As I have already explained in my essay “The aggressive puppy – do I have an aggressive dog?” in puppies nipping and chasing are all normal.
No need to be alarmed or think that you’ve adopted the “devil” of the litter. They are all the same. And they all more or less go through the same issues.
You’ve probably heard that it is advised by trustful breeders that the dogs will not be separated from their litter before the age of eight weeks.
Not only is that the approximate end of the weaning process. These first eight weeks in the litter among their siblings are also a very important phase in the process of socializing.
The puppies are playing with each other and the mother. And they are learning “How far they can go” or the so-called bite inhibition during play with their own kind.
If one exceeds the limits too far and starts nipping too hard, the other puppy will yelp to express pain and probably walk away and ignore the aggressor for a while. It only takes a few times for many puppies to experience that situation and know exactly where the limits are.
Once in our household, a completely new learning curve begins
Especially Bull Terriers have a very high pain tolerance and their skin and fur is designed by nature to bear a lot more impact and manipulation before it scratches or breaks.
Therefore their skin and ours is not comparable. And the situation with us humans is completely different than it was before among their siblings.
It is not a rare situation that the intentions of dogs are misinterpreted, when they “grab” people with their mouth. People tend to perceive this as an act of aggression, because a dog’s mouth can potentially cause injury. Yet, injury is not necessarily intended. A dog “grabbing” a person with the mouth can as well only mean to alert the person or hold it back the same way a human would use his hand for.
During play this kind of grabbing happens a lot, among dogs, and of course also among dog and human, once we become the new parent and play pal for the puppy.
And just as they needed to learn it with their siblings, now that they are living in our household they need to learn how easily their teeth can break our human skin and that they need to be extra careful when grabbing us.
Sadly we can’t tell them. Therefore they need to learn this through experience and repetition.
It is our task as the owners to teach them
A great way to teach puppies not do nip too hard is using the same method their siblings did back in the litter:
Loud yelping to show pain. This will also startle the dog and likely cause it to stop.
Subsequently just interrupt ALL interaction and ignore the dog for a moment.
If the dog does not stop, try moving it into a calm room or gently shove int into its crate with no distractions for a short time-out.
“Cries” behind closed doors should now be ignored as hard as it feels. The puppy needs to learn that revolting does not resolve the situation.
If you feel like ignoring doesn’t work, give it a few more tries and a slightly longer while each time.
After things have calmed down, invite the puppy back in and try to engage in calmer interaction.
Avoid very inciting games that involve a lot of “grabbing” during very excessive nipping phases. These games can play a role again once your dog has learned to control its steam a little better.
Every dog has its own learning speed. But most dogs will get it eventually.
If you feel like you are getting nowhere even after months, seek the help of a professional dog trainer.