Q. My husband and I recently adopted a Rottweiler-shepherd mix puppy. He keeps using me as a chew toy – and it’s really getting old. He is still little — 8 weeks old — but I’d really like to get him started from the beginning.
While he’s just 13 pounds I can deal with the chewing, but I’m a little worried about when he gets to be my size. For now, when he gets too rambunctious, I wind up bringing him to his crate for a time-out. Please help.
A. Though you may feel his rambunctious behavior is “really getting old”, your 8-week-old puppy is still just a baby and his behavior and short attention span are typical for his age. At 8 weeks, your puppy is only marginally old enough to leave his mama and his littermates, but it sounds like you may have adopted him a couple weeks ago (for your patience to already be wearing thin).
If he had stayed with his mama and siblings a few more weeks, he would have been learning, during that time, to inhibit the force of his bite. When pups bite mama or siblings too hard, they’ll either retaliate (in a non-harmful way that mama dogs become very skilled at doing) or they’ll refuse to play and shun the rowdy pup until he calms down a bit.
We can use a time out, as you’ve been doing, to convey the same lesson. But a time out should be quite short (about three to five minutes) with a pup this age or it will be useless. Young pups have short attention spans and after five minutes the pup may not actually remember what he did that earned him the time out.
Sometimes pups get rowdy and bite when they’re hungry. A snack stuffed into a rubber chew toy is a good way to deal with a hungry-rowdy pup. It will both ease his hunger and give him something to keep busy with for a while.
Sometimes the behavior will occur when a pup is tired and needs some quiet time. The rubber food-puzzle toy is good for this, too. Often the pup will chew the toy for a while, then quietly take a nap.
Sometimes biting behavior is a sign that the pup is feeling frustrated. He may want to run, but the leash forces him to walk at the slower speed his handler is walking. He may be eager to explore around him, but the leash keeps him from doing that. He may also be confused about what his handler wants and not understand why the handler is scolding him. When there’s barking along with jumping and nipping, confusion and frustration are the most likely causes.
It’s very good that you’re beginning his education now, as pups this age are like sponges, soaking up all the information about life that comes their way. But you need to readjust your expectations and be willing to learn a bit more patience while he goes through the developmental stages of toddlerhood through adolescence.
It sounds like he’s asking you for more exercise of the play kind. Puppies can learn a lot by playing.
If possible, arrange a play date with the pup’s mama, a littermate, another pup his age, or a gentle adult dog who likes pups and knows how to deal gently but firmly with a rowdy puppy. A chance to play with other dogs will give him an outlet for the kind of play he naturally wants to do, and will help him learn to inhibit the force of his bite.
If there are no other dogs around that could play appropriately with your puppy, you’ll need to give him more age-appropriate exercise. This might involve fetch and gentle, controlled tug games with you.
Also, this would be an excellent time to enroll with your pup in a good puppy class, taught by an instructor who is knowledgeable and experienced with energetic large-breed pups like yours. There your pup will have a chance to socialize and play with other dogs, while learning skills like Sit, Down and Come that build good manners and cooperation.
So, take a deep breath and resolve to find more patience for your puppy, while you fulfill his need for exercise, social interaction with other dogs and people and gently teach him good manners.