Puppy biting and nipping, also known as mouthing is a natural part of puppy development. This puppy biting stage lasts for up to 5 months old and it is during this time that you should train your puppy to stop biting. You don’t want them carrying this habit to adulthood with their strong adult teeth that can inflict serious damage.
Cocker spaniel puppies are especially prone to puppy biting as cockers are bred as hunting dogs, and as such, hunting dogs need to carry things in their mouth a lot. If you have been wondering how to stop your cocker spaniel puppy from biting, we are here to tell you all you need to know about it.
Why do cocker spaniel puppies bite?
Puppies mostly explore their new world is by biting and putting things into their mouth. As they mature, they will learn to explore by sniffing and reduce the biting.
Teething is another reason puppies bite. The puppy’s new teeth start growing at around 3 weeks old and they will start falling out at about 3 months old. Teething is an uncomfortable experience for your puppy. This is why at this age, your little furry friend chews indiscriminately on everything, from your furniture upholstery, your shoes, your skin and clothes when you play with them.
Puppies also bite as a form of play. When with their dog family, puppies play with the litter and their mother by gently biting on other puppies and their mother. Whilst playing with the other puppies, a puppy will learn how to regulate their bite strength to avoid hurting their playmate. This brings us to bite inhibition and the importance of this process to your puppy.
What is bite inhibition?
Bite inhibition is a puppy development process in which a puppy learns how to control the strength of its bite. As we have already seen, playful biting is one of the natural ways your pup plays with their litter. Naturally, puppies love playing and instinctively want to keep the biting playful and painless so that the play can go on.
If a puppy bites a playmate or the mother too hard during play, they will yelp or growl to let the puppy know that their bite is painful. They will also end the play. Puppies are an energetic, playful bunch and don’t want the play to end. With time, they learn how to control the strength of their bite so that they don’t hurt their playmate and halt the play.
As bite inhibition is first learned when playing with the puppy’s dog family, you don’t want to take them away too early. When you finally bring them home, you can continue training them on this to let them know how soft or hard their bite should be. This can be done by yelping, just like their dog family did when they bite too hard and saying ‘NO’ in a stern voice to let them know it’s not acceptable. You should also stop the play for a while. This will communicate the same message to the pup.
You will not stop mouthing completely in a short time, but with training, your puppy will learn when to bite and how not to bite, and with time, they will grow out of it.
Read next: Why does my cocker spaniel smell more than usual?
Read next: How to stop a cocker spaniel from licking
How to stop a cocker spaniel puppy from biting
Other than training your pup on bite inhibition, here are other ways you can train your cocker spaniel puppy to stop biting.
Get them biting toys to give puppies something they are allowed to chew on
One of the main reasons why puppies bite, nip, or chew on things is because they are teething. At this puppy development stage, puppies will chew and bite on anything, including your unlucky fingers and clothes when you are playing with your little furry companion.
The reason puppies bite and chew when teething is because their gums are irritated and painful. Puppies, therefore, start chewing and biting on things to relieve the discomfort. This chewing and biting are inevitable. The best thing you can do is find your pup something alternative to bite and chew on.
Chew toys and tug toys are crucial at this stage. You will need to redirect their biting and chewing to these toys. It will not stop all the chewing on things you don’t want them to chew on, or biting, but it will reduce the damage and they will start to learn what they can chew.
Stop playing with your puppy after they bite you.
One of the best ways to teach your furry friend to control their bite strength is by adopting what their dog family would do. When your puppy bites you hard, let them know that that kind of biting is not acceptable by yelling ‘No’ followed by a break from the play. As we already mentioned, puppies love playing and by teaching them that biting stops play, they will avoid biting and nipping and gradually abandon the biting habit.
The shaking method
Hold your pup’s collar and as you play with them and have some treats with you. When they bite, give the collar a sudden tug or shake but don’t be too rough. Just enough to be uncomfortable for the puppy. This conditions your puppy to associate biting with discomfort. This makes the puppy avoid biting because they don’t want the discomfort that follows. When they do something you like, praise them and give them a treat. The tug also calms them down when they are hyperactive.
Make sure your puppy gets enough exercise
Cocker spaniels are specifically more active compared to other dog breeds. This is why you should make sure your cocker spaniel gets enough physical exercise to expel most of that energy. Exercise may not stop mouthing entirely, but the puppy will at least direct that energy into exercise rather than destructive chewing and biting.
Biting and nipping or mouthing is a natural puppy development stage. To make sure that your little furry friend does not carry this habit to adulthood when their adult could inflict serious damage, train them to stop biting when they are still young.
Use all the anti-biting training methods we have mentioned here but above all, remember to be consistent. They will not stop biting overnight, don’t give up. Keep up the training. Also, bear in mind that your cocker spaniel puppy may not stop biting completely, but with time, they will develop a soft mouth and remember it can take around 6 months for them to learn not to bite, just in time as they start getting their adult teeth not soon after.