Most people reading this article have probably experienced the delights of playing with a puppy and although it is great fun and they are a bundle of delight it can also be like swimming with piranhas! Their sharp needle like teeth are just that, sharp. They can actually inflict a stinging nip.
Why do puppies nip when they are playing? If you observe children when they play in a group you will notice that they exhibit several different behaviours and emotions ranging from laughter, anger, crying, running and they will often hit out at one another. This is basically simply children playing. The actions they perform are both natural for humans and are done in preparation for things they could face later in their lives.
These factors are the same for puppies, as you watch them play you will very often observe them going for one another, their favourite trick is to play at ambushing each other. They will generally perform some kind of stalking behaviour during play and pounce on each other just like cats do when they play. All these behaviours are totally natural and are termed as ‘hunting behaviours’ because they are perfecting their hunting skills, they do not actually know why and will probably never use them in the ‘real’ world. Dogs are natural hunters in the wild, you only have to look at the wolf to see this.
Puppies also nip when they play because they enjoy placing everything in their mouths, the same way as babies. They like tasting and chewing things and they feel the need to use their new teeth the minute they come through.
The biggest reason for puppies nipping when they play together is they are pretending to be adult dogs and they are establishing their position in the pack’s hierarchy, do not forget that you are also a member of the pack as far as your puppy is concerned. The nipping is also done as a test for you, your pup will want to see how far he/she can go before you say enough is enough and tell them off.
Never encourage nipping or rough play, if your puppy enjoys tugging a toy with you then this is fine but do not allow your puppy to be the winner and do not let the game become too rough.
If your pup nips you let out a squeal and turn your back away from the puppy, they hate to be ignored like this and will quickly learn that a nip equals no play or interaction. Their mum would teach them the same way in the litter.
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