Wylanbriar Labradors

Est: 1994
Bred for Temperament, Type and Trainability

Play Biting/Mouthing & Adrenaline

Play biting/Mouthing and Adrenaline



(Photo caption:   They are lovely when they are asleep!! 😉  )

I thought I’d write this for reference now , for puppy seekers, and for ‘now’ for new puppy owners.
Puppies are, day by day, hour by hour, learning life’s rules. Learning their boundaries set by you. And learning what is fun and what isn’t. It’s all natural.
They of course are also immature, so they have to also start to try and understand the complex language of humans, as opposed to up to now, their own kind, or a breeder who should have a fairly decent grasp of ‘talking dog’.
Everyone may have their own ideas of their acceptable boundaries and behaviour, but most owners agree, being chomped on, in play, or in a adrenaline fuelled frenzy, is not top of their ‘to do’ list
Now let’s look at the basic categories… which are always going to be blurred……
Mouthing…..: Dogs are very mouth oriented. They use their mouths to explore all sorts.
One of the points of ownership is to teach what pressure when mouthing is acceptable. It’s not to completely eliminate it in most circumstances.
Some owners may be too nervous of not being able to clearly express when the pup has made an error of judgement and mouthed ‘too hard’, to allow it at ALL. That is entirely their choice. The negative of this is the pup will never learn what is and isn’t acceptable as a youngster… therefore if mouthing comes in later during frustration times (such as lead walking) the bigger dog will have no idea of right and wrong on this……
A lot of mouthing can be calm, in quiet laying down, lazy play. I’d call this acceptable, even useful. Until it escalates…..
Play biting….: well you could probably call this mouthing too. But tends to be termed when the pup has a fair bit more adrenaline attached into it. It’s grabbed at a bit of you or your clothing and is ‘wreastling’ with it if left alone to carry on. It’s often accompanied with noise. Sometimes fairly fierce vocalisations.
This can scare owners. You wouldn’t believe how many ‘very small pups’ have been deemed ‘aggressive’ because they use ‘litter noises’ ‘tiger growling’ ‘growling and snarling’ ‘head shaking’ ‘lunges’ etc during such behaviour.
In a litter this happens all the time between pups. Sometimes they get so fierce and hysterical they scream and literally torture one another…… all in the name of play! But alarming looking play all the same to the novice eye.
It never happens between the pups and their mum, not using her physically anyway. Occasionally yes if they are sharing a toy and mum is happy to ‘play’ letting the pup be a tiny little wolf on the end of the toy she ultimately knows she is in control of.
No breeder would allow them self to be used that way to ‘run off adrenaline or ‘practice prey killing tactics’ on. No.
Your relationship with your pup does not have to be a compromise. You are a human, firstly. You are ultimately the equivalent of the pups ‘mum’ if we want to assign you a label…. you are their teacher, caterer, carer and provider. You are NOT their litter sibling. You also do not have to provide the entertainment nor accept behaviours they’d use on siblings. Indeed, most of those behaviours would be best left behind as soon as possible as very few are acceptable human/dog interactions….(except, remember, mum might occasionally play with a toy knowing she is ultimately in control and can walk away at anytime…)
Adrenaline rules your pups judgements at all times. So keeping adrenaline low mostly is king. As adrenaline rises that’s when unwanted behaviours and bad judgements on the pups part happen.
So yes it might grab your tracksuit bottoms as they are stretchy and fun and start tugging and snarling. Adrenaline rises….. the tracksuit fights back!!!! ….. adrenaline rises further!!!! ….. you put your hands down to detach pup…….it turns its attention to THEM!!! You start trying to detach your hands or pull them away….. hands become tracksuit!!!!….. adrenaline is through the roof!!!!!! Pup is having an amazing time…. one it will wish to repeat as often as possible!!!!
……. No. Just no.
Can you see at this point, making silly noises, tapping noses, making squeaky ouch sounds…. only exaserbates the situation. The more a pup in the litter shrieks, frankly the harder the adrenalised other pup attacks it!!!!
