Help! My puppy is a baby shark.
Puppy biting can be painful, frustrating, and worrying! But, in most cases, this is a phase that will pass in a few months. Biting and chewing from a teething puppy, or playful puppy are entirely normal behaviours however they still need to be addressed so that these instincts do not escalate or become problematic.
First things first, we want to reassure you that you aren’t alone! Puppy biting is something that almost every dog owner experiences, and it can be a really tough few months to get through.
Some puppies will only bite a bit. But others will turn into full on crocodiles that grab at any flap of clothing or bare skin they can find! It’s completely normal to feel stressed out and perhaps even a little cheated that your little Labradoodle isn’t the gentle bundle of cuddles you imagined.
Don’t panic. It’s a completely normal behaviour, and in most cases it will subside completely in just a few months. And, the good news is that you can help move it along with the right reactions.
Reasons for Labradoodle Puppy Biting
It might surprise you to learn that there are quite a few things that can prompt puppy biting. Finding an appropriate solution will rely on correctly diagnosing the cause. The most common reasons for puppy biting are:
- Breed Specific Behaviour
- Sensory exploration
- Play and socialisation
- Learned behaviours
There are a couple of additional reasons for biting and nipping that are outside the scope of this blog post. Biting from fear and aggression will require the help of an expert dog behaviourist or dog trainer. Puppies may also bite due to health concerns. Please be sure to work with your veterinarian to ensure that your puppy is not in pain or suffering from any health problem that could be causing irritability.
Breed Specific Behaviour
Some dog breeds have been specifically bred to work at certain jobs. In the case of the Labradoodle, the parent dog breeds, the Labrador Retriever, standard Poodle and Cocker Spaniel (for the Australian Labradoodle breed line) are true working gun dogs.
The Labrador Retriever is a retriever gun dog – a dog trained to grasp and hold down small game prey in their mouths. The Poodle and Cocker Spaniel are also small bird gun dogs.
So Labradoodles have an instinctual desire to mouth, grasp, hold and bite things. It is important to be diligent with training your puppy away from nipping and mouthing from the onset of bringing your puppy home.
Teething-related biting happens because teething hurts!
Teeth are growing in, falling out, growing in again, all of which adds up to sore gums and mouth and a near-obsessive need to chew on everything in sight for some relief.
Sadly, this stage is unavoidable, so almost all puppy owners suffer through teething-related biting. But, there are some great remedies.
Give your puppy something to chew and bite on that can provide some actual pain relief, such as a frozen treat-filled Kong toy, or even a frozen carrot. Consider purchasing puppy chewer snack pack from our online store at Burrinjuck Boutique.
Dogs, like their wild canid ancestors, have an extremely keen sense of smell that drives them to explore the world with their noses and mouths.
There is such a thing as sensory enrichment and dogs need it. You can try to redirect your puppy’s sensory biting away from you and to more productive directions by giving them interesting things to investigate. Give your Labradoodle some treat reward puzzles, snuffle mats for their meals, and toys that offer different scents and textures. Burrinjuck Boutique have a puppy variety toy pack available to help satiate that sensory seeking need.
It includes a bunch of different soft rope toys, chew toys, balls, and teethers – all just the right size for puppy mouths and perfect for satisfying irritated gums.
Play and Socialisation
Labradoodle puppies begin socializing with littermates and their mother through exploratory play. Nipping and biting is a common part of this type of play. Puppy Mummas teach their puppies to have manners through nips, snarls and growls. Puppies learn from their mum and siblings how to temper their bite strength and frequency to avoid being ostracized.
It’s also common for puppies to growl and snarl during play. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are being aggressive. At this young age, it is most often a sign of play.
A handy tip to teach your puppy not to use his teeth during play is to hand feed some kibble Put your thumb over the food pieces and feed with an open palm. Do not release the food until your puppy is only using his gums and then hand feed the kibble bit by bit. This method can also be used with a toy.
