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Do I need to be worried about my puppy’s biting?(27 Posts)
We have a mostly adorable 14 week old labradoodle. I know puppies mouth, but ours has actually bitten a couple of times. As in growl, then bite. First time was when I speedily removed him from a late night interaction with our pet rabbits outside, which I felt was understandable, but this seems to have expanded into growling/attempting to bite when I’m trying to pick him up for any reason where he wants to do something else. Eg if he needs to go up/downstairs. I’m working on this by using treats, advance warning I’m going to pick him up and moving slowly. This is going ok- I think. I’m following kikopups advice on puppy mouthing/biting for everything else, and I’m making sure that he can’t actually get to the rabbits to chase him until I’m confident he won’t (which may well never happen!).
2nd time was at the groomers. I went to pick him up...apparently he was growling, snarling and tried to bite the groomer! This surprised me, as he gets brushed daily at home (with treats) and paws cleaned etc and I don’t have a problem. The groomer said he needed “a firm hand”. I’m hoping she meant consistency.
Otherwise he’s friendly with other people, usually displays his best behaviour around my children, friendly to other dogs etc. He’s bright, enjoys training and is doing really well with walking, recall etc. I think he is a bit scared of some situations though. He used to shake when I had to carry him around when I first brought him home, and I don’t know if the growling when picked up etc is just a continuation of this, and maybe the groomer was just another scary situation.
I don’t want to be one of those owners who is adamant their dog can do no wrong though. This is our first dog, so I don’t feel I’m qualified to know whether we have a problem or not, or whether we need to see a behaviourist.
First I would look for another groomer. At that age they should just be doing the puppy introductions to the equipment slowly so they get used to it and stopping if it's too much for them. Lots of groomers specifically do puppy sessions because it's bloody scary for them being handled by strangers with noises scary equipment. My dog has had many vets visits which meant he gets scared by being handled at the groomers even though he is an adult and has been to the same groomer since a puppy she has to sometimes back off or adjust things when it gets too stressful for him.
Lots of dogs don't like being picked up so I think the treats thing is the way to go but I am not an expert at that but others will hopefully be on soon to advise.
Personally, I think 14 weeks is a bit young for the groomers, but even so, the first visit should just be a gentle 'getting to know you' kind of thing. It does like you should try a different groomer. I wouldn't send my dog to anyone who advocates a firm hand.
As for the picking up, don't, unless he is in danger. You are not going to be picking him up as an adult dog, so just stop doing it. However, are you sure he is not in pain? All puppies bite (sometimes bloody hard), but it's not usually done in anger. What sort of checks were done on the parents? - and I'm thinking of the lab side here. Labs are notorious for hip dysplasia. I would get him checked by a vet.
The biting seems to occur when he's being handled, so my first port of call would be the vet to check for any pain. It's a common cause of aggression as pain makes both dogs and humans alike grumpy.
If that doesn't show up anything I'd seek support from a local APDT accredited dog trainer sooner rather than later - you don't want it to become an ingrained habit.
Not all dogs cope well with the groomers - it's a lot of stimulation. Strange people, strange noises and being handled in ways they're not entirely comfortable with can be a recipe for disaster in some dogs.
At 14 weeks biting is totally normal, and yes, it does hurt. The growling/snapping is the dog telling you it's not happy with the situation so at that point the groomer should have stopped completely. The dog was screaming out that it was uncomfortable and she just kept on going!
Thank you all for your replies.
The grooming was a puppy session 😳 she did give up with his paws eventually. Unfortunately he kind of had to go to the groomers...he’s got a mainly poodle curly coat and there were parts of him that needed a trim as they were getting tricky to keep clean and/or matt free- “hygiene” areas and paws. I don’t have the foggiest what to do, so groomers it was. I will try another next time though, thank you for the advice. I shall ask around the park.
With the not picking him up...it’s hard because we’ve been advised not to let him go up/downstairs or jump in and out of the car to avoid hip/elbow stress and future problems. Plus the practicalities of life where we are- semi rural so there are a lot of stiles, many of them stone...some have a dog access route but others don’t and I’ve seen friends have to kind of manhandle adult labs over them 😂. But being practical when he’s tired and more prone to be grumpy...would it make that much difference to his joints if I let him climb the stairs himself to bed once a day? He’s fine with me picking him up to go downstairs in the morning, no treats required!
I don’t think he’s in pain but I could be wrong. He had a thorough check at the vet at 10 weeks, including joints- all fine. He is a running, jumping, roly-polying fluff ball and he’s fine with me picking up his paws one at a time to clean them if it’s muddy so there are no other obvious signs of pain.
I think I’ll see how this week goes...if things are not improving I’ll do vet, then depending on that behaviourist. They have a behaviour specialist nurse at the vets so could kill 2 birds with one stone.
Hmm, I wouldn’t let him walk up the stairs at that age. Would you consider having his bed downstairs if that reduces the need to carry? How long has he beenthis about being carried? I remember so much carrying when mine was little, to pubs/cafes or for longer outings.
I do think some groomers are not as dog friendly as you’d think as my pups first experience really freaked him out to- he didn’t snarl but shook and was scared. Much better at place I took him to after.
No advice really but some dogs really don’t like sudden movements, so maybe work on handling when he is aware of it and rewarding/praising?
I'm not sure if you're supposed to pick them up? Is it a necessity?
The time to teach good manners IS when the puppy is young. If he/she growls, threatens or bites a human he should be told, in a firm manner, not to do it If necessary, sit him with his back to you for a minute or so in order that he realises he has transgressed. If he understands that humans are not targets for aggression, you and he will have a much happier life. He won't know this as a matter of course so it is up to you to teach him.
