Puppies can be bundles of joy and holy terrors, often within the same minute. They like to bite, chase,
In the latest “Ask a Behavior Consultant” question, we’re exploring what to do when your puppy bites kids.
Our reader writes,
We just got a puppy about a week ago. She is 9 weeks
old,and is a German Shepherd Great Pyrenees mix. We are having an issue with her consistently going after our 5 year oldson when he is walking around. She will bite at his clothes and legs. It has seemed like she is wanting to play, but today it got pretty intense. She would not let off biting at his clothing and jumping. We got her away and my son got on the bed and she just kept barking at him. I’m not sure what to do. She doesn’t always just lunge after him, but if he is walking somewhat close by she will try to go athim. We have gotten her a play penthat we will keep her in mostly. We are wondering why she does this, and how we can foster a better relationship between the two of them and train her to leave him alone.
It’s hard to relax and enjoy your new family member when your puppy bites kids. I can help. Journey Dog Training has an in depth, self-study course calledKeeping Kids Safe and Dogs Happy. Sign up now!
First off, I want to congratulate Alicia on her successful implementation of management. By putting the puppy in the baby gate, she’s helping stop the biting. She’s triaging the situation like a pro!
Why Do Puppies Bite Kids and Chase People?
Puppies are hard-wired to play. And puppies play using their mouths. At just 9 weeks old, this little German Shepherd/Pyrenees puppy is still very young. That doesn’t mean his teeth don’t hurt!
Meanwhile, five-year-olds tend to move quickly, clumsily, and loudly. They’re basically walking chew toys for puppies, and it’s extremely tempting for puppies to chase them and bite them.
All of that said, you don’t have to deal with a your puppy biting kids.
Just because something is normal doesn’t mean it’s OK.
It sounds like this puppy is particularly intense about chasing and biting. The barking and continuing to “go after” the five-year-old also sounds like a bit of a frustration behavior (though I can’t ask the puppy how he feels).
The bottom line is that your puppy finds something about biting and chasing reinforcing – that’s why he keeps doing it.
The attention, squealing from the child, or just biting itself might be so fun that your dog will keep doing it.
Teaching Your Puppy Not to Bite and Chase
As I said, it’s normal for puppies to want to bite and chase. We’ve got five main steps to stop the puppy from nipping and chasing.
1. Teach the Puppy to Play Gently.
Here, we can use some redirection. If the puppy starts to get too rowdy in play, we’ll calmly pick the puppy up and put the puppy away.
Then – and this is important – we’ll give the puppy something better to do. We don’t want to build frustration, as this can actually make the biting more intense later.
Give the puppy a puzzle toy or other tasty chewy during his time-out. Here are a few of my favorites:
2. Give the Puppy Somewhere to Direct Toothy Energy
Puppies really need to play and chew. While chew toys (above) are an excellent substitute, it’s also important to give this puppy something that he’s encouraged to chase, pounce on, and bite.
Encourage your puppy to play with shreddable and chaseable toys.
Whenever your puppy starts getting too rowdy with the five-year-old (or ideally, before that even happens), give him a good play session with a toy that he’s allowed to sink his teeth into.
Giving your puppy the energy outlets that he needs is the only way to keep everyone happy!
To encourage your five-year-old to participate and keep fingers safe, use a flirt pole!
3. Teach the Five-Year-Old How to Calm the Puppy Down
Ideally, you should supervise your child and your dog at all times. But it’s also important to empower kids so that they can diffuse situations on their own.
My favorite way to diffuse situations is to throw food. While this doesn’t go over well in elementary school lunchrooms, it’s perfect for dog training.
Teach the child to throw dog treats on the ground, then walk calmly away if the puppy starts biting and chasing.
An adult can then come and put the puppy away with a Kong or other chewie (see step 1).
If you see the puppy chasing the child (or biting the child), intervene by asking the child to stand still, tossing treats, and putting ht epuppy away.
Remind the child not to yell, run, squeal, or scream.
4. Practice Puppy Impulse Control Skills.
Obedience alone won’t fix everything.
But these training games (especially red-light-green-light, SMART x 50, and Ready-Set-Down) are perfect for teaching your puppy how to listen to cues when he’s excited!
The training games (linked above) come with video demos and are made to be fun and easy.
I also wrote an e-book on dealing with dogs that get overly excited. The book comes with email prompts to help keep you on track. Purchase Polite Greetings 101 here.
5. Teach the Puppy to Relax.
Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol is one of my all-time favorite tools for dogs with behavior issues.
It’s an incredibly valuable protocol that helps teach the dog to relax and ignore increasingly distracting situations.
Challenge yourself to complete the 15-step protocol before the end of the month. Click the link to get started!
Kayla is from Ashland, Wisconsin but lives in Missoula Montana. She holds a degree in biology from Colorado College and has spent years working in zoos, animal shelters, and as a private dog trainer. When not working on Journey Dog Training, Kayla works at Working Dogs for Conservation. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. She shares her life with her border collie Barley.