Puppy Biting

My puppy is constantly nipping at my fingers. I've been told to correct this by yelping in a very loud, high-pitched voice (so it sounds like the yelp of a littermate). I was told that it helps to make them back off, and when they come back to play again, they chew softer (that's only for chewing on you though - not for objects). I tried this (yelping and whining) with my puppy and it seemed to work great the first couple of times but then one time she came back at me with even more vengence. I was wondering, does this teach them that they are an 'alpha dog'? Should I keep trying? What should I do if she increases the aggression?

I think the assessment of the reaction to puppy littermates biting is absolutely correct, but I think the conclusion from that assessment is off the mark. Yes, when a pup bites a littermate, and the other pup yelps in pain, the puppy now knows that this behavior hurts. It also now knows that it CAN hurt its littermate, thereby reinforcing a dominance position over that littermate. By yelping when your pup bites you (or evincing discomfort, pain, etc.), you are establishing the fact that the pup can dominate you when it wants. "I bite you. You yelp. I win." Most of the nipping may stop thereafter, not because the pup is afraid of hurting you, but because the pup may see no real need to continue establishing its dominance continually. Only those individuals that give the pup a run for its money in the dominance department can expect the nipping to continue.

I, however, would take the approach of the other individual exposed to biting and nipping and take my cues from her - the mother bitch. Does the dam yelp in reaction to those needle-sharp little teeth slicing into a teat or gnawing on her ear? Absolutely not. She growls forcefully and if it doesn't take the hint and continues nipping, she snaps at the pup (the mid-air snap). There is no doubt who is in charge in that scenario - Mom. And the pup stops nipping - not because it figures it has won - but because it knows it might regret pushing the situation further. I use the same exact method employed by the bitch - low, grumbling growls at first, to show my annoyance. If it persists, I give a sharp bark followed by a quick snap at their face, without contact (difficult to describe but if you've seen a bitch do it when her pups are bothering her, you know exactly what I am talking about). The bitch has (generally) taught them what this action means ("STOP bugging me!!!") and they seem to get the point rather quickly. I've gotten quite good at it, though when company is visiting, they think you've lost it mentally. Low, grumbly growls and mid-air snaps may be harder to perform for some people and you might feel dumber doing it with other people around but it conveys the appropriate message. By yelping, you are saying "Ouch. Stop. I give." By growling you are saying "Hey. Cut it out. Or pay the consequences." Yelping may be setting you up for further dominance problems down the line.

Take your cue from the one who has to deal with puppy nipping the most often - the mother bitch.

[BC Rescue][Rescue Store][Faq][Rescue Dogs][Rescuers][Homes][Photo Album][BC Sites][BC Homepage][Other Info]

Page last updated April 1, 1997. All material Copyright 2004 Border Collie Rescue, Inc. and Dr. Nicholas B. Carter
Contact via email