by L Robert
(Virginia Beach, VA, USA)
What to do about puppy biting
My puppy is 4 months old and we live with my aunt and 7 year old cousin.
My cousin is afraid of the puppy becuz she has nipped her a few times before. But, tonight she nipped her right beneath the eye. Now we can't have that happening. But I don't want to let my pup go either.
So what I would like to know is what is the best way to help my little cousin get over her fear and get her to be more interactive with my puppy? And also, I would like to know do pitbulls make good family pets where there are younger children involved?Gale's Reply:
Whether a pit bull or a miniature poodle, a puppy tends to explore things with its mouth. So, you can count on a pup to bite, nip and put its mouth around just about anything and everything.
Unfortunately, puppy teeth are razor sharp. So, it's not surprising that your cousin is wary after being bitten a few times--especially on the face.
To have a manageable situation for everyone involved, you need to do two things at once. You need to:
1. Actively discourage your puppy from biting.
2. Teach your cousin how to be safe around dogs.
Don't assume your puppy will "outgrow" biting and nipping on her own. Some do. Some don't. And, you can't really know whether your pup will or not. So be proactive about training her away from this habit.
First, you can re-direct her mouthing behavior by giving her a chew toy while you are petting her. This keeps her
mouth busy and gets her accustomed to being touched without mouthing the person's hand.
Second, when she does bite or nip, you need to let her know it's unwelcome. One way to do this is to yelp or say "ouch" while looking directly at her. Then move away (leave the room if you have to) and ignore her until she's calm. When she's settled down come back and show her some attention again. Rinse and repeat as often as necessary--until she "gets it".
As for your cousin, she's about the right age for Be Bite Free
. It's a downloadable coloring book created by the SPCA of Texas to help children be safe around dogs. I suggest you download a copy (it's free) and talk with your cousin about the lessons it contains.
Anytime your cousin is playing with the puppy, someone should be on hand to intervene if necessary. Ideally, you want to diffuse the situation BEFORE your puppy starts nipping. So, if you see your puppy is starting to get wound up, step in.
You asked if pit bulls are good family dogs when young children are present. They can be--usually are. But, they are powerful dogs that need lots of exercise to burn up that excess energy they seem to have. And, training is key. ANY 65 lb. dog (regardless of breed) that isn't under control is going to be a problem. So be sure to train her in basic obedience.
Good luck. And, thanks for your question.
For more information on obedience training, visit our Pit Bull Training
For help with behavioral problems, check out our Dog Behavior Training