(An updated post on the perennial topic of puppy nibbling! For the original post, read, Puppies: There Will Be Teeth)
1) The majority of dog professionals agree that most puppy biting is relatively normal. We could get off into a long discussion exploring why some puppies bite more than others, but that doesn't necessarily help us solve the here and now problem. The only thing I'll say on that point is that if your puppy came home at less than 8 weeks old, and/or it was a single pup without littermates, you are more likely to experience more intense biting problems than a pup that was brought home over 8 weeks old and had multiple littermates.
2) Puppies are not biting all the time. Although it might feel constant, there are definitely periods of time without biting, and we're thankful for that! If you're struggling with puppy biting, ask yourself:
When is puppy not biting?
What's different about the not-biting scenarios compared to the biting scenarios?
How can we make the biting scenarios look more like the not-biting scenarios?
3) The solution for puppy biting involves two things: prevention and redirection. The more prevention, the less pain. A big part of the original blog on this topic was about the reality of puppy biting and how it's not something we can completely shut off. Even as a professional, when I'm around puppies, I still occasionally feel teeth on my skin. Prevention is about reducing the number of biting instances; not about eliminating them.
If my prevention failed, I utilize redirection to get the pup's teeth back onto something legal.
Common biting scenarios and how to handle them:
Holding the puppy. Hand feed yummy treats while holding the pup, or offer a yummy chew. Some pups don't like being held so they bite. It's a good idea to train your pup to enjoy handling because if he likes being handled, he is far less likely to bite. And, you'll be preventing future aggression biting!
Petting the puppy. Force feed for the win! While petting with one hand, offer a toy or yummy chew next to the puppy's mouth with the other hand. Rather than asking him to stop all biting, you provide a legal place to exercise his urge.
Putting on a leash/collar. Get your ninja skills ready for this one! Right before you begin to put the collar around her neck, drop a handful of very small treats on the floor. While she's busy scarfing them up, you can quickly snap the collar on.
Here's a list of some of my favorite chews for puppies:
No-Hide by Earth Animal
Braided Bully Sticks
Mega Cow Tail (this one has a thin bone running through the center and requires **extra** supervision)
And of course, I always recommend doing some reward-based basic obedience training with your pup. They have to learn new, appropriate ways to interact with humans to replace the jumping and biting. We cannot expect what we haven't taught. They don't understand that behaviors like sitting, lying down, or offering eye contact work to get attention and yummy treats and it's our job to teach them!