I have a 15-week-old Jack Russell puppy. I’ve had Jack Russells in the past, but always older rescue dogs, so I’m new to puppies. Every morning when I get up, he becomes really excited and bites my ankles and pulls my trousers. I have tried standing still and ignoring the behaviour in the hope that he stops, but he has ripped my trousers and hurt my foot. How can I discourage this behaviour? I don’t want him to be doing it as an adult!
Kirsten Dillon advises…
The good news is that this is normal puppy behaviour and is unlikely to continue into adulthood, but we do need to manage it in the meantime. The key to solving unwanted puppy mouthing is to keep the pup below his excitement threshold as much as possible. This threshold is the invisible ‘line’ where puppies go from being able to think about what they are doing, to sheer emotional excitement. There are different ways we can keep a puppy from becoming over-excited, although first thing in the morning is probably the most difficult time, as our pup is well rested and more than ready to engage.
Invest in a crate or baby gate to give yourself space from your pup as you approach and give him time to calm down before you let him out. Use these few seconds to redirect his excitement to a toy or treat instead of your clothes. If this isn’t possible, give him a food treat to chew on while you attach a puppy houseline to his collar and lead him gently outside to toilet without engaging him. Once he has calmed down a little, show him he has done the right thing by calmly praising him, being mindful not to arouse his excitement levels once more. You can keep the houseline on while you are in the room with him, as this may help you interrupt the unwanted biting without providing the accidental reward of attention – but do remove it if he is unattended.
At 15 weeks, he will be cutting his adult teeth and may well have sore gums, which won’t help, so make sure he has plenty of age-appropriate chews to ease the discomfort (adult chew toys may break his teeth). Soft rope toys that have been in the freezer can be a good, soothing chew toy