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susan@playtraindog.com

Love at First Bite

Love hurts. Especially Puppy Love. That’s right, playbiting is a form of affection. Puppies bite in play and when we are their only plaything, they bite us to initiate play, as they would with other puppies. One of the best things we can do to re-direct this playbiting love-thing is to teach a simple command, “Go Get A Toy!” This can easily be done by naming the behavior during fetch and retrieve, “Get A Toy!” or by praising the behavior when they are playing with one of their toys by simply saying “GOOD Get A Toy!” If we name the behavior enough times, once they’ve learned the word, we can eventually ask for it on command. How handy!

Playing with our puppies is a great way to bond but how we play can affect the puppy’s temperament. If we play rough with them, especially using our hands around their head and face, this can result in avoidance behavior, stress and even encourage mouthiness. Much better to play more “cerebral” games with our puppies, like fetch & retrieve or hide and seek, and provide lots of puzzles and food-filled toys.

Once puppies have a second parvo/distemper vaccine, it’s safe to take a Puppy Kindergarten Class or arrange for playdates with other puppies. Make sure the puppies are a good match. How can we tell if the play is good play? By watching their body language. If they are wiggly and loose with an open mouth and hanging tongue that is happy body language. Look for play bows and reciprocal play, one on top, and then the other. Don’t worry if they get vocal or it seems a little rough, this is normal.

While playbiting can be very annoying and a little painful, try not to lose your patience and yell or hit the puppy. This will make them fear you and that can lead to far greater problems than a little love bite.