Top 3 Tips for Managing a Puppy Turned Shark (SOS for Extreme Nipping)

All puppies nip, but does yours take it above and beyond? Do you have bruises all over your arms and legs, and ooze blood on a daily basis?


If your puppy has turned into a shark, you are not alone.

Puppy nipping can be really stressful. If you have an extreme case, everyday is like a battle. You're constantly on the lookout for when the craziness will begin. You think, this is the day I'm going to tackle the nipping. And then, Sharky gets you good anyway.


You know to be patient. You know not to react. You know all the tips the trainer gave you. But it is so hard, because well, it hurts!


Here's 3 tips to help manage the nipping, when your puppy has lost his/her mind, and you are at the end of your rope. Because the truth is, you can't teach your puppy anything if you are not in the mindset to do so. These tips will help you escape the nipping incidents immediately, and give you the space to de-stress as well.


1) Utilize your space wisely.


This is the most important piece of the puzzle.


When does your dog go into the nipping craze? Is it in one particular room, at a certain time?


Once you identify the room, make sure that the room is enclosed. Think of it as a really big play pen. You need a quick exit, while your puppy stays in. Whether that's with a baby gate, boxes, or chairs, it doesn't matter. Be ready to get out and close off the space.

Your puppy will need to be alone in this room to chill out. So, be sure that it is puppy-proof. Don't leave out important papers or an open trash can. Think like your puppy. If your pup can get into it, get it out of the room.


Anything left in there is fair game.


Make sure you can get out of the room quickly. Don't be fumbling over the gate locks and dodging clutter to get to the doorway. You need to bring out your inner ninja. When the nipping begins, you make your exit.


Once you leave the room, don't give your pup any attention until Sharky has calmed down. You can sit with your back to the barrier, or remain behind a closed door (keep it cracked so you can keep an eye on your dog).


This is about keeping you safe, but also regaining your calm. You can't interact with your pup while stressed. Yelling doesn't solve anything. Take the time you need to settle down. Take deep breaths. You are doing your best, and it's okay to be frustrated.


When you are both calm, take another go at hanging out together. You may want to grab a frozen Kong or fill a snufflemat to promote some doggie zen (licking and sniffing are calming activities for a dog).


2) Have a basket full of toys next to you at all times.


Dashing out of the room isn't easy, especially if your pup is continually chomping at your heels and jumping up for a chunk of skin. You may already know to replace nipping with a toy. Sometimes this works, but sometimes your dog is so revved up that it doesn't do a thing.


So, you need a distraction bin.

A basket of toys will do the trick. Or even empty water jugs, a pre-filled food puzzle, or bully stick. Put about 8-10 items in the bin. You can stash distraction bins around the room, or just drag the bin around with you as you move around the room.


If your dog begins to nip, try offering an item from the bin.


If that doesn't work, get up and get out.


Throw the toys one at a time, super fast, across the room. The movement can be interesting and spark curiousity. Your dog might run over to check it out, and run back to nip at you. So keep throwing the toys, as you start moving closer to your exit.


If that doesn't work, dump out the whole thing to buy you a couple seconds, and make a break for the exit. Maybe your dog will be entertained by the toys, or maybe your pup will get the zoomies. Either way, you're not in the direct path of the razor puppy teeth.


3) Put on your armor.


Often times, normal nipping happens during playtime. But the sharking, that's when your pup is over-tired, over-excited, and uncontrollable. And it's the worst in the evening.


If you're not going to overheat, put on on thick sweatpants, a sweatshirt, or maybe a coat (if it's winter, not a problem, right)?


Cover up as much skin as you can, but also grab a blanket.

When your puppy goes into shark mode, hold up the blanket in front of you like a shield, away from your body. Yes, your puppy is going to jump on that blanket and try to grab hold.


Better the blanket, than your skin!


You probably can't outrun your dog, so move backwards towards your exit as you hold up your blanket shield.


This is why you need to make sure that the path is clear and easy to get there, since you could be walking backwards. When you get to the exit, drop the blanket and close the barrier.


Be sure that it's a blanket you don't care about. If you puppy-proofed the house, anything of value should never be around a puppy!


The extra layers of clothing should help protect your skin in case your puppy gets you anyway. You'll probably still get bruised, but at least you're not bleeding.

Still getting chomped on?


It's not going to be perfect. You're still going to get nipped at. Sharking incidents will continue. This is not a quick fix. But it will get better.


When you remove yourself from the nipping, you're telling your dog that playtime is over. You're sending the message that chomping is unacceptable and you won't play with your pup if he/she acts that way.


When your puppy goes into shark mode, this is not a time for teaching your dog what to do instead. This is about your safety, and de-escalating the situation for you and your dog.


Telling your puppy "No!," yelling, or any reaction at all isn't going to help the situation. Staring your dog down and thinking you have to be the boss will only end badly. Get up, and get out of the situation.


The #1 thing you MUST do when you escape the nipping incidents is to calm down.

Take your thoughts - "I can't do this," "it isn't working," "what am I doing wrong," and shove it aside. Maybe lay flat with your back to the floor, close your eyes and just breathe.


You CAN do it, this IS working slowly, and you're doing the very BEST you can!


There are certainly strategies to prevent nipping and to teach your dog not to nip. This is important too! But when your dog is already up to shark mode regardless of your efforts, just fall back to these 3 tips.


Be consistent, and you'll see that over time, Sharky will turn into a sweet gentle dog. You've got this!

Need support as you navigate through puppyhood?


Let Piper's Walk guide you! Email info@piperswalk.org for info on coaching programs in puppy parenting.


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