When you think of a puppy, the words “exuberant” and “boisterous” will probably come to mind. Puppies tend to be balls of energy, zooming about with a bounce in their step, happy to greet the day. One way all of that energy comes out is in jumping and play biting. It may be cute when they are young, but as they get older – and bigger – jumping and nipping can become a real problem. It’s better to deal with this problem when your puppy is still young, and we’ve got some tips on how to do it.
Why do puppies jump and nip?
Jumping and nipping is actually pretty normal behaviour for a puppy. It is not necessarily aggressive. It’s more likely to be driven by curiosity or excitement.
Puppies use their mouths to explore the world around them, much like human toddlers do. Apart from exploring, puppies usually mouth and nip when they play together.
Jumping is often due to excitement, but can also be an attempt to get your attention. Dogs may also jump up on you to try and get something they want, such as food or toys.
Why should I stop my puppy from jumping and nipping?
Both of these behaviours may seem sweet and even endearing when a puppy is little and cute, but as they grow, those bites can become painful or even dangerous. The same is true for jumping; a 2-month-old German Shepherd jumping upon you is a very different experience when a fully grown dog leaps on you enthusiastically, possibly knocking you over.
You may not mind your dog jumping on you or nipping you, but guests and strangers may not be so happy with your dog’s exuberance. Little children, the elderly, and people who aren’t steady on their feet will not appreciate being knocked down, no matter if your dog isn’t doing it out of aggression. The same applies to play bites: your dog may mean no harm, but it still hurts to be nipped! To ensure that your puppy grows up to be a good canine citizen, it’s vital to nip these behaviours in the bud.
How can I stop my puppy from nipping?
The aim is to teach your puppy to be gentle with his/her mouth. This can be difficult for young puppies because they are still learning how to control their bodies. Even when puppies play together, they sometimes bite each other too hard. One of the ways puppies learn to control their bite strength is during play: if they bite another puppy too hard, the other puppy yelps with pain. The puppy soon learns that biting hurts and that the other puppies won’t play with them if they bite too hard.
You can replicate this behaviour to teach your puppy not to bite. If your puppy mouths your hand and nips you, yelp. This will startle the puppy, which will stop mouthing you. You can also walk away from your puppy, ending playtime for a moment. After a minute, you can return to playing with your puppy. If he/she nips again, repeat these steps. If your puppy plays gently, without nipping or mouthing, praise them. The lesson is simple: biting and nipping are painful, and mean that playtime is over. Gentle behaviour is good and leads to a great play session.
How can I stop my puppy from jumping?
If your puppy jumps up on you, you can ignore them. Stand still, cross your arms, and say “No”. You could also turn away from the puppy, but that’s not always needed. When your puppy stops jumping at you, praise and reward them.
You’ll need to repeat these steps many times, and it may take a few weeks to perfect, but eventually, your puppy will get the message that jumping up on you means being ignored, and not jumping means rewards.
You should also practise this training while you are holding treats or toys (which makes it very tempting for your puppy to jump on you) and with other people (as puppies often find new people very exciting).