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Dog Gone Problems: Our puppy is mouthing, nipping and biting my fingers

Dog Gone Problems: Our puppy is mouthing, nipping and biting my fingers

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Dog for 1/20/21

Dog Gone Problems is a weekly advice column by David Codr, a dog behaviorist in Omaha. David answers dog behavior questions sent in by our readers. You can reach him at dogbehaviorquestions@gmail.com.

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Dog Gone Problems,

We are a senior couple and got an 8-week-old Beagle (and possibly Border Collie) mix puppy who looks more like a Lab. We have had her for a month. She is very nice, but with one bad trait of nipping my fingers and tugging at my clothes — especially pants. She does not nip my husband’s fingers, just mostly mine. Could you suggest why she does this and how to treat/stop it? She also gets super hyper in the evenings for half to one hour. What is best way to handle this?

Thank you,

Pramila

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Hi Pramila,

Congratulations on getting a new puppy. While biting and nipping are not a lot of fun, they are completely normal puppy behaviors.

Puppies explore the world with their mouths, so it's very natural for them to mouth, nip and chew on us as well as our furniture, carpet, electric cables, shoes and anything else that’s available.

One of the best ways for a puppy to develop bite inhibition is to set up play dates with other puppies of a similar maturity level. This allows them to get the feedback they need on how hard or soft they can use their mouth. This is one of the reasons puppy classes that include play time are so important. If you haven’t gotten your puppy into puppy classes, get her signed up for them ASAP.

I would also strongly recommend you set up a long-term confinement area. This is the new way of raising puppies, and it is far superior to using a kennel only.

The reason I recommend a long-term confinement area is because chewing is a habit born of opportunity. Additionally, good attention and bad attention from humans are almost the same thing to dogs. So if your puppy has access to chewing on things you don’t want her to, and you correct her, you just made her more likely to want to chew that item again. Having a safe place to leave the puppy prevents her from accessing things you don't want her to chew or giving her attention for chewing on those things. It’s also important to have a place like that to take the puppy when she gets overly aggressive with mouthing and nipping.

This video includes tips on managing and preventing a puppy from mouthing, nipping and biting you. The priority really needs to be on management, as you will find when you watch the video.

Additionally, there is an exercise you can practice that helps condition the puppy to wait passively for us to touch them instead of reaching out and nibbling on our fingers. This video gives instructions on how to use this approach. I'd recommend you practice this technique a few times a day for a week or two to stop your puppy from chewing on your fingers.

Regarding the hyper activity in the evening, dogs have two energy bursts — usually one at sunrise and one at sunset. So what you are experiencing there is completely normal, too. I would recommend you start taking your puppy out for a walk about 20 to 30 minutes before her high-energy time arrives. One tip: Dogs burn more energy on walks by sniffing, so let your pup sniff as long as it's safe to do so.

Being proactive in terms of providing your puppy with physical exercise and mental stimulation is really important — not only for a release of energy, but for keeping them preoccupied so they don’t chew on things like your fingers.

Good luck and remember — everything you do trains your dog. Only sometimes you mean it.

David

Submit your pet questions to David Codr by emailing a photo of your dog and question to dogbehaviorquestions@gmail.com. Visit doggoneproblems.com for more from David.


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