My twelve week old Labrador puppy is biting the heck out of me and insists that my hands, arms, legs and sometimes nose or ears are all chew toys. Is this dog aggression or rough puppy play? We have been through this before with another Labrador puppy 14 years ago and I know for a fact that this is just regular puppy behavior and not early signs of aggression as I had worried about with our other Labrador. By the way our older lab turned out to be one of the sweetest pups ever.
Labrador’s in general are a ‘mouthy’ breed. Instinctively they are bred to have a ‘soft mouth’ so when hunting they would not chew the kill while retrieving. However believe me when I tell you that an excited young Labrador puppy that chomps down on your hand with those needle like ‘milk teeth’ is not a soft experience. Our puppy right now will bite down and then turn or pull back ripping the flesh rather than just piercing. This hurts like hell! In order to train your puppy not to bite takes time and is not something you can accomplish overnight.
Mouthing is when a puppy is exploring things with their mouths. They have no sense of touch so logically using their mouth and their nose are the only ways to explore something. Biting is different. From experience our puppy either gets tired or overexcited, starts to bite harder (you’ll know the difference) and no matter what the correction is they start to come at you like they are attacking. It is similar to human-human debates when one person gets emotional you might as well stop the conversation right there because that person is dwelling on the emotion and will not listen to anything else you say.
There is a mix of issues going on here. First as the alpha you must relax in order to make proper corrections. Well that is next to impossible when needles are piercing and ripping your flesh on your arm. So right off the bat the best thing for you and your puppy is for a break to occur when this gets more than just play mouthing. My puppy gets to the point where she is relentless at going after you. I simply put her in the crate for a little break. I make sure the break (crate) is not perceived as a punishment. I have worked on a command to get her in the crate by pointing in it and saying ‘crate’. I achieved this by tossing in a treat and repeating command. Of course when she has been biting I do not want to reward her either so I just give the ‘crate’ command without the treat. If she doesn’t go in on her own a light push from behind lends a hand.
Next there is the issue of exercise, which I am committed to with all my dogs. However when your puppy has not had all her immunization shots a walk is out of the question. We have a large back yard and working on some obedience puppy training have helped. Still I know she needs the type of exercise that only a long walk or run will provide. So we are patiently waiting for the time that we can get out of the house and work off some of that energy.
I have tried the suggested hold her down till she surrenders or shake by the scruff of the neck while verbally correcting. Mostly this just makes the situation worse. I feel bad for getting physical and she bites that much harder, probably fear based at this point. Ignoring works unless she is really cranked up in which case the ‘break in the crate’ works the best.
If you do have a puppy that is biting relax you are not alone. It is all just part of the journey. As much as you can relax and enjoy the ride. If you are still having problems into doggy adolescence (after six to nine months of age) then you might have some aggressive dog behavior. But if you’re normally good nature puppy dog suddenly turns into ‘demon dog’ as calmly as possible correct or rest and it will all be fine.