By: Peta Gay Railton
Obviously, nipping and biting behaviour from your pet is less than ideal, and for a number of reasons it’s important to limit it. Realistically, they’re natural behaviours for dogs and cats.
In fact, they’re natural behaviours for kids too! What’s the first thing an infant does when it grasps something new? Chances are, it goes in the mouth, and if it’s fun or feels good it happens again! It’s exactly the same for cats and dogs.
That said, when it comes to your cats and dogs, you need to draw a line to make sure you have a happy, well-socialised pet who doesn’t terrorise the family or the neighbourhood.
Train your puppy to understand that hands are not for chewing
It’s imperative that pets learn that hands are completely out of bounds, which means that you need to train them so they dissociate chewing hands with fun.
This lesson is best learned in the context of play. The idea is that it’s okay for your pet to chew on a toy, but if they bite your hands, you squeal or exclaim, then have time out and stop the game. A puppy will quickly learn that there are repercussions for biting human hands and learn not to do it.
Don’t put your puppy in the way of temptation
When you’re teaching your pet not to bite, you need to be sensible. For instance, if you have a child tearing up and down a hallway in PJs, a puppy is not going to be able to resist chasing and grabbing the kid’s pyjamas—it’s irresistible fun!
The bottom line here is that you need to restrain a pup from doing it in the first place. If the puppy never learns what great fun it is to chase someone and grab at their clothes, you won’t end up with a problem.
Likewise, when you have kids playing in a yard together or playing chasey, your puppy needs to be restrained. It might sound harsh, but if you want to bring up a well-adjusted, well-mannered puppy, leaping all over children can’t be part of the deal.
Again, if you restrain your puppy while kids are tearing around, the pup will never learn what great fun it is to race about after them, and won’t have the opportunity to wreak havoc, jump all over them or scratch. Don’t make it a punishment though. If you need to tie your puppy up, make sure you give it a good pat and a bone.
Make sure you play with the pup afterwards. For instance, a puppy can have just as much fun playing tug of war or fetch with you afterwards; you just don’t want to encourage puppies to be running around like lunatics, nipping at kids’ heels.
It’s not impossible to stop your cat from nipping and biting behaviour
While you’re unlikely to have much luck training a cat to do anything, there are definitely ways to minimise feline nipping and biting behaviour. It all starts by learning to read a cat’s body language and behaviour.
Cats generally give out a bit of a warning, if you know what you’re looking for. The classic scenario is where a cat rolls on its back. Sometimes this can mean that your pussycat wants to play and at other times it can prompt a swift counterattack on your hand.
Make sure you pay close attention to your cat’s face, tail and ears. Admittedly, cats are harder to read than dogs, but if the ears go flat, or the tail starts flicking side to side, back off!