Dispelling the ‘Ouch’
As a dog training professional, this is a question I am asked very frequently by puppy owners. ‘How do I stop my puppy biting me?’
Sadly, I still see and hear of old outdated methods being used to inhibit puppies biting. The ‘ouch’ method is the one I hear the most!
The ‘ouch’ method was based on the idea that puppies bite others in the litter and when the other yelps the puppy stops biting and inhibits that bite. I have never agreed with this method and thankfully neither have others. A new pilot study has been launched by Sarah Whitehead and her team and having seen the results they completely support that the ‘ouch’ theory does not work.
Saying ouch is aversive to our dog, and we all know aversive training can deliver some catastrophic results by ruining relationships and communication with our dog. It’s always confused me why this method has lived on for so long when dog training has evolved into using science based positive reward methods.
Well here’s the news....
Gone are the days of waiting for puppy to get something wrong then punishing them for it, but before we go into more details on what we can do to stop biting there are some important facts we should understand first.
1. Puppies bite, it’s normal puppy behaviour.
2. Different puppies will bite longer or harder than others.
3. Good breeders will intervene between puppies when rearing litters, so ask that question if you are buying a puppy.
4. Preventing puppies biting people involves redirecting their biting into more appropriate activities. If we don’t do this, they will practice the behaviour and get better at biting.
5. Training to prevent this should be reward based. We know that any stress on a puppy can exacerbate biting behaviour.
6. Diet / health and sleep will impact how a puppy behaves. I can often spot puppies that have a poor diet and show signs of hyper activity.
7. How we respond can change how a puppy learns and choses to react next time.
8. We should also understand if other animals in the household are influencing biting, whether it be through play or movement.
How to we stop puppy biting:
1. Understand your dogs breed type, as every dog has a predatory motor pattern and often biting is part of that sequence. Seek early training advice for your puppy to ensure their needs are being met.
2. Use positive reinforcement training to train puppy in appropriate behaviours around hands. This should involve teaching handling and husbandry skills, settle behaviours and how to divert their teeth onto a toy.
3. Set them up for success, by ensuring all their welfare needs are being met. Have they had too much or too little exercise? Are they over tired? Is the food appropriate for them? Are they getting enough of the right type of stimulation? Are they getting enough suitable human interaction?
It’s a common myth that a puppy or dog just needs a walk to be fulfilled.
There is a whole host of ingredients that make up a recipe that prevents puppy biting. But one thing is for sure. ‘Ouch’ won’t stop your puppy biting.
For more information on training your puppy go to: