Biting and Nipping
Why does my puppy bite me?
One of the jobs the first Portuguese Water Dogs had was to retrieve things. This required the breed to use their mouths. It is a breed trait. Whether it is retrieving, ripping, tearing and destroying, nipping or simply carrying something things around, it is their nature to use their mouths. When you look at the breed you find an intelligent dog who likes to explore their environment. This is done very often with their mouths as they taste chew and carry things. It is important for the owner to establish rules as to what can be mouthed and what can't.
Nipping and biting on humans must obviously be stopped. However at an early age showing the puppy how hard is too hard when biting on hands is an essential first lesson. It is the same lesson taught to a puppy by other litter mates and the mother dog in the whelping box. A simple way to get this message across, when being mouthed and nipped on the hands, is to give a high pitched yelp as if you were another puppy telling your PWD, "Too hard!" This testing of the bite is important. Then from 11 weeks on the rules will change there should no longer be any biting on humans at all.
How to stop it
Substituting a toy or bone, employing a time out in a crate or simply walking away from the game may be all that is needed to stop the mouthing. Some PWDs are more persistent than others and will need firmer handling to stop this unwanted behavior. You may need to ask your breeder for suggestions on how to stop the overly mouthy, older PWD or in rare cases a behaviorist may need to be contacted.
Many Portuguese have retrieving talents. This can be nurtured especially if you want to go on to performance events such as water work. When a PWD retrieves something inappropriate, a basic trade works wonders to get it away from your pup. Avoid chasing after your PWD. That becomes a game that will be frustrating and possibly dangerous. Have the pup bring you the object and then reward by giving something back that is better than what they brought you.
Your PWD will teethe during the first year. To relieve the pain of teeth breaking through the skin they tend to chew. Even after permanent teeth are in they chew as these teeth are being set in their jaws. They chew on anything that they can get their mouths on. This is when you provide safe and satisfy bones and toys just for your PWD. Sticks are probably not a good choice as your dogs can get splinters caught in their mouth as well as enjoy the feel and taste of wood, any wood, including chair legs. Plush toys at this time will often be destroyed and stuffing possibly eaten. This is another reason why your puppy should be monitored well in the first year of his life.
By being observant and directing appropriate mouth behaviors you will have a dog with a very manageable breed trait. A PWD who will show his inherited retrieving nature can be trained to use this talent in the many performance arenas available to him