Rottweiler Puppy Biting: What Happens in the Litter

At six weeks, a Rottweiler puppy’s sharp milk teeth start irritating the nursing mother which becomes reluctant to nurse and the weaning process begins. It is around this age, between six and seven weeks, that puppies start understanding the basics of bite inhibition. The Rottweiler puppy starts playing with its litter mates and if he bites too hard, the other puppy will squeal sharply and withdraw from the game. This ‘time-out’ basically teaches the puppy that in order to play, he must be more gentle with its teeth; a very important lesson in bite inhibition. The same happens when the pup bites too hard when nursing; mom will likely stand up and leave.

In both cases the Rottweiler puppy learns through negative punishment, basically, his naughty behavior decreases because something a puppy likes is taken away. In this case, the puppy likes to play, but his license to play with other puppies is abruptly revoked when he bites too hard. However, when he bites gently, his play mates continue to play, therefore his kinder biting is rewarded. Soon the puppy learns to put 2 and 2 together: if I bite too hard, good things stop, but if I gauge my bite pressure and just nip lightly, I get  to play with my litter-mates, yay!

Because bite inhibition lessons take place when the puppy is in the litter, you should adopt your Rottweiler after eight weeks of age. By this time, he/she should have grasped the concept of bite inhibition, but the work does not end here. The puppy must learn that the same principles apply in the human world and must be generalized to just about everybody the puppy encounters.


Rottweiler Puppy Biting: What Happens in the Human World

Upon being adopted, the puppy will still have a tendency to bite. He has learned to inhibit his bite with his litter mates, but now he must learn that humans have very delicate skin. A Rottweiler puppy should ideally learn the basics of good bite inhibition by the age of three months, and the training should be reinforced throughout the dog’s life. A Rottweiler has very strong jaws capable of doing lots of harm,  so if one days despite all your precautions your Rottweiler will bite, it imperative that he does so doing minimal harm. This is something that needs to be taught early, as soon as your puppy comes into your home.

Puppy classes are an invaluable opportunity for socialization and to further reinforce and polish the concept of bite inhibition. Rough playing pups will soon learn that their favorite games end abruptly if too much force is used. The pup will further learn to calibrate his biting forces when playing with other puppies.

In the puppy’s interactions with humans, humans must apply the same principles as the litter mates. If the puppy happens to bite, the person must make a sharp ‘Owww’ followed by sudden withdrawal. In other words, the person must withdraw the hands, place them under the armpits and turn around making no eye contact, totally ignoring the pup. More negative punishment will enforce the ”no biting” policy.

Once the pup calms down the person can try to initiate play again, but if the puppy bites hard again the same process is repeated with withdrawal and even leaving the room if the puppy further bites to solicit play. Obviously, the puppy must be offered appropriate chew toys to play with so alternative chewing options are given.

It is important to point out that the puppy must be given the opportunity to inhibit his bite rather than prohibiting biting completely. If the puppy is never allowed to bite, in the eventuality of a bite, it will bite strong and likely cause injury. Therefore, the puppy must first learn to inhibit his bite and then reduce the frequency of biting.

→Did you know? Tapping a puppy on its nose or squeezing its muzzle, or any other form of physical punishment may in the long run encourage defensive mechanisms which can turn into aggressive behaviors. Several studies report that training procedures based on physical punishment techniques can have negative consequences.

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