Chances are if your puppy is a nipper, it is also between the ages of 4 and 6½ months. Welcome to the teething phase of puppyhood! The good news is, it typically only lasts 2-3 months, at most. The bad news is you cannot (safely and successfully) train a teething puppy to stop nipping. Here are a few ways to survive this phase of puppyhood with your fingers, ankles and toes still intact.
-Patience! Realize this phase of puppyhood is both necessary and relatively short. Think of the reaction most adults have for a new mother whose baby has begun teething. We look at her with sympathy and compassion for we know the hours of crying, drooling and crankiness she is enduring with her baby. But, as any loving parent would, she loves her child unconditionally with patience and understanding – despite this phase. She knows it will end and so do we as puppy owners. Have patience.
-Provide your puppy with age appropriate toys. Softer, plush or pliable rubber toys may be more comfortable than hard bones and plastic for your puppy to gnaw on as its teeth, gums and mouth are sore through this process. Be very careful with and limit the amount of time and pressure you use when playing tug games with a teething puppy, especially if you intend on training your dog for IPO. If a teething puppy begins to associate tugging with pain it may develop a lasting aversion to biting tugs. This can be difficult to overcome.
-Redirect, redirect, redirect! As parents of young children we learn that redirecting their energies and attention is a valuable skill. As puppy parents, redirecting a nipping puppy will help the dog learn in a positive manner, not to bite hands, fingers, ankles, etc. It is important to have various toys, as discussed above, available in which to redirect your puppy. It is important to remember your dog will learn more quickly what you do want it to do than what you don’t.
-Accept teething as a fact of life/age: There is no way to prevent, shorten or change the teething stage of puppyhood. If you aren’t prepared to experience this phase with a dog, then a puppy isn’t right for you. No doubt it takes an abundance of patience and understanding to help your puppy through this stage of growth. If you have young children or patience isn’t your strong point – select a dog that is more than 6-7 months old.
-Don’t correct! As hard as it is not to, correcting the puppy for nipping is the wrong thing to do. Correcting a teething puppy is akin to a parent disciplining a baby for pooping in his diaper. That’s not to say it’s easy to avoid telling the puppy “No!” when it’s gnawing on your arm for the 100th time…but, remember this phase is simply a part of the growing process and it won’t last forever.
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