Puppy biting tip - don't toss treats

I finished up with a client on Saturday that I haven’t seen in a while. He is now almost twelve months old and is doing extremely well in all the basic areas that are most important to puppy guardians. He walks well on the leash (he has his moments around other dogs), he comes when he is called, he stops when asked and he understands how to learn. I was putting him through the paces at the beginning of the session to see where my clients needed some final guidance and to assess how to structure the session.

 

“Sit, Good Boy! Down, Stay . . . Come!, Down, Good Boy!” After approximately ten behaviors I gave him a treat. “Ouch!” He nailed my fingers in a painful crushing bite. 

I did not remember him having a rough mouth when I worked with him as a young puppy many months ago so I asked his guardians if they toss treats or food to him. Sure enough, they started working on it as a fun “trick” and did not think anything of it until now. 

Puppies are not motivated to have a tentative, “soft mouth” unless they are constantly reminded as early as possible to do so. This consistent message should continue well past their first birthday or until you are absolutely sure that your puppy’s default bite is tentative, measured and consistent.

I do not recommend tossing food or treats for puppies until they are consistently gentle with their mouth around food or toys. 


Soft Mouth Exercise
For my clients I always recommend using at least one meal per day as a training session to help them stay consistent with their training schedule. This is an ideal time to work on a puppy biting prevention exercise with your puppy.

Basic

  1. Put one piece of kibble in your fist
  2. Place it near your puppy’s nose
  3. If she licks or sniffs your hand, say “Yes” and open your fist and allow her to eat the food
  4. If she puts any teeth (at all) on your fist, say, “Ouch!” and move your hand away
  5. Continue working until you feed half of your dog’s food

Advanced

Once your puppy has a gentle mouth with the basic exercise you can move to the next level

  1. Put a piece of kibble between your thumb and forefinger and repeat the exercise above
  2. Continue working until your puppy visibly controls herself and moves slowly around the kibble by either licking it or using her lips to get the kibble
  3. Back up to the basic exercise if this is too difficult

Troubleshooting

  1. Sometimes the verbal exclamation “Ouch!” can excite a puppy too much, if this happens tone down the volume and pitch of the word
Try saying, “Good, good” as you are moving the kibble slowly towards your puppy and “Ouch!” IMMEDIATELY upon feeling teeth – good timing will make it clearer to your puppy which behavior is appropriate
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