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Mouthy Puppy: I Feel Like We Need to be More Firm


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Q: “Cassius ‘Cash,’ is a good little boy. Sleeping through the night already and pretty well crate- trained. Potty training isn’t bad for 10-weeks old. We do need to work on our Australian Labradoodle’s nipping. Not too bad but definitely nips and at the children. We were told to just put a toy in his mouth instead when he does that but I feel like we need to be more firm about that when he bites at the kids? I’m a rookie dog owner.” R. L., Cyberspace

A: Like toddlers explore with their hands, puppies explore with their mouths. What’s more that Labrador in your dog naturally wants “stuff” to mouth on, as Labs are of often born with a need to do.

Definitely kids can say “ouch” if it hurts and just walk away and replace fingers or hands with a toy. But don’t be fooled by trainers who may suggest that anyone in the home needs to demonstrate dominance, “show the dog who’s boss,” or use force of any kind. Doing so will only create distrust and confusion. Your baby – and that at 10-weeks, you do have a baby – has no way to comprehend what you want with what a tap on the nose, hollering or turning the puppy upside down – or whatever you may read.

Pups at this age may also be seeking attention and/or just don’t know what else to do with their mouths and they’re exploring. Some of these puppies are simply bored.

You’re totally right to offer objects which turn out to be preferable. All puppies are different, but most will enjoy Kong toys if stuffed with low fat low salt peanut butter (but please make sure there’s no artificial sweetener called Xylitol). One tip is to purchase three or four Kongs – or any other toy like it, stuff the peanut butter and place in the freezer for later use.

Some puppies are persistent – you can be more persistent.

Listen, this mouthy puppy stuff isn’t over, wait a few weeks until teething starts. That’s how the frozen food and cold toys are most helpful, as that can relieve some of the discomfort as it can in human babies.

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