Q: My Bichon Frise likes to mouth and nibble fingers. I read that providing ample dog toys and chews can break this bad habit. However, she loses interest in toys or chews very quickly—the only thing she enjoys biting is our fingers. What should I do?

A: Learning to play with toys does not come naturally to all dogs, especially if your pooch’s experience with these toys is less fun than playing with you. Owners generally respond when their furkids play with them, which is definitely much more entertaining than toys that do not respond to their high jinks.

Play biting on hands, fingers and even feet, can be fun for your dog. This is because whenever they do that, they get a response from you. It does not have to be a positive response to be rewarding for your dog. When your pooch plays or nips too hard and it hurts, you may respond by saying “ouch” and may even push her away. However, she may think that you are reciprocating and play even rougher with you. Bad response is still attention and it makes your pooch perceive that each time she plays with your fingers, you will—without fail—respond to her nibbling.

For some pups, a toy is only fun when their paw-rents are involved. Instead of thinking what toys or chews work for your dog, why not offer her things that she can interact with? A puzzle feeder may be effective if your dog is food-motivated. It helps to stimulate Fido mentally as well so she will be tired from playing and figuring
out how to get to her grub. There are also chew options that are delicious yet safe for your furkid—the chew should prove so irresistible to her that she won’t want to stop chewing it. Good options are bully sticks, Himalayan chews, antler chews, spare ribs, tendons, and the list goes on. However, take note that rawhides are dangerous and should never be given to your pet.

If there is a particular toy and/or chew that your dog likes a lot, do not give it to her every day. Switch it around with other toys and/or chews to keep the novelty of that item high, so that your dog will not tire of it.