Over-excitability can quickly spiral into aggression when nipping turns to biting.
Your best course of action is to curtail all play and games where this is even a possibility.
Stick to calm games that will encourage your puppy to relax. And, make sure you have a puppy pen set up to put your Labradoodle in if they’re getting overexcited.
Puppies need a surprising amount of rest. So, make sure they’re getting enough naps and calm play. This will also help you avoid over-excitement. One last tip is to become uber-aware of your own energy levels. Avoid hyping up your puppy with exuberant play which is more likely to lead to nipping and mouthing. Instead bring a calm and peaceful energy and work to teach your puppy to relax and unwind in your presence. Teaching “mat” time is a good way to do this. Reward your puppy for any calm behavior. This can include calm play, or simply them sitting or laying next to you without biting.
There is one more category of Labradoodle puppy biting that many dog owners overlook and that is learned biting behaviours.
While your Labradoodle puppy will have learned a little about tempering their biting from their mother and littermates, your dog will learn far more about that behaviour from you.
Sometimes dog owners inadvertently reinforce the very behaviours they want to get rid of. One classic example is to shower your Labradoodle with attention when they bite you or bite something you don’t want them to have.
Your puppy loves attention from you more than anything and may bite again and again to keep you focused on them. Learning about and applying positive reinforcement puppy training methods is going to be your salvation here.
SOME IDEAS TO TRY
IGNORE AND RE-DIRECT
- Make sure to ignore biting. If your puppy starts to bite you during play, you can try to redirect their mouth to a toy. If the biting continues, make sure to ignore the behaviour completely, and put your puppy in their pen to calm down. Under no circumstances should you ever reward biting! This includes with attention!
LOOK DOWN ON YOUR PUPPY
- Stay above the dog when they are in “crazy” mode. Stay standing. Don’t sit on the floor or crouch to their level or sit on a chair/couch etc. You might need a rule not to sit on the floor with your puppy to avoid them getting even more riled up when in a nipping zone.
MIMICKING MUM DOG'S DISCIPLINE
This tip comes with a huge red flag. We have to be so careful not to add to the fear and anxiety of your puppy by misusing this intervention.
- Use a loud “ouch” when your puppy uses his teeth. For more aggressive biting; gnawing; nipping and mouthing, I have used the following approach.
STEP ONE –
Let out a loud ‘ow’ sound if your puppy uses his teeth during play. If your puppy persists in using his teeth during rough play. then
Lightly tap your puppy under the jaw with an open palm and just the closed fingers contacting the underside of the jaw AT THE VERY SAME MOMENT that you let out another loud “ow” sound.
Consistently use this technique over a period of days. Always use the ‘ow’ noise on its own first to give your puppy the opportunity to learn from just the loud voice prior to resorting to step 2. You should find that after a very short time, puppy will learn to associate the ‘ow’ cry with needing to cease the rough play.
- A second method to use is to gently pull the scruff of the neck and pair this with an ‘ow’ sound. This is very similar to the disciplinary action that the mother dog will give her youngster if he/she becomes to big for his/her boots.
- it may be necessary to get your puppy to follow some commands such as ‘sit’, ‘mat’, or ‘down’ to redirect play that is becoming overly exuberant. In extreme cases, forcing puppy into a submission position (on his back) may be the only way to calm him/her down in the moment if things are getting really out of hand. Mother dogs will do this too, when they are socialising their young ones.
- Choose one technique and stay consistent with it. Perhaps a lack of progress is due to not sticking to any one technique long enough for it to work. It may take up to 3-4 weeks before you notice the difference. Consistency is key.
Puppy mouthing and nipping are normal puppy behaviours that DO need to be shaped to more appropriate ways of interacting.
If your Labradoodle puppy is biting, try the methods we’ve spoken about above to reduce the amount of puppy biting.
Do your research and read up on this subject. I strongly recommend enlisting the help of dog training experts to support you with training your puppy away from nipping and biting.