How To Stop Puppy Nipping Using "Urge-Control"

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This may seem cute, but it's actually training this dog to nip

This may seem cute, but it's actually training this dog to nip

Have you ever heard of the famous Marshmallow test done by Stanford university that suggests that self-control is the number one determining factor to whether our children grow up to be above or below average?

If you’ve never read up on that study, it’s fascinating and can teach you a LOT about what it takes to teach puppies to stop nipping and control their emotional urges.

In their study, Stanford university took children into a room and asked a child to sit in a chair with a Marshmallow in front of them.  The instructor then told the children that if they waited for him to run an errand, they could have two Marshamallows when he came back.

But if they ate the one in front of them they would NOT get the second Marshmallow.

iStock_000005836864XSmallWhether or not the children were able to resist the inner urge to just gobble up the Marshmallow or not, was an incedible predictor of how successful those children’s lives would be, how much money they would earn, and how happy their marriage would be.

The reason this experiment was such a big predictor of these childrens’ future success, is because there is one trait that all successful people have in common… the ability to delay immediate gratification because they realize it earns them long term gains.

Well guess what, this applies to dog’s as well!

The better your dog is at remembering to keep his emotions in check, and realizing that waiting can get him BIGGER rewards, the happier and easier your life with him will be.

Luckily for us, we can build delayed gratification, or what i call, “Urge Control” into our daily training excercises.

Build Urge Control Into every Day
Activities With Your Dog

When we weave the concept of Urge Control into all of our puppies training drills, the result is a dog who remains much more calm and emotionally stable in situations like:

  • Staying calm when the doorbell rings
  • Not rushing to gobble up food dropped on the floor
  • Staying off counter tops
  • Not nipping during a game of tug a war
  • Being less aggressive on a leash towards other dogs
  • Remaining indifferent when children accidentally irritate them
  • and a host of other situations

One of the simplest ways I recomend people teach their dog’s Urge Control is when they first get their puppy and are working on how to stop his nipping.

Understanding Why Your Puppy is Nipping

The thing you need to determine when teaching a puppy how to stop nipping, is the main driving factor for why the puppy is nipping in the first place.

In most cases a puppy is nipping for one of two reasons.

  1. He is teething and finds relief from nipping and chewing on items.  In this case, I recommend using a technique that I call, Cataloging Chewables which is all about how to stop destructive puppy chewing.
  2. He still thinks nipping is a fun way to play with you just like he did with his litter mates.

With puppies that are nipping because they think it’s a fun way to interact with you, we need to set up an environment where we take what the puppy wants (interaction with us) and hold it hostage against them.

This means that we set up a new rule for our puppy that he can fully understand.

The New Rule = “Playtime STOPS when you nip”

This means that you can play with your puppy all you want, but the second he nips you, or mouths you harder then you are comfortable with, simply stand up, and ignore your puppy.

It is not necessary to yell, swat or say no.  The fact that you’ve given him the cold shoulder is sending him the strongest signal possible.  Nothing else could be communicating your new “rules of engagement” better then by taking the thing he wants more then anything else in the world, (YOU) away from him when he nips.

Now Here’s What I
Want You To Do Next

Because this Urge Control drill is so effective, I want you to go practice it on your puppy right now.

Most clients of mine see a dramatic change in their dogs behavior within a matter of minutes.

After a handful of times of getting up and abruptly ending playtime with your puppy when he nips, you’ll see the little wheels start turning in his head as he realizes that you only stop playing with him when he nips.

Try to ignore your puppy for about 15-20 seconds after he nips before you resume playing with him.

If you’ll go spend some time today practicing this drill you should see nearly instant results.

But Your Work is NOT Done!

Urge Control is something that needs to be built into all aspects of your dogs life.  Urge Control needs to be a rule your dog lives by, not just something to stop only nipping.

Sure it can be used for just that, but it can be something so much more when applied to all areas of your dog’s life.

So after you go try out this Urge Control technique on your dog, and see for yourself how effective it is, I want you to come back and sign up to receive a copy of my Hands Off Dog Training program that can show you how to finish up the other areas of your puppies training that need work.

