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Saturday 21 October 2017

Puppy biting is painful problem

Kiko the puppy doesn't mean any harm, but her sharp teeth can easily hurt her young owners

Summer is the perfect time to get a new pet: children are off school, so they can spend time with the new arrival; and the weather is good, so they can all spend more time outdoors.

Kiko was aged only eight weeks when she arrived into the Comerford household, and she settled in well at once.

Over the past month, she has grown bolder and more energetic, and she has now started to cause problems by nipping with her sharp baby teeth. When she gets excited, she rushes around, wanting to play when humans in the house are busy.

Kiko gets frustrated, using her mouth to tear at the bottom of people's trousers or their shoes. If anyone bends down to give her toys, she jumps up, grabbing the person's hand and giving them a painful nip.

confidence

Finally, if she is being held and she wants to get away, she turns around and nips the fingers that are holding her. Christian loves his new dog, but he's beginning to lose his confidence with her.

She has never drawn blood, but her teeth are sharp and it's painful when she uses them on him.

The nipping issue is a common problem, often referred to as "play biting". Puppies have to be taught to use their mouths in a controlled and gentle way. They normally learn this while playing with their litter mates.

If you watch pups playing together, when one pup bites another too hard, the one that's bitten will let out a loud yelp and withdraw from the game.

The puppy that did the biting soon learns that biting too hard means that all the fun ends. To teach puppies not to nip human hands, you need to copy this behaviour.

Say "OUCH" loudly, and immediately stop interacting with the puppy. If you have to, you may even wish to walk out of the room. If you do this, your pup rapidly learns that biting too hard means they get ignored or left alone. Puppies love company, so they soon learn to be gentle with their mouths.

It can be difficult to teach children to train puppies in this way, so a simple answer is to tell children like Christian to "be like a tree" if Kiko bites too hard. This means he has to stand perfectly still, with his hands by his side, ignoring the puppy completely. Once she has calmed down and stopped being excited, he can start to give her attention and play with her again. Importantly, young children should never be left on their own with dogs, even puppies.

consistency

Another important tip is the importance of being consistent: it's tempting to have occasional "rough play" with puppies, but this just encourages biting behaviour, and it can make the problem harder to solve.

Kiko's "nipping" problem is just one of many common behavioural problems in young dogs, and the best overall answer is to sign up for puppy training classes with a good local dog trainer.

Mandy is planning to take Kiko down to Positive Dog Training in Sandyford, where a maximum trainer-to-dog ratio of one-to-four means there's no risk of Kiko being lost in the crowd. A well-trained adult dog is a much easier pet for both children and adults, and that's how Mandy wants Kiko to be.

Owner: Mandy Comerford from Bray, with sons Christian aged 6 and Felix aged 2

Pet: Kiko, their cross-bred puppy

Background: Kiko has started nipping the two boys when she gets over-excited

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