Housebreaking and crate training aren’t the only things a puppy needs to learn. The most important is playing gently with people. Puppy teeth are sharp, and they aren’t born knowing not to lunge and grab at a toy, or even your hands.
If you tend to just let your puppy bite and snatch at things, consider what it will feel like when they are no longer a puppy…in large and giant breeds, it is downright painful, and really scary to a stranger. A puppy needs to learn his or her manners, and that it entirely up to you now that you’ve taken him from his natural mother.
Darcy Krueger has some excellent ideas in her free articles on sitstay.com (link on the weblog!) for teaching a puppy to be gentle with people. I love her quote “The most important rule I have in training is: Everything belongs to me. Whatever it is, it’s mine. When my dogs understand that everything is mine, training is easy.” Sound mean? That is the way a dog pack works, and that is the hardwired instinct your puppy has in his brain. If you don’t follow that, you could be heading for all sorts of intolerable anxiety and dominance problems.
One wise idea: always give puppies some outdoor exertion before trying to teach them something. (Exercise first, Rules second, Affection last) Let them run and play until they are getting tired, then start to show them what you do and don’t want. They’ll be quieter, paying more attention, and easier to handle.
When you are playing with your puppy, the point is to correct roughness. I’ve always done that with my boys–a frown and a stern tap on the nose, or a firm poke will ususally do it. Darcy Krueger advocates not speaking, which is a good way for us humans to get the idea that dogs learn on a basic level by smell and body language. But I will often use a “correction word”, like “hey” or “tshh” to get their attention. Up to you.
If they lunge at a toy in my hand, especially if teeth hit my skin, I correct them and make them move back. That is a submissive thing a dog does when the pack leader wants them to give something up. When they are thinking about it (yes, they will be wondering what they did), I offer the toy or treat again.
Usually it only takes a few tries before the puppy is more polite about it. Once they are more gentle, I’ll reward the pup and let them play with the toy for a short while. Then we go through the ritual again, but only one more time. You can’t expect a 10 week old puppy to “train” for long periods–they don’t have the concentration yet. So short sessions repeated frequently are the way to go.
Some puppies like to pounce on you, maybe chewing your hair or hands like they did with their littermates. That’s gotta stop, right away. They must learn to approach and play gently with humans. No teeth on the body, period.
They can hurt us, without meaning to when they aren’t a puppy anymore. One of my Dane rescues, Merlin, was as close to ADHD as I’ve ever seen in a dog. He could be aggressive, and so I often had to correct him for jumping on me, running into me, and snatching at toys. He was small at 140 pounds, but I can tell you IT HURT. It took a lot of time, exercising, and repetition, but he eventually learned.
If your puppy is a determined pouncer, assert your dominance and use the same corrective technique to stop it. And don’t be too shy of allowing yourself a little bit of indignant. This is a very very big no no for a dog, and they understand the concept of intensity instictively. Let them understand that jumping on top of your head is indeed “worse” than pulling down the dishtowel.
They can pounce on a toy you’ve tossed, they can roughhouse with other dogs, but NOT PEOPLE. For most puppies, it doesn’t take long for them to “get” an idea, and will happily do what you want. If you can’t get your puppy to chill out, increase their exercise. Some pups just have more energy than they know what to do with!
Hand chewing can be a problem with teething pups, or when a pup feels insecure, frustrated, or excited. If correcting isn’t getting you anywhere, which it won’t if they are frustrated or excited, begin with trying to distract with a toy or bone. I’ve even used hand cream on my hands, and found that they lick instead of bite. So I praise and pet them for licking a bit, then remove my hand and provide a really outstanding favorite chew toy.
Willow the puppy learning to be gentle with children, belonging to Shannon, http://www.zoocrew5.blogspot.com/