If you're puppy is still biting at 7 months, you may feel confused and overwhelmed.
You may have heard that puppy biting should reduce in intensity and frequency as your puppy matures, but this doesn't seem like the case.
Before feeling helpless, it helps taking a closer look into what may be triggering the persisting biting so that you can properly tackle it.
The Onset of Adolescence
Once a puppy is over the age of 6 months, he or she is entering the adolescent stage, or is very close to it.
This is a time of many challenges. Indeed, statistically, it has been found, must dogs are relinquished to shelters during this difficult time as they're more likely to encounter behavior problems.
During this time, it's also not unusual for dogs to become mouthy, with some dog owners even feeling as if their dogs are undergoing a second teething stage!
In reality, there is some truth to this considering that many dogs undergo a chewing phase between the age of 8 and 10 months as the permanent teeth settle in the dog's jaw.
A Quest for Attention
In many cases of puppies who persistently bite past puppyhood, the behavior is prevented from extinguishing because it's often inadvertently reinforced by the owners.
This can happen when dog owners ignore the dog for a good part of the day because they're busy or at work, and then the dog is given oodles attention the moment he bites.
Here's the thing: for an attention-deprived dog, any type of attention is better than no attention at all. Therefore, they'll bite just to have you look at them, or maybe even scold them or push them away.
This qualifies for them as interaction, and it's often enough to keep the behavior alive and well.
A History of Play
Sometimes, biting that persists from puppyhood is the result of dog owners who haven't worked to reduce the biting, or maybe, they have been playing with their pups in physical ways such as by wrestling and roughhousing and never weaned them off from these games.
These dogs are play biting, but the behavior can become a problem when they are the ones initiating the play and their arousal levels are high.
An adult dog's body trapped in a puppy's mind is not a good recipe, especially once those permanent teeth are in and their jaws are stronger.
No Outlets For Their Needs
As dogs reach adolescence, their needs for training, exercise and mental stimulation increase.
However, you may have to restrict certain types of exercises that are high-impact such as jogging, catching Frisbees or certain canine sports due to risks to the dog's growth plates.
You'll therefore have to find a balancing act between providing enough exercise to burn off some steam, and without overdoing it.
When dogs aren't provided with sufficient outlets for their needs for exercise, training and mental stimulation, this can lead to destructive behaviors and even biting.
Did you know? Some dog breeds are more predisposed to biting because of their past history. Border collies, German shepherds, Australian cattle dogs, Old English sheepdogs, shelties and other dogs selectively bred for herding are particularly nippy due to their history as herding dogs.
A Matter of Feeling Cranky
Sometimes, excessive nipping may occur as a result of the dog being overly tired, but overstimulated.
Similar to toddlers, dogs who are tired can get cranky and this may lead to undesirable behaviors such a excessive licking and other undesirable behaviors.
Some dogs struggle finding their "off button'" to relax. Others can't fall asleep because they have a fear of missing out.
You may have to create an ideal environment that is inducive to sleep to enforce naps.
Stopping What They Don't Like
Nipping can sometimes stem from a dislike for certain types of interactions. Dogs use it as a way to make you stop.
For example, if your dog doesn't like to have his paws handled, or doesn't like you to grab him by the collar, he may learn that biting keeps your hands away.
Since you'll instinctively move your hands away when your dog snaps, this reinforces the biting.
Snapping and threatening to bite may also be a way for your dog to keep your hands away from things your dog is possessive about such as a toy or bone.
How to Tackle a Puppy Still Biting at 7 Months?
To stop a 7-month old puppy from biting, you'll need to address the underlying causes and take a multi-faceted approach tackling the issue from different angles.
Following are some general guidelines.
- Schedule several training sessions a day to keep your puppy busy and happy.
- Engage him in brain games and offer him food puzzles.
- Offer exercise in fresh air, walks, games and organize play dates with a few buddies he gets along with.
- Turn into a tree, cross your arms when your puppy starts biting and even leave the room if he persists. If your puppy starts nipping harder, consider that, that may be part of extinction burst.
- Wear tall Wellington boots to make biting your legs less appealing to your puppy and less painful for you.
- Preempt the biting by redirecting him to an activity *before* he has a chance to bite. In other words, when you notice him approaching you with an intent to bite, toss a kibble away from you. Rinse and repeat. Make this a new routine. Once he gets the idea, you can start asking for a sit before he you toss the kibble.
- Stop any physical roughhousing and wrestling and use toys to keep your dog's mouth busy. A long tug toy or a flirt pole can be fun alternative games.
- Work on making being handled a looked-forwarded to activity, so that there is no longer a need to bite to keep hands away. Here are some exercises: 9 handling exercises for puppies.
- Ensure your puppy gets enough sleep. Keep him in a quiet area with some chew toys and relaxing music playing.
- And of course, if your dog ever shows signs of aggression or bites hard, please consult with a behavior professional using force-free, humane behavior modification.