A Petful reader recently asked:
“My young puppy is chewing fingers. When I tell him no in a firm voice or try pushing him away, it just gets worse. How can I make him stop?”
Mouthing is a common, if annoying, behavior that we hear about all the time. A puppy or dog needs to chew. But with patience and a little know-how, you can save your hand.
1. Stop Encouraging Them
First, make sure you’re not encouraging your puppy to be mouthy by playing roughly with them.
This overexcitement could cause them to see your moving digits as something to chase and catch with their teeth.
When you don’t instantly let them know that the biting is wrong, they won’t read your mind. So you need to let your dog know what behavior is not acceptable.
However, by pushing them away, you are just getting them amped up. (Meanwhile, striking your pet, heaven forbid, is a big no-no — if you were to do this, the puppy would just think you are mean.)
So what’s a person to do as soon as their puppy starts chewing on fingers?
Say a firm, “Ouch!” or even a fake dog yelp, and then back away and stop playing for a while. This is how dogs in the wild know when they’ve gone too far, so it should work for you, too.
2. Redirect, Then Praise Good Behavior
Redirect your dog’s attention after some time has passed.
Grab a dog toy such as a large hard rubber ball or a chew bone (keep these in different places around your house so you can easily grab one in a hurry), and show it to the puppy.
If they go for the toy, great. Gently praise while they chew on the toy. Your praise tells the dog: This is what you should be doing — not chewing my hand.
Don’t feel you have to stop playing with your dog altogether. Playtime builds a strong canine–human bond. It’s crucial to your pet’s development.
3. Be Consistent
Being consistent in redirecting your puppy from fingers to appropriate items will help them learn that fingers are not acceptable but that their rubber ball or chew toy is OK.
Remember, if they don’t go for the toy, walk away for a while.
Puppies sometimes forget corrective behavior, so you might find yourself repeating these actions many times. However, with consistency and patience, they’ll eventually understand.
“Be consistent” is probably the most vital nugget of advice I can give you. Give your puppy crystal-clear feedback so they can learn to do what you want them to do. Then you’ll just have fun.
Now that you know some of the basic procedures, take a look at this instructional video:
In some cases, your puppy may have a severe biting problem. Try this:
- Smear a foul-tasting substance to on a pair of gloves.
- Your pet will quickly realize that if they bite those fingers, it won’t be terribly thrilling.
This training method sends a powerful negative association — although smarter dogs will realize that when the gloves go off, that sweet soft skin of your hand is again fair game.
If you believe that your puppy is too aggressive, seek advice from an experienced dog behaviorist or trainer.