Q: When my four-month-old Sealyham Terrier plays with my other dogs, she always goes for their legs or tails, often causing them to bruise. I’ve scolded her many times, but it doesn’t always work. What can I do to make her stop?
A: When dogs play and interact with other canines, they often target the neck, legs and tail. It is instinctual and not wrong for your puppy to do so. However, if it causes bruising to the other dogs, it means that your puppy is nipping a little too hard and does not know his own bite strength. I am also assuming your other furkids did not give the puppy a “telling off” for her hard bites. Typically, when a young pup plays with other dogs, they will feedback to the little one what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. However, should the other canines not feedback on this, paw-rents will have to step in with training.
Four months is the perfect age to start teaching soft mouth or bite inhibition. Playing with the same group of dogs in the same household is not enough for your puppy to learn bite inhibition. Your young furkid should be meeting new dogs at this point (socialisation), especially puppies of the same age. The more interaction she gets with other dogs, the better she will learn—especially if those dogs feedback to her that she is nipping too hard. The pooch on the receiving end may indicate to his overzealous playmate that she’s too rough by yelping or snapping at her, or he may just lose interest in playing with her.
You can also step in whenever the situation requires you to. In the event you see that she is getting too boisterous with your other dogs, walk right up to them and firmly tell her, “That’s enough”, and isolate her temporarily from the rest. It would be ideal if she’s placed away from your other dogs as this will teach her that should she play this rough, she will not get to play at all. When she calms down sufficiently, you can allow her to re-join her pack. Repeat if necessary.