You can pick up a copy of my Hands Off Dog Training program here.

There are 35 Comments

  1. My puppy licks me WAY TOO much. I tell her no but so far she still does it. What is the best way to stop this?

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  2. Nelli Brown says:

    My 7 week German Shepard puppy nips/bites at our hands, feet, pants, shoes, knees, calves…whatever he can reach on us. We have tried saying “ouch” and turning our backs or ignoring him but he just continues biting at our backs. If we shake him off our foot and try walking away he runs alongside biting as he goes. We then started telling him “no bite” and going inside and leaving him out, but when we come back outside, he starts all over again. Yesterday, he nipped my son in the car and it bled. Please help!

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    Joni Kaye Reply:

    I’m having the same problem with my 13 week old standard poodle. Most of the time, he is very loving and calm. I think he is playing, but the behavior has become out of control and my husband and I are beyond frustrated. I started isolating him in his crate when he demonstrates the biting behavior, but so far, we have not had any luck. Any suggestions will be welcome.

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    Minette Reply:

    Redirect him and use lots of toys and treats and bones.

    Exercise, exercise, exercise!! He should be too tired to want to bite you. Putting him in his crate is probably making the problem worse!

    Start obedience training NOW!! I have a 9 week old puppy that also likes to bite (it is part of his genetics) but with exercise and obedience I can get him to do something else for me instead of biting.

    At 9 weeks he can sit, down, stand and he is learning stay. All this teaches him impulse control and gives his mind something to do!

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    diane Reply:

    I am having the exact same problem as Nelli – My 18 week old Alapaha Bulldog is STRONG and getting large. I have tried ending play time when he bites me, I can’t just turn away because he seems to take that as an invitation to jump on me more. I step inside and close the sliding glasss door between us, ignore him and count to 30. But when I go back out e goes right back to biting me and jumping at my face. He gets plenty of exercise and attention and has a wide variety of appropriate toys to chew on. He’s not stupid, just incredibly stubborn and I’m afraid he could be dangerous if I don’t get this under control.

    Minette Reply:

    Wait longer than 30 seconds, let him decompress… and give him more exercise, if he is doing this….he is not getting nearly enough exercise and mental stimulation.

    Plus he needs constant obedience training, if he doesn’t know sit, down, stay, heel, eye contact and leave it you are way behind schedule!

    diane Reply:

    We go to obedience classes every week, do the homework and walk as much as possible. I work full time so His walks are short in the morning but longer in the evening – we live in a very hot area with temps regularly over 100 degrees and he gets overheated quickly so I carry water and have to monitor him carefully. He won’t get on the treadmill ( I tried since it’s in an airconditioned house). When we play fetch he’s enthusiastic for awhile, then just wants to jump at me and bite. I am truly at a loss. My husband is unable to walk him due to disability. I keep hoping that if I continue with his training and exercise he will lose his desire to bite my arms and legs. Some “trainers” have told me “he’s just a puppy and that’s what they do” as if I’m expecting too much but I believe this could become a dangerous issue.Do you have suggestions for more mental simulation? I guess the training exercises we do just aren’t enough. I’ve been told to get him a saddlebag to add to his walks but I feel I’d better wait till the weather cools down; maybe I’m wrong?

    Minette Reply:

    Take him swimming. Hide his toys and teach him to find them by name. Get up early and teach him to track.

    I have very high energy dogs also and one of them is a flying biter. I, however, do police and protection work with them so eventually that is something I will reward.

    You are right, if you don’t take it seriously he will probably bite harder and harder and learn to control you and his environment with his mouth, which is a bad thing.

    Obedience in and of itself used often throughout the day teaches them what our expectations are and teaches them to listen to us all of the time, not just when they want to.

    When my puppy fly bites toward my face, I tell him NO or whatever word you are using and then he does a down stay for a while. He is learning that fly biting at me for no reason = something he doesn’t like.

    But, I have to be honest with myself and with him and if I am not providing him with exercise and mental stimulation it is unrealistic to expect him not to want to entertain himself on his own; and for him and his genetics that includes biting.

    Exercise is crucial. So we play control games, and he retrieves and listens to obedience commands in order for me to throw his ball.

