My husband and I recently brought home an adorable black lab puppy. We are first time dog owners but did read several books and did research before jumping in, but we both feel absolutely nothing prepared us for what we have gotten ourselves into! She is an extremely smart puppy (we got her at 8 weeks and she turned 10 weeks yesterday) but my gosh is she feisty. She knows sit very well and stay and come for the most part already. She likes to play and does very well on a leash (specifically on walks). Her potty training is going really good (few accidents here and there), we are kennel training her. And she is only waking up once at night to go potty! The problem we're having and never once read about is how sassy she can be. Every night she will have little fits where she is initially play with us fine, then she will go insane with nipping/biting us, growling, and barking. It seems playful but when we attempt to redirect her to put a stop to it she just seems to get more fired up and come at our hands and legs intentionally! Just last night she got my husband well enough to draw blood. I have read both that she's overtired and that she has too much pent up energy (we do take her on a half hour walk on a mix of pavement/grass everyday and on our work days play with her outside quite a bit, weather permitting). I have read both that she's attempting to be dominant and that that theory is nonsense. We are trying to be consistent with redirecting and "The Bite Stops Here", but when either of us yelp and "Ow" during these fits she ends up more excited! We do not know what to do. We used to pick her up and calm her down during these fits which worked for a while but now she's almost always defensive and growls when we go to grab her, even now in situations other than this (which has upset me quite a bit that she no longer likes to be picked up by us). She does a similar act when we go to take her outside and don't just let her bite on our shoes/her leash/etc. Gets very riled up and almost angry or scared? We have never punished her (with the exception of a few time outs during these fits just to calm herself down which actually seemed to work as well), but we don't know what to do! We feel like we have a demon puppy on our hands sometimes. We think she is having these outburst less but still, is there something we've done to provoke them? And can we decrease their occurrence in any other way? We love her still but she is no longer very cuddly with us and I'm beginning to feel like she dislikes us or is afraid of us! I'm stressed out wondering if we've already done something to mess this up...
Sorry for the lengthy post but I felt I needed to explain everything well! Has anyone else had a puppy like this that turned out okay? Please tell me it gets better!
Raising Labradors are not for the feint of heart! They are truly one of the mouthiest puppies out there. I've raised 3 in my lifetime and am about to get my 4th tomorrow night. The first few months until those razor sharp teeth are gone expect your hands to be full of scratches and little holes as your pup learns bite inhibition. It is an exercise in patience to teach a lab puppy to control that little mouth! My father lives with me and at his age his skin is very thin now so I am having him wear a pair of leather garden gloves the first few months with my new pup just keep him safe the as the pup learns!
There isn't one thing you can do to fix it but rather a series of things you do consistently that will train the pup to be gentle with human hands. Here's a few tips. First pups have loads of energy for short bursts of time the first few months they are home. So when they are awake use the time not just to play but teach. Sit/stay, here, down, and short retrieving sessions in a hallway help to redirect the energy. Treat training is great for this and one of the first things you can do is teach the pup how to take a treat out of your hand without biting it. One good rule of thumb the first few months with a pup is always have either a toy or treat with you while interacting with a the puppy, preferably both! This makes re-directing biting/mouthing much easier. If you are not able to re-direct/train when the puppy is particularly being fierce don't be afraid to crate for short periods of time. A few minutes in a crate can make a world of difference. Here's a pretty decent video about puppy biting that might help: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLZ2jNO5LQM
The teething stage lasts for most of the first year. The first few months they have those razor sharp puppy teeth, then around 4 months those start to fall out and usually between 6-8 months they have their more dull adult teeth(but by this time their jaw is much more powerful!) The trick is in the first few months teach them bite inhibition(and puppies learn a lot of this the first few weeks of life with their mother/litter mates). The razor sharp teeth can cut and scratch easily but since the jaw is weak it is hard for them do any serious damage to an adult but watch them carefully around babies/kids & seniors. Frozen Kongs can be a God send during the first few months as well. Keeps them busy and helps sooth their sore mouths.
Just hang in their and do not panic. Before you know it with consistent training you will watch the pup grow into a mature adult who will live to love you! Labs are not "cuddly" so to speak at any age. They are full of energy and always even into old age need an outlet for that energy. Yes they can learn to curl up at your feet and sleep soundly but in general they have too much energy to be cuddle buddies especially the puppies. Really the only time puppies stay still is when they are tuckered out and falling asleep, but my rule is always let a sleeping pup lie LOL. Only teach them to cuddle in your lap if you will be ok with a 65-75lb dog trying to get in your lap six months from now. As much as I love my Lab I prefer he sleep in his bed and not in my lap, LOL! My lab now likes to roll on his back and let you scratch his chest, he can literally lay there until your hand falls off but as a puppy it was almost impossible to get him to lie still at all.
I would try to enroll in a puppy kindergarten class if you can find one in your area. This will help you with socialization of the puppy and help get that training going early. Controlled play with other puppies can also help them learn bite inhibition and puppy kindergartens often offer these types of supervised interactions. Even if the class does not offer play sessions it will at the very least help your puppy how to be around other dogs/people without going bonkers and is a great way to transition into obedience training classes once the pup hits the 4-5 month mark.
Looking back we can tell she is getting much better, although she still does have biting outbursts. These will often happen when she needs something (potty, is thirsty) or is over-tired in the house at night (in the kennel she goes!). We have been kenneling her more for short periods when she is biting a lot and also ignoring her when she bites during play. It's occurring less frequently (our bruises and cuts are starting to heal!) but it is getting more forceful now! We have been working on "drop it" quite a bit so we can get little things she picks up on walks out of her mouth without physically sticking our fingers in there, because that often leads to a hard bite on the hand.
Now that she's 13 weeks and has gotten her boosters and tick medicine, we have taken her outside and let her run around on wooded trails quite a bit which has helped tremendously in expelling that energy! She is now chewing a puppy nylabone on the floor quietly, something she never would have done at this hour 2 weeks ago!
I hope your lab pup is doing well too! Thanks again!