By Karen A. Soukiasian
You don’t need to strong-arm, pin, or even reprimand your puppy in order to teach them to play gently. All it really takes is for you to behave like another puppy!
What you are doing is reinforcing a behavior they are already familiar with, because their littermates did the same thing when their playtime got too rough. Your goal is to help them to make the association the force of their bite, determines the length of human playtime too.
Even though this method works at any age, it is most effective when the puppy is under 12 weeks old. The reasons being, they can more easily associate it to their playtime with their littermates, and their jaws have not developed to where the pressure of a bite is actually painful!
The first thing you must do, is to let your puppy know they are hurting you, in a way they can relate to from those past experience. Rather than reprimanding, removing, or restraining your pup, it is usually more effective to let them immediately know they have hurt you by giving a voluble yelp or cry “OUCH.” Normally, they will back off.
Next, give your pup a minute or two to process what has just happened. Then call them back to you. They must earn your pardon by following a simple command such as “sit.” When they try to “make-up” with you, by licking, acting submissive or trying to resume playing, allow them to show they are sorry. Then resume playing.
If your puppy does not back off when you yelp, or cry “OUCH,” or returns to playing too hard, stand up, firmly say “ENOUGH,” leave the room, and close the door behind you.
If you are outside, firmly say “ENOUGH,” and walk away. If possible, go inside, leave your pup outside for a minute or two, so they can make the association when they hurt you, they have no one to play with. Return outside. Call them to you.
Again, they must earn your pardon by following a simple command such as “sit.” When they try to “make-up” with you, by licking, acting submissive or trying to resume playing, allow them to show they are sorry; then resume playing.
Bottom line: Be fair, firm, and consistent. Eventually, your puppy will associate the force of their bite, determines a number of unpleasant interruptions in the length of your playtime together.
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