Puppy biting

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 page.

For help with behavioral problems, check out our Dog Behavior Training page.

Comments for Puppy biting

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May 28, 2011
Ceaser Milan, My Hero lol
by: Felicia

Personally I would teach your cousin how to discourage the puppy from nipping. Which Ceaser has taught, and as have I using his techniques, children to do. If the puppy gets a quick tap on the side to distract from the nipping she is doing it stops her thought process and distracts her.

In this video a little boy if you watch carefully does the side tap to the puppy to have her stop play biting. Generally it's on the base of the neck or side of the body.

Also if your cousin, you are anyone is nipped at and you respond with a high pitched almost squeal or ow noise it will also startle them and stop the thought process as well, causing the same distraction.

Happy Puppy Raising!

May 28, 2011
Ceaser Milan, My Hero cont'd
by: Felicia

Also, I forgot to mention, by teaching your cousin to do this they can learn how to discipline and teach the puppy and be less afraid. :)

May 28, 2011
establish proper greeting
by: Amanda

I have a very over active 20 month old pitbull. She is very high enerygy, and when wound up nipped a child also when greeting. I now do not let her greet anyone with out being in a sit position and I explain to kids who want to meet her the precautions they need to take when meeting new dogs (never reach for a dog unless their owner oks it, offer your hand so they can smell you etc.) Once she is calm i let the kids come over, offer their hand and she can smell and greet. I do the same for meeting other animals, and what once took 15-20 minutes just to make contact to sniff now takes 2 tops for her to realize she needs to be calm and polite. I find that starting on a calm tone stays on a calm tone unless everyone starts playing and running around. That said i think it is important to make sure she stays calm around your cousin and is put back into a sit position the second she gets wound up so she learns what you expect from her. Seeing her calm will also help your cousin relax around her. Good Luck!

Sep 17, 2011
puppy bitin
by: Anonymous

im 14 and i have a 4 month old puppy he bites me and when i try to stop him he stops and runs away and a few second later he starts back even is i stop him.

Jan 02, 2013
by: Anonymous

Very helpful tips thank you...today I got a 2-3 month old blue nose female pit...she was chill at first and now she is trying to chew my rug up and our shoes, she's snipped at my son, barked and growled when I corrected her. She would cried when I put a leash so she can go to the restroom outside ...growled at the mirror ...should I be concerned? Any advice is truly appreciated ...not sure if keep her or run to take her back. Please help!!

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