The Truth and The Difference
Hello and welcome to the ‘truth!
I’m always happy to attempt to demystify myths in the industry and there are a ton!
Today, we’ll talk about nipping, and we’ll also talk about teething because they are most definitely NOT the same thing. They have different action, different intention and different results.
First, in case you are a skimmer, let’s define both – then we’ll get into why pups do each!
Teething – This happens! It’s a definite thing. As dogs grow, they lose their baby teeth. They will chew (and chew and chew) to stimulate the exchange from baby teeth to adult. The age this happens can vary from breed to breed and even from dog to dog, but the approximation is that pups will lose their ‘milk’ teeth and grow their adult teeth between 3 – 6 months of age.
Nipping – Nipping is a whole other animal…. Nipping is grabbing at, biting at, tearing at and often putting pressure behind. Nipping is not done with the same intention of aiding the growth of new teeth. It is not done to soothe gums or remove baby teeth. It is done with the intention of hurting.
Now before you panic. Let me elaborate. Puppies spend most of their time instinctually practicing the skills they’ll need as adults. That includes biting in a big way! It’s normal to have a land shark. Take a big sigh of relief. That doesn’t mean it’s okay, or that you should put up with it, but I hope that info puts some minds at ease. Breed plays a huge part in this.
Biting puppies are normal. Some dogs have naturally soft mouths – think about sporting dogs and the decades of selective breeding for the gentle retrieval of fowl without leaving a mark. Some dogs are naturally hardwired to bite. Again, think of what a dog was bred for. I CANT stress this enough. Dogs used in protection work are bred to bite and bite hard! The pup who bites the hardest and holds on the longest is usually the most prized pup out of a litter of working dogs. Directed towards the right activities and controlled responsibly, a pup who bites hard is an asset, but put this pup in a home with limited experience and a nightmare could ensue. When dealing with puppy nipping, picking the right breed of dog for you is a great first step! The other side of this is knowing the breeding behind your pup. If you bred a dog that has aggression issues, your going to have puppies with aggression issues. Not all will but usually about 50% will inherit the parents temperaments and traits.
Did you know that stress is also passed on to puppies!
Back to instincts….. If a dog were to have to depend on itself for survival it would need to be able to fight and kill as two main ways to stay safe. Conflict is typically avoided when possible, however when resources are being claimed (food, safety, sex, etc.), fights can ensue. Play fighting is a way to practice these skills. Killing is self-explanatory. We all have to eat and dogs are predators. Most dogs no longer require these skills to survive and eat, but instinct is a strong force and it still guides behaviors regardless, so it will still produce behaviors that cater to instinctual growth. They are animals and as such no amount of breeding will change that!
As humans, it’s our responsibility to recognize what’s happening so that we can address it appropriately. Those early weeks are so important for addressing puppy nipping/biting and creating strong bite inhibition. Unfortunately, it is all too common to hear nipping behavior misidentified as teething and that makes it difficult to accurately address. This often leaves us floundering and nipping gets worse as our pups grow. Now, before you ask me how to fix it, know that every dog is different. Pups often become nipping adolescents and then careless adults. Not because they are aggressive, but because they never learned to be responsible for their mouths.
Teething, on the other hand, is much different thing to address. If your dog is chewing rather than lunging/nipping/biting. It is not behavioral. Teething is purely physical. They are looking for relief and instinct tells them to chew to remove their baby teeth. I like frozen Kong’s stuffed with a few goodies to encourage chewing. Teething toys that go in the freezer are great help to relieve painful mouths. Let them chew by providing appealing things for them to chew and save your furniture, etc. from becoming the target of your teething puppy. Your first step in addressing those needle teeth is identifying the type of issue you are dealing with. Once you do that accurately, you’ll be on a much better path to addressing the issue!. A nipping puppy does not have to be frightening.