All Things Dog

How To Nip Biting In The Bud

Your toy poodle might be a little fellow, but those sharp teeth can hurt—even if he's a puppy. Correcting this behavior with patient and consistent retraining is the key to keeping your skin intact.

First, it's important to understand why your dog might be biting or nipping. If he's a puppy, this behavior is normal. Remember, poodles were originally bred as hunting dogs, so using their mouths to explore and hold onto things (like fingers) is reflexive and hard-wired. Play biting is also a way that puppies establish hierarchy and dominance, so he's exploring his place in the family pecking order. That's another reason to let him know early on that you're the alpha in the house.

If nipping or biting is present in an adult Toy Poodle, that's of greater concern. Adult dogs bite out of fear, defensiveness, or aggression. If your Toy Poodle is adopted, he might have been developed biting behaviors out of self-protection. Or he may never have been properly trained and/or socialized.

You can certainly try the corrective tips below, but at some point a professional trainer might be needed.

Use the OUCH command: Puppies don't know when they've gone too far. In the litter, other puppies use a piercing "wounded" puppy sound and stop play when nipped too hard. Because dogs are social animals, the end of play and withdrawal of littermate attention is a powerful biting inhibitor.

At home, you can do the same with your biting poodle. When your dog nips hard, say "OUCH" sharply. Then stop interaction, break eye contact and walk away. Doing this consistently when he bites can stop the behavior quickly.

Add a spritz: For more emphasis, some trainers suggest spraying water directly to the snout when delivering the OUCH command. A small plastic spray bottle works perfectly. Keep a few around the house while training for easy access. Remember, the spray must immediately follow the bite and OUCH command, or your toy poodle won't make the connection.

Mint magic: Dogs do not like the taste of mint breath spray. Instead of a water spritz, you can ramp up the effect with a spray of minty freshness inside the mouth (not the nose) after a nip and the OUCH command.

Your Toy Poodle needs to know you're the boss, and you must establish this early with each biting encounter. Using the steps above consistently, with patience, is the best way to nip biting in the bud.

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