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How do I teach my dog to bite his toys and not me?

Mouthy behaviour is a normal part of puppyhood and adolescence for most dogs. But how do we stop the habit before it gets worse?

dog trainer London Ontario

Your arms are covered in bruises, you’re hemorrhaging money on bully sticks and redirecting to toys like it’s nobody’s business. Congratulations, you have a mouthy puppy or adolescent! So how can you teach your baby shark that you’re not a glorified chew toy?

Note: this refers to biting that is playful in nature and is not accompanied by fearful or aggressive body language. If you’re unsure if your dog is playing, contact me for help!

Breathe and remember this is normal

If your dog is acting like a piranha on a daily basis, remember this is developmentally normal and not necessarily a sign of aggression. Keep in mind your dog is doing the best with the tools they have, and are not intentionally trying to hurt you or drive you nuts.

Track data

Biting episodes tend to occur at specific times of day or places in your routine. They may also correspond with whether or not your dog's needs have been met. Is your dog under-exercised? Overtired? Does the biting happen before walks or after dinner? Does it happen more to one person than another? The more data you have, the better you’ll be able to predict and prevent biting episodes.

Teach your dog another way to solicit attention or play

Many dogs come over and bite us because they don’t know when play/attention is available or how to ask for it. Provide a predictable routine for play, walks, meals and rest and stick to it so your dog knows when play time will happen, and when it’s not available. Teach your dog another behavior (e.g. sit, down, eye contact) to use when they want your attention or need something to do.

Stay calm, redirect & prevent I know it’s hard to stay calm when teeth are sinking into your arm, but do your best to not yell and flail when your dog is biting. Often, this ramps our dogs up even more. If you’re feeling really frustrated or upset, it’s okay to leave the room and separate yourself from your dog so you can take a moment to recover. Now that you have your data about when biting is worst, you can use it to predict when a biting episode is about to begin and prevent it by offering your dog an interactive food item, a training session, a walk or by putting them in a crate/behind a gate with something to do. If biting does occur, do your best to calmly redirect to a toy. Need help? We’re now taking new in-person and virtual clients. View our packages and book here.

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