How to Stop Puppy Biting, Mouthing and Jumping up
Your new little bundle is likely to be excited on meeting you and your family, and will see you as new playmates to have fun with. However, it's essential that early on, they learn rules around what is or isn't acceptable behaviour. Without this, your puppy will grow into a dog who will carry puppy habits such as play-biting, mouthing or jumping up into adulthood. As adults, puppy habits such as these can become more serious problems; as being bigger and heavier dogs can cause injury without meaning to.
So, when your pup comes home with you, start to teach good manners straight away. This means gentle, positive reinforcement – reward the 'good' where your puppy is displaying the behaviour you want to see and ignore the behaviours you don’t want to encourage. Never punish your puppy verbally or physically. You will just make them fearful of you and it will not have the effect you desire.
Puppies in a litter together will play with each other and this will involve lots of rough and tumble and play-biting - but you don't want puppy biting to be a continued behaviour, especially not into adulthood. Whilst it's fine for you to have fun together, playtime shouldn't involve teeth, and it’s a good idea to use gentle training to discourage puppy biting.
Puppy teeth are sharp, and the occasional nip might happen while you or your child and the puppy are playing. Many puppy owners experience this play-biting, and many wonder how to stop a puppy from nipping:
• Make a loud, high-pitched yelp – even if they don’t actually hurt you - and then turn away from your puppy. This is a much more effective way of getting through to them than a reprimand or playing more roughly.
• Your pup must then be ignored, to show the game stops when the mouthing starts.
• This reaction will be familiar to your puppy as that’s how their littermates would have responded when they got hurt by another puppy, so your little friend will quickly understand that mouthing won’t bring any rewards.
When training your puppy, reinforce good behaviour with praise and a treat, so your pup is encouraged to develop good manners. Do not use punishment such as shouting at/smacking your puppy to try and stop puppy biting. This can make things worse and break down their trust in you - they will learn much more quickly by positive, kind reinforcement.
Puppy jumping up
Don’t despair if you’re wondering how to stop a puppy jumping up. Most puppies jump up as it is a natural greeting behaviour and they want your attention. If your puppy frequently jumps up at you or your child, this behaviour should be discouraged by ignoring them (and even turning your back on them), waiting until they put their paws on the ground, and then crouching down and giving them the attention they want – and a tasty treat. Soon they will learn that if they want your attention, the way to get it is to be polite with all four paws on the ground.
Make sure everyone in the family does the same thing – and if one person is encouraging the puppy to jump up, your training will be pretty unsuccessful! Once your puppy knows how to ‘sit’ when you ask, you can ask them to do that instead and reward them. Make sure though that you give the reward when the pup is doing the behaviour you desire – even if for the shortest time! They'll soon associate sitting instead of jumping with treats. Actively teaching them the sit command also means you can use this to help you with preventing jumping.
All puppies 'mouth', especially during puppy teething which will be from about 12 weeks onwards up until they are about 6 months old. Gradually their baby teeth will fall out to be replaced by adult teeth and just as a baby might experience discomfort as they teethe, your puppy might too and they may develop an insatiable appetite for mouthing. As with play-biting, using your fingers or hand as a puppy mouthing toy is not to be encouraged. Giving your pup chew toys meant for puppies will give them an outlet for this natural need to mouth and will also distract them. Have appropriate toys at hand and give your puppy a satisfying toy anytime they try to mouth your hands, or chew something in the house that they are not meant to. As always, reward the behaviour you want with lots of praise.
Why do puppies chew?
If your puppy is chewing things, it can directly point to puppy teething as the root of their behaviour. You might assume that you should stop a puppy chewing right away, but this chewing is totally natural and when it is directed at safe toys it is a healthy exercise.
However, if your puppy is chewing things that are inappropriate or dangerous, it is a good idea to help manage the behaviour to stop puppy chewing from getting out of hand, and direct it onto something more appropriate. Excessive chewing can also be down to boredom or stress, so addressing these root causes will not only help to stop a puppy chewing but improve their wellbeing as well.
A qualified and experienced behaviourist can help you find the cause of your puppy’s excessive chewing, also if you are concerned, take them for a check-up with your vet right away. In the meantime, here are some general tips to keep puppy chewing on the safer side.
• Make sure you have a safe, secure place for your puppy to be if you have to leave them alone. This should be somewhere comfortable where they are used to being that is free from anything that could be dangerous or get damaged if chewed. A crate can be very useful, but needs to be introduced properly and seen as a safe, snuggly place. For more information on crate training and puppy sleeping arrangements, take a look at our guide.
• Give your dog lots of safe chew toys to help alleviate boredom. If you can redirect their chewing to these toys, they won’t focus so much on the items you do not want them to chew.
• When you see your puppy chewing something off-limits, redirect their attention to a safe chew toy that they can chew to their heart’s content.
• Praise your puppy when you see them chewing a safe and appropriate toy.
• Consider putting your puppy in a playpen when you’re at home but can’t watch them all the time. Make sure they have some safe chew-toys as well, that way they’ll have room to play safely.
It’s important to remember that puppy biting, mouthing and jumping up are all natural behaviours, so never punish your pup. You’ll get a lot further by reinforcing good behaviour which will help you to build a strong relationship.