Updated: Feb 15
Problem Solving That Tootsie Chewer
The Ankle Biter
Puppies can become hyper-stimulated creatures of habit and nip for attention, while playing, out of boredom, because they are overtired or not worn out and challenged enough. If you can determine what the cause of the nipping is then you have a better chance of helping your pup communicate its needs in a more productive way, this is where it may be helpful to speak with your local behaviourist for some help determining what your puppy is thinking.
This behaviour is very similar to babies and children, babies need plenty of opportunities for nap time in their cot, otherwise they get over tired and cranky. Small children also need naps and structured time during the day, otherwise they become unruly and wild. Dogs and puppies work very much in the same way, you know you have the right mix of physical and mental stimulation in a day because you dog is very happy to lay quietly at the end of the day.
There is an order of escalation for these sorts of behaviours and you should always work your way down the list and you can repeat any step more then once, choosing when you feel you need to move it up a notch. be careful you don't come to the end of your tether before you are able to get to the end of the list or you might find you skip a step or behave in a way that isn't teaching your pup.
Prevent the behaviour from happening.
Distract pup from nipping and redirect their attention appropriately.
Withdraw your attention.
Time to calm down.
We go into this in a lot more information but first lets talk about some of the causes and some fixes.
At 8 weeks old when a puppy first comes to its new home they spend anywhere between 18-20 hours sleeping a day, decreasing slowly until at 6 months (or when puberty hits) they sleep between 16-18 hours in 24hrs. So the first question and easiest one to eliminate is.... 'Is our puppy getting enough time out, and a good opportunity to take a siesta?
We have a house rule that could help families, children and playful parents -
If your puppy is asleep, leave them alone! And if they go into their bed or crate, leave them alone!
Their bed is their safe space, even in the middle of play if your puppy takes their toy to their bed stop play and wait for them to come out on their own, it wont take long for them to realise this is a place that you cant go so will feel completely at ease in their space. You can of course praise them with gentle stroking and place treats in between their paws when they are in their bed but no roughing up, picking them up or telling them off and sending them to their bed.
You can actually jackpot this natural behaviour, if they chose to go to their bed and lay down or if you are in the kitchen and they choose to move away to chew on their bone then you can calmly walk over and just place a treat in between their legs (so they don't have to move to eat it) then walk away. This is something I like to call 'Common Sense Training' I will talk more about this another time but for now, why is this helpful for nipping? I hear you say... you are teaching your puppy to be calm and choose to act in a way that gets them rewards.
A behaviour rewarded is a behaviour that will happen again and again.