or Aggressive?
We all know that puppies play rough when with other dogs. But, what about with us? Is there a way to determine a playful bite from an aggressive chomp?
Veterinary Medicine identifies a few signs to look for when considering the nature of the bite.
The following signs paired with your puppy’s excessive biting might inform you that the bites are more aggressive than playful.
- Deep growls as opposed to high-pitched barks.
- If eye contact is fixed and more intense.
- The body might be stiff compared to a bow or an ever-moving playful body.
- Seems to become reactive when a toy or food is taken away.
The use of body language is incredibly important for canine communication. You should always use this to your aid.
As mentioned above, a puppy that is playful will be bounding around or in a play bow stance with high-pitched, happy barks.
The body language belonging to a more reactive or aggressive puppy is often seen hunkered down with a certain stiffness.
They tend to fix their gaze upon the person that they are trying to communicate with. There may even be an accompanied low growl.
Not every puppy turns from playful to aggressive, so it is best to prepare yourself for bites that may arise out of a rambunctious play session.
Different Reasons as to Why a Puppy Will Bite?
Puppies bite for a number of reasons. In order to tackle the training involved with biting and nipping, you must first realize why your puppy is exhibiting this behavior. Pet Plan identifies a few of these reasons.
Teething: just as with human babies, puppies will try to find relieve from their swollen gums. The best way to do this is to chew on something or someone.
Exploration: if you think about dogs as a species, you will understand the importance of their snout. In puppies, it is no different. Bites are often a way to explore the world around them. Unfortunately, this can be done through their teeth.
Social benefits: engaging with another puppy is essential for social development. This is usually done through roughhousing with a bit of biting.
How Do I Stop My Puppy From Biting?
Now that you know the reason for which your Labrador puppy might be biting, you can address the problem. It is important that you do this carefully and with gentleness as training greatly affects the development of the puppy.
Avid Puppy establishes ways in which you can establish boundaries and limitations without being unnecessarily harsh.
Training Your Puppy to Stop Biting
When you first bring your puppy home, you might be eager to start with potty training. This is important, but perhaps biting should be your primary focus.
A puppy starts learning and picking up on cues as soon as it is brought home, therefore making consistency essential.
If you’d prefer a visual aid, Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution is a great resource for addressing puppies biting in the home.
Using Verbal Cues to Stop Biting
For some owners, this isn’t the way in which they’d want to train their dog, but it is one of the easiest ways to set expectations.
You also do not need to shout at your dog to get the point across. Being domesticated alongside humans, dogs are incredibly perceptive to our tone, picking up on if we are disapproving of something that they have done.
To use a verbal cue, simply wait for your puppy to bite you. Once this happens, say the word “No”. Make sure that your voice is confident and low-toned to correctly convey what you want. With repetition, your puppy should start to learn that biting is not acceptable.
The Use of Hand Muzzling to Stop Biting
One method used in training a puppy to recede from biting is to use your hands as a muzzle. This might sound strange, but it can work if done correctly.
As with the verbal cue, make sure that you do this in a gentle manner so as not to hurt your puppy.
When your puppy starts to nip or bite at your hand, carefully wrap your fingers around their snout. You can even pair it with a verbal cue.
How to Deter Your Puppy from Biting
Though not as commonly practiced, you can spray your hands with a harmless, unappealing taste or scent, making your puppy learn that if they bite your hand then they will get a nasty surprise.
Time Outs for Your Puppy
Just as with humans, using a time out when play gets too rough is a useful trick. This can be putting them back in their crate or penned area until they settle down.
The Importance of Chew Toys
With puppies going through the stages of teething, it is important to give them options. Instead of chewing your hand, you can have them play with a chew toy.
Teaching a puppy not to bite is an essential lesson that can be taught in a variety of ways. Before you begin to lay down boundaries, evaluate why your Labrador puppy is biting in the first place.
You can then proceed to use a training method that is right for both of you.