thank you very much, Dr. Jeff!!Hi Amelie-
I'm no trainer (Jen B. is a great one) but perhaps try yipping (like a pup) if he bites too hard and try to avoid letting him play with your hands at all.
Usually the cry you make will startle him to stop biting. At the same time (or ideally even before he nips), try distracting him with anything he ordinarily loves to play with.
Regarding specific toys, that will depend on what's available in Germany. One of my favorite for young pups (who typically mouth/nip things even before they start teething around 16 weeks) is a hemp/natural knotted rope which you soak in chicken broth then freeze. It's a great chew toy and great for teething pups.
Jen probably has more to say about your great question.
Thank you very much, Jen! That helped me a lot Do you think I can also give my dog coffee wood or olive wood to chew on because it doesn't splinter? At the moment I only have one Kong to chew on and I realize that that's not enough... In Germany there aren't all the suggested chewing options either.I'm sorry for the delay replying! Yes, play- biting and mouthing are very normal puppy behaviors, with the retrieving breeds possibly getting an extra helping of oral fixation!
Zero tolerance is the best defense, with some age- appropriate guidelines. As Dr. Jeff suggested, just "ouch!" ing loudly might be enough to interrupt. A real key, IMHO, is EVERYTHING stops the moment a puppy's teeth touch a human- and that includes anything the human is wearing. Often just ceasing the play or movement is enough (along with a dramatic "OUCH"), to help the puppy understand quickly that any tooth contact = fun stops.
Some puppies aren't sensitive enough for the negative punishment technique (something they want goes away in order to decrease the unwanted mouthing), and require a concurrent consequence they will work to avoid.
I am attaching my Play-biting handout below as well. Hope it helps!
Chewing, Mouthing, and Play-Biting
A puppy’s mouth is his primary tool for exploration and discovery in the great big world. By tasting, mouthing and chewing, he discovers what is edible, what is chewable, and what causes others in his pack to engage with him or withdraw from him. He learns what works based on the immediate consequences of his behavior. The consequences he receives may be positive or negative, and may come from you or the environment (including other people). Sometimes we inadvertently reward unwanted behavior by playing in ways that encourage the puppy to play-bite or by allowing the puppy to communicate his needs by mouthing. By managing the puppy and his environment properly, we can eliminate opportunities for him to make bad choices while teaching him how, when and where to use his mouth.
CHEWING is something all puppies and dogs need to do for both physical and mental health. When they are teething, chewing helps the puppy shed the baby teeth and helps the new teeth break through the gums. Later, in adolescence, the young dog chews to “set” the adult teeth in the jaw. Dogs of all ages chew to relieve stress, boredom and just because it feels good. Prevent inappropriate chewing by containing your dog in a crate or keeping him on his houseline attached to a responsible human. Or you may gate him in the room with you, so he has a little more room to make choices, as long as you are there to provide consequences by way of dog bomb, squirt gun or whatever works to interrupt your dog. Remember that any time we interrupt an unwanted behavior we have to give the dog an alternative that is ok. I recommend having 1-2 chew items and 1-2 play items available to the dog at any time. Sometimes if a dog has too much to choose from, he can’t figure out what to play with. Rotate the toys and chewies once or twice a week, because as we all know, new stuff is just so much more fun! Experiment with different varieties of chewies as dogs vary in their preference of texture and hardness. A strong chewer may need a Galileo® or Nylabone®, while another dog may prefer the softer texture of a Booda® Velvet, bully stick or rawhide. Almost all dogs love chewing on real bones (marrow bones or large soup bones), and many will chew on them to the exclusion of everything else. Any kind of edible bone should be given only under supervision. If you use real bones, make sure that they are raw – cooked bones should never be given to dogs as they can splinter and if swallowed, are indigestible. Kong® toys can be stuffed with a mixture of kibble and canned dog food or peanut butter (just enough to hold the kibble together), frozen and given to the dog as an alternative to an edible bone if he is going to be crated or unsupervised. Any animal-based chewies like rawhide, pig ears and bully sticks should be produced in the US, as many of the imported products are treated with dangerous chemicals.
MOUTHING and PLAY-BITING-I have a zero-tolerance policy for dogs having their mouths on people. Most puppies will mouth and play-bite because that’s how they play with their littermates. Well, their littermates have a nice fur coat to protect them and you don’t, so the first time you feel your puppy’s teeth contact your skin yell ”ouch”, and walk away from the dog and don’t play again for a minute or two. Do not wait for the pup to get in several test bites of increasing pressure before you react. Act like you’ve been seriously injured at the very first sensation of a tooth and stop all the fun for a few minutes. Most puppies will get the picture in a few days and start being very careful with their teeth. If you have an older puppy or dog that is play-biting or mouthing hard as a habit, try the “ouch” technique for a few days. Remember, it is critical that you don’t continue playing with the dog after the “ouch”. If the biting hasn’t decreased in a few days, you’ll need to add a correction like a blast of Binaca® or Bitter Apple® paired with your “ouch”. Some dogs will mouth hands as a means of communication- to let you know that they need to go out, or that they want to go to bed. Whatever the reason, don’t reinforce this behavior by complying with dog’s demands. Every time you do, you might as well be giving the dog a treat for mouthing, not to mention the damage its doing to your role as Alpha. Don’t play games that encourage biting, like patting or play-slapping the dog’s muzzle. Grabbing the muzzle and blowing in the dog’s face or also good ways to encourage snapping and biting. One way to help your dog learn good habits with his teeth around people is to teach him to take treats nicely. If he grabs or snatches at the treat, he can’t have it. If he knocks it out of your hand or you drop it because he nipped you, step on it, throw your body over it, anything to make sure that his rude behavior is not rewarded. The next time you offer him a treat, pinch it between your fingers, grit your teeth and be ready, because this time when he grabs you’re going to push your hand forward, fast, boinking him on the nose or almost gagging him. Offer the treat again- he’ll probably tentatively lick at you fingers this time, praise and give him the treat. Notice that we’re not telling him “easy” or “gentle” or anything else. It is your responsibility to make sure he’s not rewarded for obnoxious behavior. Its the dog’s with responsibility to learn from the consequences of his behavior so he can offer, and be rewarded for, good behavior.
As with many other nuisance behaviors that dogs engage in, chewing, play-biting and mouthing can often be reduced by giving the dog enough exercise to satisfy his energy level. Many breeds have been selectively bred for their ability to work virtually all day. When we bring them into our home, leave them alone all day with nothing to do, and then expect them to lie quietly by our feet as we relax in the evening, its no mystery why they’re bored, frustrated and act out. All that energy has to go somewhere, right? Walking, even if its several times or miles a week, is rarely enough, so engage in a good game of fetch, swimming or playing with other dogs to wear him out- a tired dog is a well-behaved dog!
©2003 Jennifer M. Bridwell, CnTPM
The Canine Connection Dog Training, LLC (203)988-4830