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Understanding Puppy Biting, Chewing, and Teething

Updated: Jul 7


Puppy side eyeing and nibbling on duvet

Teething

Teething is a natural phase in a puppy's development, typically occurring between 3 weeks and 6 months of age. During this period, your puppy's baby teeth will be replaced by adult teeth, causing discomfort and a strong urge to chew.

Provide suitable chew toys to soothe their sore gums and redirect their chewing instincts. Ensure these toys are safe and designed for teething puppies.

Be vigilant about keeping household, valuable, and dangerous items out of reach, as puppies may chew on furniture or shoes to relieve their teething discomfort.

Regularly rotating and freezing chew toys can provide additional relief. Consistent positive reinforcement for chewing on appropriate items will help guide your puppy through this teething phase and establish good chewing habits for the future.


Key takeaways:


  • Provide Appropriate Chew Toys

Give your puppy safe, teething-specific toys to help soothe their gums and redirect their chewing behaviour.


  • Safety First

Keep an eye on your home and ensure valuable, important, and dangerous items are out of your puppy's reach, as they might chew on furniture or shoes to ease their teething discomfort.


  • Rotate and Freeze Toys

Switch out and freeze chew toys regularly to offer extra relief for your teething puppy.


  • Positive Reinforcement

Always praise and reward your puppy when they chew on suitable items to help them develop good chewing habits.


Puppy playing with toy

Play Biting

Puppy biting can arise from various causes, such as genetics, over-arousal, lack of sleep, or frustration. Although play biting can be troublesome for owners, it is a normal behaviour rooted in their genetics. Certain breeds may bite more due to their genetic background. Understanding your puppy's breed and its original purpose can shed light on its biting tendencies.


Breeds involved in bite work or retrieving often show more biting or mouthing behaviours because of their genetic predispositions. Recognising that these behaviours are bred into them and not intentional is crucial. Herding breeds, for instance, might be nippy or bitey due to their genetic makeup.


In addition to genetics, normal puppy biting and mouthing are part of their exploration process, using their mouths to understand their environment. Knowing your dog's breed helps identify if their behaviours are genetically driven and bred for specific traits.


  • Playing rough with puppies can unintentionally promote biting behaviour. Rough play can increase their excitement and lead to grabbing behaviours. To maintain a calm environment, especially around children, supervision is essential.


  • Always keep a suitable toy nearby when interacting with your puppy to redirect their biting. Not having a toy available can inadvertently encourage them to bite hands or skin.


  • Incorporate positive training methods, such as teaching commands like "leave it" or "hand touch," and practise giving treats gently from your hand. This helps your puppy learn appropriate behaviours around human hands and develop impulse control.


To address these unwanted behaviours in puppies, be proactive by demonstrating the desired behaviour and engage them in constructive activities. Recognise that biting often stems from over-arousal and frustration. Focus on showing them what to do and use positive reinforcement more frequently than negative feedback.


Chewing

Chewing is a broader behaviour that extends beyond just teething. Dogs naturally chew to explore their surroundings, maintain dental health, and alleviate stress or boredom. Since chewing is a lifelong activity, it’s important to provide appropriate chew toys throughout a dog's life to channel this instinct and prevent destructive chewing on unsuitable items.


Recognising these differences helps puppy owners address each behaviour appropriately, whether by offering teething relief during the teething phase or redirecting chewing tendencies with suitable toys as the dog grows.



puppy sitting next to child

Handling and Sensitivity

Consider how your puppies perceive physical interaction, particularly breeds like cockapoos, cocker spaniels, and cavapoos. These breeds often show a mild dislike of being handled. Biting behaviour can occur when owners pick them up, move them, pat their heads, lift them, or try to take something from their mouths.


When your puppy is uncomfortable, they might use mouthing to communicate. It's important to distinguish this from playful biting; it's your puppy expressing discomfort with the situation. Our goal is to help your puppy feel comfortable during such handling.


From a resource-guarding perspective, the puppy might have experienced trigger stacking due to various stressors. Discomfort with handling can arise from genetic factors and the breeder's management of the puppies during their time in the litter.


Learning to handle your puppy properly is essential. Helping them become comfortable with handling ensures smoother visits to the vet and groomer. Setting your puppy up for success involves creating an environment that fosters positive behaviours. Manage your surroundings to promote the development of appropriate behaviours in your puppy.


Avoid Negative Responses

NEVER resort to smacking, squeezing, or shouting at your puppy. These actions can exacerbate the behaviour and create a puppy that is fearful or apprehensive of humans and their hands. Remember, your puppy is unaware of its actions. While these responses may or may not stop the behaviour, they risk making it worse.


By considering your puppy's breed-specific characteristics and responding with empathy and understanding, you will build a stronger and positive relationship and ensure they feel safe and comfortable during all interactions.


Additional Tips


  • Socialisation

Expose your puppy to various environments, people, and other animals to reduce anxiety and build confidence.


  • Exercise and Mental Stimulation

Ensure your puppy gets a balance of physical exercise and mental stimulation to prevent boredom-related biting and chewing.


  • Consistent Routine

Establish a consistent daily routine to help your puppy feel secure and understand what to expect.


  • Proactive Training

Be proactive in training, showing them the desired behaviour, and filling their day with constructive learning and appropriate activities.


By approaching these behaviours with enthusiasm and dedication, you can effectively guide your puppy through teething, manage playful biting, and establish lifelong healthy chewing habits. Every training session is a chance to strengthen your bond with your puppy. Keep things positive and patient, and you'll see your pup grow into a well-rounded and happy friend at your side.



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