    It is all about using obedience, making it fun, and taking the fun out of biting.

    karen Reply:

    where do you take a dog swimming i am having the same difficulty with my little 20 week old bull pei – i am taking him out for a walk in the morning and all of a sudden he bites the back of my legs – i have tried everything and i am spending all my waking hours walking him and tire him out with training and obedence !!!! hes at puppy training twice a week and knows all the usual commands

    Minette Reply:

    I take my dogs swimming and dock diving at our local lake and toss a ball or a toy for retrieval and extra swimming and I have my dogs do lots of play and romping while I add obedience!

    Read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/exercise-dragon-oops-puppy/

    karen Reply:

    I live in scotland so not really weather for outdoor swimming. How should i get the puppy biting to stop?

    remmick Reply:

    Same problem. Our pup had stopped for a time and suddenly she has moments when she goes wild. Time outs, ignoring her, etc. seems to excite her more. Putting her outside just delays bitting which starts again when she is back with us.

    We are calm. We don’t hit or yell.

    Calming her or finding a toy sometimes stops her biting and sometimes it does not.

    Thanks for any suggestions

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    Minette Reply:

    She needs more real exercise… she is not stimulated or tired enough if she has the energy to fly around and bite on you.

    Take her out and run her on soft ground till its nap time!

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    remmick Reply:

    We have a huge yard and she does get plenty of exercise with each potty run which has been about every hour or hour and a half, with acception of nap times, of course. While in the house she has plenty of toys which causes her to to exercise even more.

    Our California hill side ground is not soft.

    She is fourteen weeks old.

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  3. Jayke says:

    My dog keeps biting/nipping on my four-wheeler tyres when ever I go for a drive! HOW CAN I STOP IT?? I am scared I will run over her!

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  4. Julie says:

    my puppy is 6 weeks old and she keeps chewing my my 2 year old leaving the 2 year old defenceless cause she can’t get away, i don’t know what to do. she always runs to her and just chews on her arm or leg, socks, pants, shirts we tried yelling ow and stop playing with her and it isn’t working she just comes back for more.

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    Minette Reply:

    6 weeks is waaay to young for her to be away from her momma! Of course she is chewing on your 2 year old, that is the closest thing that resembles her littermates.

    If she was mine I would take her back to the breeder and ask that she learn some manners from her mom for the next 2 to 3 weeks or so, these are things you simply CANNOT teach her that she needs to learn.

    Otherwise she needs to be kept on a leash and begin training with her so that she learns some respect for you baby.

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    Julie Reply:

    i posted earlier, and i put my 6 week old puppy on the leash, and she is slowing calming down, but unfortunately i cannot bring her back because it is a 10 hour drive there and back. She is progressing since i put her on a leash, i had to train my other dog like that when she was a puppy also. And how much food should i be feeding her cause shes always hungry.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Feed her as much as she wants to eat for 5 minutes 3 times a day. And remember next time no younger than 8 weeks and be very careful not to let her put her teeth on you!

  5. Julie says:

    my puppy just started getting pimples on her stomach, just wanted to know why and what i could do to fix it.

    [Reply]

    Wendy Reply:

    Are you sure they aren’t flea bites? They look like pimples and usually group in threes.

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  6. tammy says:

    Hello. We got a maltese-shitzu mix. He is biting out of aggression. Born jan 9th 2012. When we first got him- my daughter and father and law tried to take something away from him and he bit- growled – drawing blood with father n law. I have been very stern with him- saying NO!!! and sometimes pushing him away. He will still bite at my 7 year old and chases the baby biting at her clothes when she walks. I need to nip this in the bud NOW before he gets worse. He did get “fixed” last thursday. My 12 year old lab will put him in her place sometimes but not often enough.
    Please help! My son wants Perry the puppy to love him so badly.
    Tammy

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Read these articles and make sure to keep yourself and your family safe!! I am afraid one of your children is going to incur a very frightening bite!

    http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/time-seek-professional-dog-training-aggression/

    http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/puppy-possessiveness-resource-guarding/

    http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/puppy-possessiveness-resource-guarding/

    [Reply]

  7. gina says:

    i just got a 5 week old yorkie, she nibbles and bites me im sure shes just playing and also the fact that shes teething but ouch it hurts sometimes! what can i do to get her to stop!

