If your puppy starts biting when you go outside in the yard, you are likely desperately seeking some solutions.
Nobody likes to be nipped and scratched by sharp teeth and nails, and the more you try to stop your puppy, the more he persists.
The good news is that, if the biting occurs mostly when out in the yard, this predictability gives you opportunity to take some steps to reduce this behavior.
Discover what's behind this behavior, and what you can do to ameliorate the situation.
A Place to Stretch Out the Legs
Many puppies and young dogs associate yard-time with time to act hyper.
The extra space is inviting for stretching those legs and throwing a party.
If you own two dogs, most likely you have noticed how they automatically start romping and playing when you open the door that lead to the yard.
For many dogs, the yard is the canine equivalent of an amusement park, where they get to do their favorite things.
Engagement in Rough Play
Many puppies get a case of "zoomies" when they're taken outside.
They'll run around and try to engage their owners in rough play.
It's not unusual for them to suddenly launch on their owners and nip in hopes of some interaction.
This can start early in puppyhood, but it can exacerbate once adolescence is around the corner if not tackled early.
From 6 months upwards, teenager dogs are bigger and stronger so they may appear more intimidating than a small puppy tugging at your pant legs.
A Matter of Pent Up Energy
In particular, puppies and young dogs may launch themselves against their helpless humans when they have pent-up energy and don't know what to do with it.
This may be the case when dogs haven't been exercised enough or haven't received enough mental stimulation after days of being confined at home due to bad weather.
A Quest for Attention
Many puppies and young dogs crave interaction and attention.
If you go out in the yard and start attending to your garden or sit down planning to read a book, your puppy may try to get you to interact with him.
Puppies who deeply crave attention may do anything for a little attention, even if that happens to be attention of the "negative type."
In other words, just looking at them, scolding them or pushing them away qualifies as attention to them.
And the more you try to push them away, the more they'll engage with you.
If they can get you to get up and try to chase them around in hopes of putting them in a timeout, even better! That qualifies as a game of "chase!"
Getting Caught in a Vicious Cycle
Sometimes, you may start getting more and more fed up by this behavior.
This can leads to a vicious cycle where the more fed up and frustrated we become, the more our dogs sense this and we increase the arousal levels in the dog.
Getting angry with the dog or using physical corrections though will only backfire. The dog may lose trust in us, and from nipping out of play, these dogs may start nipping defensively.
How to Stop a Puppy From Biting You in the Yard
If your puppy is biting you when outside in the yard, you are likely frustrated by this behavior.
Perhaps your have tried ignoring your puppy or turning around and walking away only to end up being bitten more intensely and now with a croco-pup attached to your leg!
Fortunately, there are several more effective strategies you can try. In most cases, you will need to take a multi-faceted approach, tackling the issue from a variety of angles.
Stop Getting Angry
It's easy to get frustrated by this behavior, and the temptation to use a shock collar or some physical corrections such as closing the puppy's mouth shut or grabbing him by the collar and pushing him to the ground may be strong.
Please don't fall into this trap. Our puppies won't understand why we are punishing them as they're just playing and trying to interact with us.
We may cause more problems down the road that are far bigger than playful nipping.
Prevent Rehearsal of the Behavior
Dogs are quite routine-based animals. They like to know what's happening next and they can quickly settle into new habits if we don't nip things in the bud.
The more your puppy rehearses out-of-control behaviors involving you in the yard, the ingrained and habit-forming it will become.
Soon, getting out that door will become a cue that "wild play" is on.
It therefore helps to prevent undesirable behaviors from establishing, and if they have already established, taking a variety of steps to provide outlets and suitable replacement behaviors that dog finds more satisfying than engaging in rowdy play.
Provide Outlets for Pent Up Energy
Make sure your puppy receives enough exercise and mental stimulation throughout the day.
Offer brain games, food puzzles, durable, yet safe toys to chew, walks (discuss this your vet if your puppy hasn't finished his vaccinations), play productive games that don't involve nipping you directly (fetch, tug, flirt pole).
Create a New Yard-Time Routine
On top of the above activities provided during the day, you also want to have a plan in place for when you need to take your dog out of the yard so that your dog has something else to do rather than just think about nipping.
Following are several options involving the use of kibble/treats. If you are concerned about calories use kibble only.
This is a great way to put your dog's food to good use rather than just letting your dog wolf it down within seconds.
Keep some extra kibble in your pocket just in case so that you're ready to redirect your dog as you see him approach you with an intent to bite!
Turn Yard Time Into a Treasure Hunt Game
Strategically hide around the yard a variety of kibble/treats so that once out, your dog has a fun treasure hunt game waiting for him!
It may not be easy initially getting his mind off of nipping you, but you can introduce this game by grabbing some kibble as you head together outdoors and tossing some around the yard in a sprinkler manner, as you point and tell him happily to "go find em!"
Once your pup is done, the moment you notice him approaching you, you can toss more around for him to find.
End the session by opening the door as your dog is searching those last kibbles, and then toss some kibble indoors so that you can both re-enter together without any nipping involved.
At some point, once your dog learns the ropes of this game, you can also hide the kibble in the yard in many places *before* taking your dog outdoors so once you both head out, you can just tell him to "go find em!" and watch him go on a longer treasure hunt.
Turn Yard Time into a Treat Toss Game
This is a more dynamic game which allows your dog to also get a little workout.
As in the treasure hunt game, grab some kibble as you head together outdoors and toss some around the yard in a sprinkler manner, as you point and tell him happily to "go find em!"
Then, when your dog approaches you, ask him to sit, and toss one kibble far in the yard. Once he eats that, he'll likely come back to you.
Rinse and repeat several times so that your dog is yo-yoing back and forth between sitting and chasing kibble.
When it's time to go inside, as he catches that last kibble, open the door and ask for a final sit and toss the treat indoors.
Provide Independent Activities
A good option to keep your dog focused on something else when out in the yard is to provide opportunities for independent outdoor activities.
You will need to find activities that surpass the reinforcement your dog gets from interacting with you though, so this may need some experimenting.
You can try the following:
- Provide a stuffed Kong with goodies to keep him occupied. Freezing the Kong provided longer entertainment.
- Provide a durable and safe edible chew like a Bully stick or Himalayan chew.
- Try a Bubble Making machine for dogs. These make bubbles that are bacon-flavored.
- Try a tennis ball launcher. These take care of launching the ball for you so that you're out of the equation.
- Try to use remote chasing toys such as Play Bone or Wicked Bone. Supervise to ensure the toy isn't chewed.
- Swift Paws is on the pricey side, but it has many owners enthusiastic about it. You'll need to allow your dog to take breaks and talk with your vet before use if you have a developing puppy as you don't want to cause damage to developing joints due to all the fast turns.
Games That Keep the Mouth Busy
Tug is a good game, but it needs to be played by the rules. This means the pup must have some foundation training on how to "drop" and 'take" on cue.
A flirt pole can come handy too considering that many pups can't resist playing with it. Even here, adding some structure under the form of "take," leave it" and "drop" can help instill some impulse control.
Ensure Enough Sleep
Finally, something to consider is that puppies can get particularly nippy when tired.
Puppies need enough sleep to do their growing, so you'll need to enforce naps if your puppy struggles finding his "off button."
This could mean keeping your pup in a quiet place with little stimulation so do induce relaxation and sleep.