Sure, your puppy could use his teeth primarily to chew on toys and eat his food, but there's no fun in that. Biting behavior usually ceases once your pup's adult teeth fill his mouth, but only if he knows the behavior is wrong. A few yelps on your part help matters.
During his first few months in the world, your pup's biting habits come courtesy of his teeth that will later allow him to rip up stuffed animals, but hopefully not your couch. Around 12 weeks he will experience a falling out of sorts with his baby teeth. Most puppies should have a mouth full of adult teeth when their 7- or 8-month birthday rolls around, according to Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. During this time, your dog largely chews to relieve the pain that those incoming adult teeth cause. Providing your furry child with plenty of chew toys is the best way to combat his tendency to munch down on whatever's close by, and that might include your shoes, hands or feet. Giving your pup a frozen washcloth to chew on helps relieve his pain.
Although cute to look back on when the nostalgia of puppyhood overtakes you, a handful of welts and other marks from an overly eager puppy is discomforting and sets a dangerous precedent if left unchecked. Consistency is key to remedying hand -- and occasionally toe and ankle -- biting. A sharp "Ouch" or "Ah" at the precise moment your puppy bites down too hard or mouths you sends a message to him that he's in the wrong. Immediately give him a toy to chew on in place of your hand. If the behavior continues and he doesn't take to the toy, the proverb, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" applies. His littermates would have ignored him if he was playing too rough, so mimic their behavior. Standing up, turning your back and refusing to acknowledge him tells the playful pup he needs to tone it down a bit.
With their seemingly endless amounts of energy -- until they suddenly fall over and nap for an hour -- puppies become bored quite easily. Providing them with a variety of toys, such as ropes, balls and dental bones, helps stave off boredom somewhat, at least when you're home. When you leave, party time commences in the form of chewing shoes, couches, carpet, floors, pillows and whatever else that's lying around. Taking your puppy for walks, playing with him throughout the day and, most importantly, crating him when you leave stops destructive biting when you're away.
Warnings and Considerations
Saw-like teeth have plagued the hands and feet of puppy owners everywhere, so a number of corrective methods may be necessary. The only acceptable and non-damaging methods of stopping your pup from biting include ignoring him when he engages in the behavior, and giving him a toy to chew on. Sprays that serve as a deterrent to biting, such as bitter apple, are acceptable to apply on furniture or yourself, but may not work for all dogs. Spraying him in the face with water, yelling at him or locking him in his create will create a fearful puppy that will likely have a bounty of problems later in life.
- puppylove image by Keith Frith from Fotolia.com