There is no way to sugar coat the fact that puppies are crazy. They can be down-right nuts! And puppies are especially crazy during the Witching Hours: roughly between 5-8pm every night. It’s 100% normal and common. Most people think their puppy is the devil at one time or another, but if you are proactive about diffusing his biting, and have a plan, the Witching Hours don’t have to leave you with bloody scratches or anger towards her.
Here’s how to survive your puppy’s shark-like attacks:
~ Go to the pet store (or order online) and purchase a bunch of really yummy high value bones and/or toys on hand so you can give him something else to do when he gets really bitey, especially during the Witching Hour. You will likely need to give him a new one every 20 seconds, over and over- keep rotating them. He will want to go back to your hands over and over, and you just keep giving him something new every single time. You will probably do this 7 million times in a 10 minute period.
~ Have a fleece braided rope or squeaky toy to give him if he wants to use his teeth on something soft.
~ Always have a frozen Kong in the freezer to give him if he gets super bitey. Make sure the Kong or other puzzle toy (another favorite is the West Paw Toppl) has something really good it in. Skip the dry treats and smear the inside with peanut butter, squeeze cheese or wet canned puppy food, then sprinkle some pieces of cheese or small chunks of hot dogs. It will be like a frozen popsicle and will feel good on her teeth!
~ Try a LickMat with some greek yogurt and liver treats frozen on it. Or a Feeder Tray to smear some wet food and sprinkle some blueberries or treats on it and freeze.
~If he gets bitey, all play stops. If it’s really bad, get a few treats and lure him in to his crate for a 5-minute time out.
~ Don’t use hands to ‘play’ with him (i.e. move your hands around in front of his face will only make him bite)
~ Make sure your puppy isn’t ‘hangry’. As your puppy grows, and even if she isn’t in a growth spurt, she might be hungry and reacting out of frustration. Try feeding your puppy more for dinner, or a snack around 7pm. If she is satiated, she will be less likely to bite everything in sight.
~ Puppies will be a lot less crazy if the kids in the home aren’t super rambunctious around this time… Kids have a Witching Hour, too, and both species can be a lot of hot energy. I recommend having the kids interact with the puppy during quieter times. There will be plenty of time for the kids to play with the puppy before bed in the future when the biting stops.
~ Tug is fine for a few seconds and it gives you the opportunity to work on impulse control. Let your puppy tug on the soft toy for a few seconds, then say ‘Drop It’, and hold a smelly treat up to her nose. She will have to drop the toy to take the treat. Praise and treat when she spits it out of her mouth. I don’t recommend the type of tug where your puppy gets super excited and you lift him off the ground. That is counter-intuitive to calming. However, Tug can be used the ‘right’ way to teach your puppy to stop biting and calm down.
~ Use a Flirt Pole to help take the focus off your hands and arms, but also to keep your puppy moving and focused on something else.
~ Play Fetch/Retrieve with ball so you can move your puppy away from you. Have a couple balls and roll one across the floor. Then another one, and another one, so s/he keeps chasing a ball.
~ Work on ‘Off!’ to use instead of ‘No’. Also, teach ‘Leave It’. Teach it to him before you need it in real life, and practice it a ton by luring him with a treat. Also work on ‘Off’ with objects like a wadded-up sock or something else he likes to put in his mouth.
Here is a quick video of Off:
How to teach Off and Leave It:
Off: With a treat in your fist, put your hand in front of your dog’s mouth and let him sniff or lick your hand. Say the word “off” and wait for your dog to hesitate or back away. When your dog gets off your hand (and the treat), treat and praise.
Leave It: Put one treat in each hand. With one hand, place a treat on the floor and cover it. Let her sniff or lick your hand, and say “Leave It”. When she looks away or looks up at you, give her the treat from your other hand. It may take a few moments for your dog to look up. Be patient…. when sniffing your hand on the floor doesn’t yield a reward, she will eventually look up and offer a different behavior. Timing is key….. treat and praise immediately when she looks up and takes her attention away from your hand on the floor.
If you are prepared, and expect that your puppy will have a more difficult time in the evening, you can set her up to succeed and everyone will be happier!