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    She is tooooo young to be away from her momma!

    Take her back to the breeder and let her be with mom who will teach her about biting much better than you ever can, then pick her up when she is 8-9 weeks old!

    [Reply]

  8. dlg0925 says:

    We have just rescued a 12 week old bulldog mix and his constantly nipping at our feet and my 14 month old. I can’t get him to leave my baby alone. Help!!!

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    Put the puppy on a leash!

    And, he needs more exercise. He won’t bite if he is too tired to!

    [Reply]

  9. kayla says:

    I have a 12 week old rottweiler puppy, and his biting towards me is getting out of control. He has plenty of toys to play with, including teething toys, but will play with them for about a minute and then he comes straight over to me and starts biting again. I have tried almost everything to redirect his biting, and letting him know that he should not bite, but nothing is helping.I have tried Yelping each time he bites and stand up and stop playing with him, which worked at the begining, but now he just tries to jump up and bite me or just wont let go of my hand when i yelp. I tell him NO in a firm voice, but pays no attention to me when doing so. I have also tried to hold his jaw close for a few seconds when he bites, but as soon as I relsease he seems to be even more aggressive than before.It is only me in the household that he seems to pay no attention to when i am telling him no. I just don’t know what else to try or what i am doing wrong. please help???? Thankyou

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    He needs to play WITH you! no one wants to play ALONE all the time! So teach him to retrieve or play ball or something where you can tire him out and play with him.

    He needs to be so exhausted that he sleeps the rest of the time 😉

    [Reply]

  10. Steph says:

    I have a 10wk old basset hound, who is lovely natured until she starts to play! She gets plenty of attention and has loads of toys but as soon as we start to play with her she becomes extremely hyper and snaps and bites us. Tried the yelping and walki away but this just seems to make her worse…I darn’t leave my 4 yr old with her for 2 seconds, she had hold of his foot today and I literally had to prise her jaw open to get her off! Any tips??

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  11. Janie says:

    We did everything we could with our puppy…redirect…exercise…time out…stern “no bite”… Lots of toys but this beautiful little golden was wearing us out. He was biting our young grandchildren…drawing blood with those needle teeth. We were frustrated, unhappy and sad that we whatever we tried didn’t work. We have had many pups over the years and this is the most difficult. After 7 weeks, we made the decision that we were not the right parents for this dog. Fortunately, relatives of our daughter – in-law took him. Four older children, another older golden retriever to model good behavior. This is the fourth day without him and we are both relieved and terribly sad that we could not handle this. We hear that is is loved by all and is adjusting. Still, my heart breaks.

    [Reply]

  12. Melissa says:

    I have an 8 week old husky. I have seen the posts about rather getting at 8 weeks- after the fact.
    the first week he was fine – quiet and friendly – always wanting to be around someone – not to be outside alone,
    just over a week now – he has started biting.
    hes very sweet and playful and I have started training him a bit – he know to sit, to pay down and to roll over (for a belly rub)
    he listens 90% of the time.
    at times he get so excited when he sees you – or after playing for about 5minutes – that the starts biting and nipping the ankles hands and clothing
    I take him for walks in the afternoon – he is fine on the walk – but once he gets home – the biting starts
    I have tried ignoring him – saying NO!! to biting, rewarding good behaviour, ignoring the biting, moving away for a while etc – but nothing work
    if hes on the floor, getting a belly rub – I re direct him with toys – so that he doesn’t bit me… I praise him and give treats sometimes – but that works only for a short while/
    he loves biting my bathrobe – the minute he sees it – he looses all control.
    what should I do?

    [Reply]

  13. Mark says:

    My one year old MaltiPoo plays by nipping. We will try the “ignoring her when she nips” method and report back.

    What treat is by far the universal dog favorite that all dogs love?

    Thanks.

    [Reply]

  14. Vicki says:

    My 3 month Pitbull nips bites and scatches me, when I get up and ignore her she insists on biting at my ankles and pulling on my pants. UGH

    [Reply]

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