Portuguese Water Dogs are a very mouthy breed. They were bred to work on a fishing boat carrying messages and other tasks with their mouths. How do you stop a nipping puppy?
There isn’t one right answer on this one but here are some of the things that I am doing with Mr Magoo. Have I curbed him completely? No but he is doing much better than Miss Millie at his age.
Using a Clicker
If clicker training is something you are doing or open to trying this is potentially a great option. At a very high level you will shape your puppy to stop nipping. Sounds idealistic right? It is possible and pretty cool.
You will need a clicker. For most training you can just use a marker word but I find with nipping your voice is not a good deterrent. If you don’t have a clicker, you can pick up one here i-Click Clickers. I really like these because they are a little subtler than the old school metal clickers. Plus, my dogs seem to respond better to them.
Start with putting your fist in front of your puppy’s mouth. When your puppy elects to leave your fist alone, even if it is for one second, click and treat. Continue this until your puppy is leaving your fist alone.
Next you will up the criteria and start moving your fist around in front of them. Again, when your puppy leaves your fist alone, even for a second, click and treat. In both of these exercises if they are nose or paw bumping your fist I click and treat those as well.
Continue to up the requirements to get a treat. Make the time longer, use a flat hand, a finger, your foot, a shoe, and anything else your puppy is interested in. This example requires you to spend time shaping the behavior you want, which in the long run helps with other training.
Put it On Command
You can use a clicker or a marker word, like yep, to shape the behavior you want. The goal here is to teach “Open” and “Close” of their mouth. Again, this is totally possible with a puppy it just takes time and practice to make it happen.
Teach “Open” by handing your puppy a toy and then as soon as they open their mouth click and treat. They don’t have to take the toy they just need to open their mouth. The quicker you can mark the behavior the faster the training will go.
Up the criteria so they have to keep their mouth open for a second or two. At that time, you can add the command “Open” or whatever you would like to use. This is not the same as “Give” or “Drop” this is purely reserved for opening the mouth. This is great for vet visits and teeth brushing.
Teaching “Close” is a bit more challenging because you will have to catch him with mouth open but not when you are giving the “Open” command. When your puppy has his mouth open, say he’s getting ready to nip, move your position. As soon as she closes her mouth click and treat.
I like to teach “Give Kisses” as another option. Not everyone likes this option but it has worked wonders with my dogs. The goal is to have your puppy lick your hand instead of biting you. When they go to bite you, I make the kissing sound and act like I’m going to kiss them. Generally, they will stop biting and lick you. Mark that behavior and give them a treat.
This is both the hardest and easiest option. When your puppy starts nipping you redirect him to do something you want him to do. The upside to this is that you can use any toys or chews you have in your home. The downside, you have to have at least one with you at all times.
In my house, I have all of his toys in my office at arm’s reach. If Mr Magoo starts chewing on my desk, feet, or Miss Millie I can quickly refocus him. I keep chews and toys in other rooms of my house so I can quickly grab something.
However, if I get caught unprepared it is hard to call him off chewing.
All of these options have their upsides and downsides but the goal of each is to stop a nipping puppy. And make your puppy more fun to be around.
There are other options that require negative associations and I do not condone any of those. You don’t want to shame your puppy into something or they are less likely to work with you as they get bigger.
Are there any other positive training techniques you have used that have worked to stop a nipping puppy?
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links. In fact, just go ahead and assume that anywhere you see a link, that it’s an affiliate link. There is no additional cost if you decide to make a purchase; We will simply earn a small commission. We will never refer a product or service that we don’t use or have experience with. But don’t take our word for it – do your own research on any products or services to be sure they’ll be a fit for you. If you have questions on any of these, please ask!
stop a nipping puppy