It’s common knowledge that animals learn through exploring with their mouths. And while it isn’t usually too painful for pet owners to get nipped by a puppy or kitten, the real problems begin when the pet grows up and starts replicating the behaviour that was once deemed acceptable.
This is because the animal will have used such behaviour in response to every other scenario they’ve faced, from playing to confrontation.
If we want to avoid aggressive biting in the future, we need to nip this problem in the bud by teaching our pets that biting is never okay.
Reasons for biting
There are many reasons why a puppy or kitten may bite:
- Some reasons may include; during play, as a way of getting attention, or because they are teething. Although biting for reasons such as these generally aren’t intended to be aggressive, this behavior might make the pet more likely to do it in adulthood.
- This can be dangerous for anyone who comes into contact with them including their owners, so the animal needs to learn from a young age that biting is not an appropriate response to anything.
- Animals like dogs and cats naturally use biting as a way to interact and play with others.
- For puppies and kittens, this is how they learn how hard they can bite without hurting someone.
- When they come into a new home, they don’t know the difference between biting other animals and biting humans.
- It’s up to us to teach them what is acceptable.
This needs to start as soon as you bring your new pet into your home. It’s important not to allow your puppy or kitten to bite, even if the nip is small.
This can set the precedent for more aggressive behaviour in the future. Your pet shouldn’t chew on your hand either, as they will then think using their mouth is an acceptable form of interaction with you.
Putting your hand near the pet’s mouth will confuse them, as they will not understand why they are reprimanded for biting sometimes but not others.
If your pet bites you during play, use strong verbal signals to emphasise that you want them to stop. For example, you could shout ‘no’ in a loud, firm voice or yelp loudly to mimic another animal.
Always praise your pet if they stop biting, and continue the same steps throughout play to train them not to bite.
If this proves ineffective, try moving away from your pet and show a lack of emotion towards them.
This will halt game playing and illustrate that biting is unacceptable. Continue playing and repeat the process with each nip.
What to avoid?
- It’s generally a bad idea to tease or annoy your pet, as they may get frustrated and bite you.
- The same goes for games that involve power struggles – these could bring out your pet’s base instincts.
- Instead, try playing alternative games like fetch with a dog or rolling a ball with a cat.
- These still encourage the vital social interaction between you and your pet, but without the power struggle element.
- If they do bite your hand or foot, resist pulling away. This may just make them want to pounce more. Instead, try making your limb go limp in their mouth. This should cause them to lose interest.
- You must never punish your pet by slapping or hitting them. This could lead to more aggressive behaviour, such as biting harder, which could have dangerous consequences.
It’s always beneficial to let your pet play with other animals. If you have family or friends with pets, see if you can set up a playdate. Not only will your pet be more socialized, but they can also learn manners from the other animals.
What they learn from their interactions with others can help them understand how to behave around their owners. Be sure that all pets involved are up to date on their vaccinations before meeting.
If your pet’s biting behaviour is proving to be a problem, you should take them to the vet in order to rule out any potential medical issues. You could also consult a behaviourist.
Insuring your pet is another way you can protect them from biting incidents. Animal Friends offer a range of policies for you to choose from, which can help give you peace of mind.