Caution: Baby Sharks on the Loose

It’s nearly summer and that means sun, sand and fun on the beach for everyone
But what if there are baby sharks who nip at our heels and tear our clothes when we take a dip? Of course, we’re not talking about actual sharks and we are teasing! We occasionally get emails from clients who are concerned with their lovely and loving Habibi Bear puppies who have fallen into the habit of mouthing, nipping or (eek!) biting. We’re here to tell you that with a little attention and some tips, you can “nip” the unwanted behavior in the bud. 

First, let’s take a look at puppy and the habit of mouthing in general. Not having hands limits puppy with only way to discover the big, bright wonderful world around them–their mouth and teeny tiny chompers! So many good things to taste, chew and shred, so many textures and tastes! It is a smorgasbord of delights just waiting for puppy to come along and enjoy to their heart’s content. If we shift into seeing the world (our home) through the eyes of puppy, we can see how interesting everything is and even can begin to marvel at the fact that puppy doesn’t have everything in their mouth all the time, and that puppy is an actual model of restraint! Help puppy out by setting them up for success by giving them access to puppy-proofed areas of your home. 

Next, nipping while annoying and something that can lead to more serious behaviors, is just another leftover habit from the puppy pile and litter mates. Nipping is a behavior not only natural but a healthy and necessary part of a dog's development.  It can also  be related to playing and confusion on how to do that appropriately with humans.  We've developed an entire course all on the phases of puppy biting along with flow charts to help you understand what phase your puppy is in, and how to handle it.  We need to be vigilant, patient and consistent if we notice nipping in puppy. A dog mom will growl, snap and correct to get their little ones to stop nipping, but we can’t do that. What can we do?  Well first, it depends upon which biting phase your puppy is in.  You will learn how to identify this in our new course!  Most of the time, a quick response of yelping–in a high pitch, loud tone–when puppy nips is enough to disrupt the unwanted attention. If the nipping continues, neutral withdrawal is a technique that dogs understand naturally. Observation of puppy’s at rough play will show you how this works. When one puppy is too rough with another, puppy two will refuse to engage, turning their head and walking away, until puppy one comes to offer apologies (licking pup one’s mouth in reconciliation, or grooming gestures) and peace is re-established. 

Biting is something that calls out for our attention and our understanding at the same time. We need to take the circumstances into consideration: What was going on at the time when puppy bit someone? Did puppy bite or nip? Did puppy giving a warning growl, show their teeth, turn away in an attempt to disengage, display a stiff body, or any of the other warning signs of a dog that is trying to state their boundaries and overwhelm? While surprising, a growl is a puppy’s way of letting you know it is trying to communicate discomfort or fear, and should not be punished. Punishing a pup for growling will almost surely lead to biting, because you are taking away the only way puppy has to let you know to stop something that is making puppy uncomfortable. In other words, growling is awesome- puppy is saying back off the only way it can! 

These are the things that we ask our clients when we send advice email responses to those seeking our help and counsel. 

If you haven’t done so yet, make sure to check out our amazing Pup Start that will help build and reinforce your bond with your Habibi Bear puppy, helping you both gain a better and clearer communication style, and grow in love and trust. If you have issues or questions, reach out to us anytime. We’re always here for you, cheering you on! 

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