My Cockapoo Puppy bites – what can I do?
If you have spent some time reading dog forums you will know the subject of puppies biting is often bought up. On one hand it’s to be expected but on the other… IT HURTS!
New owners are quick to question their Cockapoo puppies temperament but this really is not necessary. All puppies bite. But a sensible owner will teach their puppy soft mouth behaviour a long with other essentials like toilet training. As a puppy grows up you will find that they learn bite inhibition naturally as they notice that their playful bites cause pain and draw a negative reaction from their owner. After all, all puppies are looking for signs about how to please their owners.
So teaching bite inhibition is doing what most owners do in an accidental way by withdrawing when the bite becomes painful. By making the process into a intentional structured program you can encourage soft mouth behavior to happen sooner rather than later.
Why wait for your Cockapoo just to grow out of biting? What if there are children at home?; what if those sharp puppy teeth break the skin and a dressing needs to be applied?
If your puppy has had a normal start to life early experiences naturally teach bite inhibition while the puppy is nursing from the mother. If the puppy sucks too hard and uses teeth by accident the mother will push the puppy away or get up and leave. Also, when puppies begin to play with their litter mates, they learn to use their teeth softly or their play mates soon stop playing with them.
For this reason if your puppy is an orphan it may have a harder bite than other puppies who have had normal socialization with the mother and siblings. Also, for puppies that have not had this normal early socialization they don’t have a “tolerance for frustration” since they are not used to having to wait when siblings compete for attention.
Another factor that makes the cockapoo a good candidate for teaching bite inhibition is that genetically it has not been trained to bite down hard like some breeds. However, if you find your cockapoo puppy is biting down harder than expected you need to begin the process of teaching him/her self restraint straight away.
You can start lessons as soon as you like in fact after 5 months your puppy will start to grow adult canine teeth and have a stronger jaw so that is another incentive to start training early.
Anyone can teach their puppy bite inhibition
Start the process – The 4 Rs
Remove – When you are bitten severely enough, let him/her know it hurts and say “Oowww” as calmly as possible. Take your body part (hopefully just a figure) out of its mouth and look away. This is showing your puppy that biting hard means he/she will lose your attention and of course that is not desirable for any puppy.
If he/she keeps wants to continue biting move to a different room until the puppy is calm. Then re-engage their interest.
Repeat – This is a process but keep being consistent and you will begin to notice that the bite intensity becomes less hard.
Your puppy won’t stop biting. They have such a strong urge to bite and chew you won’t cure this. But repetition will lead to increasingly acceptable bites over the coming weeks and months.
As the bite intensity decreases you can increase your sensitivity to the bite. Still “Oowww” and remove. This will encourage softer and softer bites that slowly shape the puppies bite inhibition.
Reinforce – As with most training positive reinforcement is key. Softer bites should be rewarded with praise but keep withdrawing yourself as a negative consequence for harsh bites. Eventually soft mouth behaviour will be more common.
Redirect: You will probably notice times when your puppy is just in a rambunctious mood. Spare yourself some pain and have some chew toys to hand and leave the training for a calmer time.
How not to do it
Physical punishment is not the way to go. Firstly because it won’t achieve your goal. Hitting a dog on the nose with a rolled up newspaper will just make your dog cower and suppress anger. This suppression can then come back at stressful times and result in severe biting. It’s also worth saying that it’s never a good idea to push your dog’s patience level to the point its good behaviour is stretched to the limit. Dogs growl for a reason, it’s their way of saying, enough is enough please don’t continue annoying me or something worse might happen. This is a particularly good point to teach children as they love play with puppies but do not always understand where the boundaries are. (See “The Gift of Growling,” Whole Dog Journal October 2005.) For a full discussion on physical punishment read this discussion thread.
Teaching bite inhibition to an adult Cockapoo dog
Teaching bite inhibition to an adult dog is much harder as we all know old habits are hard to break. You can however, use this variation of the “Oowww” remove technique.
Have a treat in your gloved hand and only open it when your dog starts to bite more softly. Gradually they learn hard bites mean no treats!
Thick gardening gloves are recommended if you are teaching adult dogs bite inhibition. Be careful, an adult canine jaw has much more strength and a harder bite than a puppy!
Wrapping it up
With puppies and adult dogs you will find that biting down hard comes back at times of high emotion but gradually this will lessen if you keep on with positive / negative reinforcement.
Do continue to reinforce bite inhibition with your adult cockapoo dog, and guard against putting your Cockapoo puppy in stressful emotional situations where his/her tolerance might be tested. A dog is an animal and biting is natural to them even when they are part of a human family. It’s rarely a questionable temperament cockapoos have but environments that cause anxiety or over exuberance owners need to be mindful of.
bite inhibition video (not a Cockapoo) but still useful to watch