The Nipping Cast- a Podcast about Puppy Nipping and How to Solve It

puppy biting

The Nipping Cast- a Podcast about Puppy Nipping and How to Solve It

Or Click This Link: The Nipping Cast

Happy Sunday everyone.  I’m Sammy the Dog Trainer here with your semi-regular podcast.  I would say like weekly or daily, but really I’m too disorganized to do things on a specific schedule other than take care of dogs.  So here is your….surprise podcast.  Today we are going to be talking about one of the number one annoying behaviors of new puppies.  Nipping.

I mean it’s the holidays.  I definitely don’t recommend getting a Christmas puppy on a whim.  Also be wary of breeders who just have scads of readily available dogs in all sizes, shapes, and colors for the exact date you need it.  Chances are they are a puppy mill.  Actually that gives me an idea.  One of our next podcasts will have to be on traits of a responsible breeder so you do not inadvertently end up supporting that vile puppy mill industry.  Well that’s put me in a bad mood.

Here’s something to lighten it- the shelter and rescue organizations are always full of dogs and puppies and kitties and…I don’t know…guinea pigs and such that need homes.  Some even do a sponsor a dog for the holidays type thing, although I’m not really sure how you could give back a dog after having her spend Christmas at your house.  Actually that’s probably the idea.  Anyway, here at Camp Sammy, that’s my Tampa hands on dog training business for those of you who don’t know- check us out on Facebook.  I post silly pics and videos all the time.  Anyways here at Camp Sammy and we are huge proponents of Adopt Don’t Shop.  I got my own dog from the kill shelter and he’s lovely….most of the time.  I like to complain about his butt headedness but he is really quite a lovely dog.

So on to the problem at hand.  You just brought home your brand-new puppy.  He’s cute and squirmy and smells like lovely stinky puppy breath.  He pees on the floor but you were expecting that and are ready to do due diligence since you took my online course on how to housebreak your puppy...hint hint.  Check out How to Housebreak Your Dog or Puppy 101 on Udemy.  Shameless self-promotion.  Really Sammy.  Anyways, you have this oh so adorable bundle of fluff and love….and uh oh teeth.  Yes puppy teeth are heinous.  They are needly sharp and very adventurous.  Kind of like your toddler, your puppy wants to put everything in her mouth, including her favorite thing ever- her new owner- you!

Just to put you at ease- puppy mouthing or nipping is completely normal.  I get tons of calls as a professional dog trainer from people with new puppies who are worried they just adopted an aggressive baby.  While it is possible to get an actually aggressive puppy, when they are that young, it’s pretty rare.  The vast majority of these cases are puppies not being taught manners yet and what is acceptable with people.

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Your puppy came from a litter.  It’s a little doggy pack microcosm in which there are littermates and mum.  Mum serves as the leader role and doles out punishment as she sees fit.  The littermates, however, are fair game for jumping, biting, and general rough housing.  This initial period of time with their littermates is actually vital for Puppy’s development.  She is learning about her personality, where she fits in the dominant-submissive spectrum, and how to play without hurting brother or sister.  It actually is so vital that it used to be a common practice for breeders whose dog whelped only a single puppy to either try to socialize with a different litter or they would put the puppy down.  Which is kind of heinous and I don’t know if they still do that, but the reasoning was the dog would develop without those key cognitive concepts such as “others feel pain too.”  So basically they could end up being psychotic.  Dogs actually manifest all kinds of human mental illnesses in simpler forms more suited to their cognition levels.  And we can medicate them for those conditions as well.  It’s rather fascinating.  Topic for a different day.

Your puppy mouthing or nipping is actually perfectly normal.  He is treating you like he would his littermates.  It’s your job to establish that you are momma dog, not littermate puppy.  If you ever watch dog pack dynamics, you will notice the alpha or leader dog is never mouthed on unless he invites another dog to wrestle or play.  That’s what you are going for.  To assume the leadership role.

Okay, Sammy, how do I do that?  Well there’s a few ways to go about it.  The first is start obedience training as soon as you get your pup.  I recommend a private trainer if your puppy is not fully vaccinated yet.  There is no such thing as too early.  A puppy comes home as early as 8 weeks from the litter, and that is a fine time to start teaching Puppy.  Besides the usual sit, stay, come, and all that, one of the most important commands to teach your puppy is Leave It.  Leave it saves your sanity.  It basically means ignore the thing, whatever the thing is that has captured your puppy’s attention.  It can be applied to cats, furniture, screaming children.  All kinds of things.

The way I teach the Leave It command is with a treat.  I put the treat on the ground, snap and point away from it and give the command Leave It.  I use a firm voice and domineering body posture to indicate that I have claimed this particular tasty morsel as mine.  Puppy can’t have it.  If you need help establishing authority because your dog handling skills and energy projection are not quite up to par, you can use a sound correction to correct puppy for trying to grab the treat after you’ve told him to leave it.  This can be an empty metal soda can with pennies in it, compressed air like a computer duster or pet corrector, or even if you want to get fancy, a Doggy Don’t device, although that is probably overkill for a puppy.  You want to apply a measured correction, not an atomic bomb.  Just some food for thought.

Make sure you drink your coffee before practicing this command.  It is vitally important Puppy does not dodge you and snatch the treat because essentially you are teaching him to ignore you rather than follow the command.  That’s bad juju.  If you have to physically block Puppy from snatching the treat, do so, but I would recommend using a low-level sound correction right after to drive the point home that no, you cannot have the thing I told you to ignore.  As soon as your dog backs up and looks away from the treat, REWARD!  Pick the treat up off the ground and hand him a piece of it.  Don’t let him take his reward from the ground.  It should come from your hand.  It won’t take long to teach Puppy what Leave it means, and then you can start to apply the command to other things.  Remember it’s a command, not a punishment.  So when you say Leave it it’s not LEAVE IT!!!  She only gets corrected if she disobeys the command.

So teaching the Leave It command does a couple things for you.  It makes puppy safer in the house and outside because you can begin teaching him what he is allowed to chew on and what is off limits.  It also establishes you in the leadership role because the momma dog in a litter, or alpha dog in a pack, can claim things- food, space, treats, and other treasures.  Essentially you are saying, look here, Pup, I’m in charge.  It comes in especially useful when puppy gets it in her head that your children might be fair game as litter mates.  You can command Puppy to leave them alone if your kids are too young to correct Puppy themselves.  Also tell your kids to always play with a toy with Puppy, never with just their hands.  Make it a rule.  It gives Puppy something else to latch onto rather than your toddler’s rump.
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Ok, so different scenario.  Puppy is so cute and fluffy wuffy and all that jazz.  You want to cuddle puppy.  Puppy wants to cuddle you…but Puppy can’t seem to stop himself from turning into alligator puppy.  There are a couple school of thought on how to correct this.  The first is that you grab either the top of the bottom of Puppy’s mouth, whatever you can manage to get a hold of, and hang on until Puppy is uncomfortable.  If you put your mouth on me, it becomes mine, is the basic message.  Be careful about curling lips under teeth and that.  I see a lot of trainers recommend that, but honestly puppy teeth are sharp and you do not want to puncture their lips, so be judicious.  Don’t hurt your dog, obviously.  I usually find I can get my thumb in the gap at the front of their bottom jaw without too much puppy munching on me or risk of hurting puppy.  I hang on for a bit until they’re uncomfortable, then I let go and give them a chance to give kisses instead.  Praise kisses!  Yay kisses!

Now that method works on some puppies and not others.  Some are more tenacious about teething on you.  If that’s the case you can try the same sound corrective measures you used with leave it.  Empty soda can with pennies and shake it like you are going to bite them if they bite you.  Pet Corrector.  Doggy Don’t.  Squirt Gun.  There’s a whole slew of humane corrections that won’t hurt your dog.
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Isn’t it mean to correct your puppy, Sammy?  Well, momma dog nipped her pups and shook their scruffs in her mouth when they were being annoying to her, so if she can do that then….yeah.  I don’t think it’s acceptable for a dog to put his teeth on people ever.  Unless, obviously you have a working dog, but that’s a different thing altogether.  Pet dogs should never put teeth on people.  That’s just the long and short of it.  It’s for your dog’s safety in this sue-happy world.  You have a responsibility to teach your dog what is acceptable.  No one will put your toddler to sleep for biting someone but they could your dog.  So you have to take teaching these rules very seriously.  So use the methods that work.  If throwing cookies at your puppy all day long is not working, then gasp…you might have to try more effective, but still humane methods.  By that I mean, yes you correct your dog, but you never ever hurt or damage your dog.

Now if you do not have a sound correction on hand and Puppy is munching, you can grab his or her scruff and pick them up.  I look them right in the face, very challenging like, and admonish them very sternly.  NO TEETH ON PEOPLE.  Growl a bit.  You will feel better.  Now unless puppy has an ear infection, you won’t hurt him or her by grabbing their scruff.  Momma dog used to tote them around by their scruffs.  It’s a built-in handle.  They probably won’t like it much because it means correction to them- Momma dog would use their scruffs to teach them lessons as well.  But I wouldn’t fuss about it.  It’s good to get them used to having it used as a secondary handle- like holding your dog’s hand only it’s not a hand…cause dogs don’t have hands.
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Now if puppy is still nipping, puppy gets plopped on the ground and cuddle or play time is over.  Bad doggies do not get play time and snuggles.  Ignore puppy if he or she cannot behave.  Put them in their play pen if you want.  I do not say BAD DOG or anything like that when I put them in the pen because you do not want them to equate that space with bad things.  It’s just simply where they go when they cannot behave properly with snuggles.  Or if they are chasing your terrified children and will not leave them be.  Leave it, then correct as necessary if they disobey.  Then deposit in time out, but just matter-of-factly, not harshly as you’ve already corrected before.  It will take a bit of experimenting with your particular puppy to figure out how long of a time out is necessary.  Each dog is a bit different.  Essentially you are preventing you puppy from a. disobeying you again, and b. reinforcing a naughty behavior cycle.

Now that’s the gist of training your puppy not to nip.  While it’s completely normal, it is important to teach them not to for their safety and everyone else’s.  Now if you have an inkling your puppy might be aggressively biting and not just puppy nipping, that’s when you call in the big guns and hire a private trainer…check out my website if you’re in the Tampa area.
Now that’s all the time we have today for our doggo podcast.  Before you go consider sharing this podcast with your friends.  Every listen is supporting small veteran owned business.  And if you would like your very own podcast dedicated to the topic of your choice each month, consider clicking that support this podcast button on and emailing me at
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Thank you so much for your support.  Happy howlidays everybody!

-Sammy the Dog Trainer


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