Just come back on to say - I have had quite a few long haired dogs, current one is a poodle. I'm afraid it's a fact of life that they have hairy arseholes and sometimes poo gets stuck to the fur. It is much easier to deal with this as soon as poss if it's happened, like when you've just got back from your walk. A quick swill round the back end with a wet rag/sponge (I do this outside using the garden tap) solves the problem. If you leave it to harden it can almost form a hairy pooey blockage, so the next poo gets stuck behind it and around it and you end up with a terrible mess and a dog with a sore and smelly backside.
just a thought, could he be overtired when he is biting like this and when picked up. My pup usually bites most when completely exhausted or desperate for a pee/in the middle of zoomies. Remedy, put him down for a nap in his crate, dark quiet place, or briefly place in crate to calm down, then let him outside to pee before crating properly, and then crate for nap.
I also use a verbal association whenever I pick him up...T ...(name of dog) Up, said in upbeat way, so he knows my picking him up is benign not punitive
OP Just a thought; always praise your puppy when he has been good BUT it is important to tick him off when especially naughty otherwise he wont know when he is wrong. A good balance is needed. My next door neighbour has a dog which is an aggressive nightmare. He has been going to a behaviourist for about six months now and is even worse. He is never given a direct command and they have no idea how to teach him. Too many dogs are not controlled properly. A lot of doggy people are dismayed at the amount of dog attacks on humans and animals. Incorrect training bears a lot of responsibility for this.
Honestly if your struggling with behaviour at this age I'd get a behaviorist in now and they will teach you exactly how to handle these situations.
Some pups are harder work then others and he may be either fearful(most likely! or just opinionated) but it all comes down to how you respond to the unwanted behaviour. Hes going to be learning what is and isn't successful at the moment and you dont want him to learn growling and biting is the way to deal.
Hes pushing boundaries but hes also quite young to be displaying this level of what is likely fear aggression.
Early intervention with a proffessional may be the difference between a dog who snaps, resource guards and needs muzzling for the groomers...versus a family pet who needed to learn some boundaries and appropriate behaviour as a pup.
We carried ours up and down stairs etc. until he was six months old - I wouldn't let a 14 week old do stairs I'm afraid - they're still too young. Even now at 14 months he only does the stairs twice a day.
You can buy ramps to get them in and out of cars safely - people use them for for small breeds or older dogs. It might be worth getting one of those for him?
Mine absolutely hates being picked up. He tolerated it as a puppy but now he wriggles and clearly isn't comfortable with it. Having to get him over styles on walks is a real mission!
The thing is you get lots of conflicting advice as this thread shows.
I always said with my dog that if there was anything I was struggling with I would pay for either a trainer or a behaviourist to advise me depending on the issue. Fortunately other than for general training I didn't need to but just knowing that I could and would made me feel better. Also I know when we spoke to some trainers they knew groomers and other dog services that were suitable for certain dogs so they could advise you of a groomer that might be more appropriate for your situation.
Personally if you are worried why not do just that to give you strategies for not lifting him and what to do if he does air snaps etc.
Personally, I agree with the groomer and think he does need a firm hand.
If it was me, I would interrupt with an AH or similar and gently but firmly keep a hold of him and continue brushing or whatever.
At the first sign of calmness I would reward that with a treat.
If he is growling and posturing and biting at 14 weeks in response to you doing something he doesn’t like rather than typical puppy play I wouldn’t like to think what he might be like as an adult if this isn’t dealt with.
Update: the advance warning, slow moving and treats thing seems to have worked! Puppy had improved a lot yesterday, and was a joy to be around TBH. Today I even managed to pick him up to carry him down to our front door after our walk- and he is usually not keen to go home after being out. I even got a lick! So I’m a lot happier, and will carry on working on grooming type actions with treats, and find another groomer. Panic over, phew.
OP Don't forget that the best treat for a dog (or horse) is a big pat and being told well done. No need for them to expect food.
Biting and snarling is common, they are either frightened or trying to exert dominance, depending on which you either need to reassure or reprimand. They mostly grow out of it once they are bigger, more confident and know their place in the hierarchy (bottom in theory though mine hasn't fully accepted this, sexist creature).
The groomer however we avoid completely, far too stressful for him, he's not even keen on his comb but he sheds and is flat coated so not essential. The vet is a muzzle situation
Nice update OP. The puppy stage is an exercise in patience and emotional resilience. Every other day they seem to come up with something new to make you question whether you've made a massive mistake. Then they move on from that and find something new to torment you with. It will all pass in time. Just keep putting in time with the training, stay positive and occassionally reflect with a smile that it's been a few weeks since he's peed the carpet, eaten a shoe, excavated the garden, stripped wallpaper or whatever other annoyance he's grown out of.
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@terf It's 14 weeks old, a baby. No dog at that age is beyond redemption, as the OPs update shows.
I can only assume you know absolutely nothing about dogs.
terftastic 😂 yup he’s a fluffy killer
pecheron67 yes a fuss and love is the best treat...but it’s harder to bite someone when your mouth is full of biscuit! The idea is that treats tail off- I’ve already moved to treat at the end of being picked up for so making progress on that one! Baby steps...
I would keep an eye on this, as it does sound like there's a possibility it could be pain related- if the behaviour starts up again, I would definitely take him to see a vet.
I got a 12 week old puppy. He bites and growls a lot! When he gets excited I play a tug game with him or take him out. He needs a few minutes left alone after playing to calm down and behave again.
I cut his nails when he's sleeping and comb him also when sleeping or someone holds a treat.
It's completely normal for a puppy and I wouldn't force him into a situation where he gets scared or feel trapped because that will cause problems later.
I can already see a difference in him and he's a bit more relaxed. When he play's a tug game he looks a bit like a Tasmainian Devil - growling and hanging on for dear life!