It's National Puppy Day, a day to encourage the adoption of shelter puppies and to celebrate the special joy that puppies bring to our lives. Shelters across the country are filled with puppies and dogs that are waiting for forever homes.
Behavior problems are the number-one reason dogs are relinquished to shelters. The good news is that behavior problems can be prevented through appropriate early training, and behavior management can help keep pets in their homes. In Puppy Start Right, a comprehensive guide for puppy and dog owners, Kenneth and Debbie Martin offer tips for problem-solving and prevention, including play-biting and mouthing. Mouthing and biting are normal behaviors of growing and adolescent puppies, behavior that is learned from their littermates. However, a puppy needs to learn that mouthing or biting people is not the way to prompt people to play. The Martins recommend immediate withdrawal of attention as the most effective method of discouraging biting. However, when the behavior results in torn clothing or physical injury, they recommend redirection and reward, as follows:
- Calmly and quietly withdraw attention for 2-3 seconds.
- Redirect your puppy to sit or perform a behavior other than mouthing.
- Reward the sit or behavior by offering a treat or toy.
Do not use any punishment through verbal or physical reprimands. Punishment of play-biting does not teach your puppy how to interact appropriately, and may cause or contribute to the development of serious aggression.
Consider adopting a puppy from a shelter this spring. With positive training and love, you'll form a forever friend.