So it seems that I wrote this post a while back (before Kona had her adult teeth) and then promptly forgot to post it. After much delay, here’s a little Kona-ism that we discovered while working on Kona’s bite inhibition as a young pup.
Until they’ve spent time around a puppy, most people (myself included) have no idea that all puppies nip. It is the way they interact with their littermates and it is an important part of play, because they teach one another when bites are too strong.
Once you bring your puppy home, away from its littermates, that nipping gets directed towards you and any other human that might be around. In fact, most greetings of new people involve some form of nipping. For people like me, who are not at ease with the concept of sharp teeth on your skin, it can be a bit intimidating. The key is to get over that fear. It is important that your puppy learn early on the strength behind his / her bite and the level of strength that is acceptable. Puppy teeth are razor-sharp, but at that early age they do not have the strength in their jaw. As they grow up and gain strength they lose their puppy teeth and replace them with monstrous adult teeth.
The key is to teach them bite inhibition before they gain that strength. Part of the reason behind this is to avoid a dangerous bite being directed towards a human in the event of a future incident where an adult dog is frightened or startled. This is accomplished by allowing the puppy to chew / nibble on you when they are not overly excited. If the bite is too hard, you let out a loud yelp, just like another puppy would.
I had to force myself to let Kona nibble on me, as my natural instinct is to avoid it. Once I did though, I found I not only became a lot more comfortable around Kona but also around dogs in general. I’m completely at ease with young nipping puppies now which makes playing with them a lot more fun!
There was a cute quirk we discovered in all of this nipping. Kona would often respond to our yelp with an apologetic lick. But that’s not the cutest part… Kona would stop her nipping, look at us, look at her paw and bite it, then look back at us. It seemed to us that she was testing out her bite to see how strong it really was and thinking, “Seriously? They think this is too hard?!?”
All of this nipping and chewing was well worth the effort on our parts. Kona has developed excellent soft mouth and it is rare that one of us has cause to yelp. In fact, we didn’t even notice the change until my family commented in July that Kona was no longer nipping. It’s something that just disappeared seemingly overnight.