Trying to pin the pup down, for example, just is you being a tracksuit!! You are fighting back…. feeding the fire!!
They won’t hear, and they can’t reason.
There are several ways to stop this in its tracks. And try and picture, 8/9/10 weeks? This is amusing, possibly entertaining seeing something so small lose its shit in trying to be a mini wolf!
In a months time this will not be. In three months time this can be a relationship changer! It will also define how your pup fights when you ask it to do something it doesn’t want to….. like stand still whilst something exciting passes you on the pavement, or when you ask it to walk in a civilised fashion on the lead etc etc. If the above is never stopped in its tracks, deemed utterly unacceptable, then you cannot blame the pup for using that behaviour which is fun and rewarding and gets it TONS of attention whenever it’s adrenaline or frustration rises……..
So what do you do?
Well firstly yes, I’d allow quiet mouthing. To some extent, when the pup is calm , possibly laying with me…. and then clearly express when they go over the boundary, my boundary, by shoving them away and walking away the second they do. Yes you started ‘the game’ but it was an educational one where YOU teach the boundary……
(If it helps compare this, to, say, a few throws of a tennis ball…. great!…. but if the pup started to lose its shit and bark at you ordering you to ‘throw it, throwing bitch!!!!’ Hopefully you’d immediately pocket the ball and walk away…..
IMMEDIATELY! Not try and reason with the dog or break through its hysteria…. you’d just stop it immediately…..)
And, in cases of actual ‘using you as a sibling’, grabbing at you, snarling, etc…. I’d personally give it a body or snout whack and walk away completely…. immediately…. the second the hysteria started to kick in….. immediately…..
Many owners prefer not to ‘whack and walk’, although the short sharp shock is hugely and memorably longterm effective, and that’s fair enough…
…. so I’d definately take the pup by the scruff and lift it bodily off the ground by it, and carry it like that a good few yards and Chuck it out the room or plonk it over a baby gate.
If you want to put a hand under its arse too fine but carry it by the scruff and yes it might squeal….. but this is momentary, and it’s for the pups own good. It’s a mild version of short shap shock, but it’s also good as:
It will be surprised and will let go.
It will submit to you carrying it like that as it can’t reach any part of you to bite.
It’s now away from you and somewhere it can calm down.
If this was a bigger let’s say 3 month old plus pup, I’d drag it by its collar quite possibly with its front legs off the ground.
The thing being this is instant. It’s not planned or set up, it’s brief. No one should have to justify reacting instantly to something that causes them pain and they KNOW will become a real headache if left unchecked.
* So as adrenaline rises. Push away physically and walk away.
* If hysteria and adrenaline has kicked in, ‘whack and walk’…. or ‘lift and tip’ …(over baby gate/into crate/out a door and shut it…..)
How you actually physically handle a pup speaks volumes to me. New owners are always going to be unconfident. Give poor leadership and boundaries…. Put their hands limply and enticingly in stupid places …..
…. and children with their own high level of adrenaline will always pour TNT into what is a tough enough situation without them.
Making stupid ‘ouccch!’ noiises or high pitched squeaky yelps just cranks adrenaline UP.  Anyone who suggests this to you has NEVER witnessed a real litter of 6 week olds fighting, shrieking and yelping! Whoever shrieks, gets bitten all the harder till its a absoliute ear splitting scream!!! They thrive on those daft noises!
I don’t get play bitten by my pups more than once or twice, as I firstly walk away before they get cranked up. I secondly know there will be a couple of cold headed corrections and then the message will be in.
I know this is harder for new owners.
I hope this helps you understand.
You may find modern life suggests other remedies. Fine. Go with what works. But if any of those don’t teach the pup right or wrong, you are likely as not setting yourself up for this little gem to creep back in whenever the pup wants to express real frustration later…. as I say…. because they ARE mouth orientated creatures.
Be decisive and clear…….’. Don’t be a tracksuit.
Wylanbriar 2020.