I think we’ve all seen cute pictures of puppies with quotes like “Dogs leave paw prints on your heart” – and I’d agree they certainly do. However no-one makes much mention of the marks their teeth leave on your hands and furniture. And oh my do puppy teeth HURT!
So why are they biting? Well in my experience it’s because they’ve gotten a little overtired or their gums are hurting with cutting new teeth.
Same as a human toddler, puppies don’t stop mid-game and say “Do you know what, feeling a bit tired might just pop myself down for a nap” – it’s up to us to help them manage their energy levels by enforcing a bit of downtime.
My two children love to play fight and for the most part that’s fine. The problem comes when one loses a little control because they’ve gotten tired, or are over-reactive because they’ve had a busy day. Puppies have to learn something called bite inhibition, and it’s basically learning how hard you can use your mouth without inflicting injury. This inhibition gets lost once they get overtired.
I like to use a crate through puppyhood and beyond, but to make sure my puppy has positive associations with it I work through Susan Garrett’s ‘Crate Games’ DVD – my dogs love their downtime in their crates because they’ve had such a lot of reward for being in them, and most importantly they don’t end up shut in them for hours on end. They’re no substitute for my company, just a management aid whilst I’m raising a new puppy.
It doesn’t always occur to owners, but partly the reason puppies are chewing and biting so much is because their mouths hurt!
It doesn’t matter what the species, cutting teeth hurt and looking to solutions we use for human babies can help our puppies. Putting a favourite chew toy in the freezer, especially something like a Kong filled to the brim with a combination of their daily food ration and some wet food (human baby food can be quite good here!), is an ideal way to reduce the heat and inflammation in their mouths.
Frozen Kongs are also a useful way to amuse your puppy if you have jobs to get on with, and are ideal for settling them down in a crate with their bit of treasure 🙂