All puppies – Cockapoo or not – love to explore the world with their mouths. This can lead to puppies biting and nipping at things they shouldn’t – such as your hands and feet! I certainly experienced this with our cockapoo, Ziggy, and we had to learn how to train a cockapoo puppy not to bite!
Now, unfortunately for us, there wasn’t a helpful guide out there that summarised the steps that actually work to getting your cockapoo to stop biting and nipping. We kept finding snippets of advice about “bite inhibition” and “diversion techniques” but nothing that actually laid it all out in one place.
Luckily, we had lots of supportive friends and family who gave us some really useful advice.
So, to help others out there dealing with a biting, mouthing cockapoo, I’ve summarised the three things that we did that actually worked and allowed us to train our cockapoo puppy NOT to bite:
1. Use a clear signal that tells your cockapoo biting is not ok.
This is one of the first pieces of advice we were given by an aunt of mine.
The essence of this step is to let your cockapoo puppy know when something “hurts.” This should be a sound that is similar to the sounds puppies use when play goes too far!
Generally, this is a high pitched squeak or squeal.
As a family, we settled on using the word “Ow!” This came really naturally to everyone in the household, and meant that everyone was consistent.
To perform this step, all you need to do is wait until your puppy nips or bites at your hand or feet and say “Ow!”
9 times out of 10, the sound will cause your cockapoo puppy to stop what he (or she) is doing and pause.
Overtime, they start to learn where the biting line is. You don’t need to shout or raise your voice for this one, or do anything else.
Simply reinforce that any time they bite a human, they will get a distress sound.
They will then start to learn that biting humans makes humans sad. And, because cockapoos love to please, they will eventually stop!
One important thing to remember here is that you don’t want to overuse this sound! Just like I pointed out in my dog naming guide, when you use a sound for more than one purpose, dogs get confused!
So, no matter how tempting it is, don’t use your “Ow!” sound to stop your cockapoo from biting or chewing furniture or furnishings.
Only use it for when their mouths “come into contact” with your delicate limbs!
2. Never more your hand or foot away when a cockapoo bite or nip happens
This might seem counterintuitive because when your cockapoo puppy bites, the first thing you want to do it move your hand away from the pain.
But, try to override this feeling!
This is because as soon as you move your hand or foot, even a little bit, it gives your cockapoo something to focus on.
Like I said before, puppies use their mouths to explore the world. They find out tastes and textures that are interesting. And, what is more interesting than something that moves!?
Moving your hand or foot when your puppy goes in for sharp little “kisses” lets them know that something is worth investigating further.
So they’ll nip again. And again. Maybe, they might even think – “Hey, I’m bored of this game right now, but next time I know where to nip at first!”
Your hand or foot will start to become attractive little toys for your cockapoo puppy to bite at.
So, central message is this: When your cockapoo bites, don’t move. Use the “Ow!” technique and wait.
Eventually – and, unfortunately, it is eventually – they will get the hint and move on to something else!
Please, obviously, ignore this step if your dog being overly violent or aggressive!
3. Use the right toys to divert attention (the right way)
This is the final, and most crucial step, to train your cockapoo puppy not to bite!
What is important here is not only getting the right toy, but also using it in the right way!
It’s no good getting a whole variety of toys for your puppy if none of them actually meet their need to bite and chew at things. So, while toys like the ones in our list of the best cockapoo gifts are really fun and unique, you also need toys that are purpose made for puppy chewing.
What worked really well for us was this really inexpensive bacon flavoured chew toy from Amazon (in fact we ended up with three of these!)
This is not just because it looked incredibly cute to see Ziggy running around with a dummy in his mouth!
It was also because we could use it to encourage the right kind of biting!
Basically, to do this, we made sure that there was always one of these dummy things within easy reach.
Then, when he was rolling around and starting to nip and bite at our hands, we would do the steps mentioned above. He would then pause, and we would then make this toy the most interesting thing in the world.
We would rattle it around and get him to focus on it.
Importantly, we then didn’t let go. Instead, we got him into a routine where we held the toy while he started to chew.
This allowed him to get a really good chew on! He would get at just the right angle, and chomp away.
What started off as him biting at our feet, became him understanding that it was far more satisfying to bite and chew at the toy. And, because we always held it for him, it taught him the difference between hands and toys when biting!
Finally, remember patience is key!
In this article I’ve talked through three steps to train a cockapoo puppy not to bite:
- Use a signal to let them know its not ok to bite
- Try not to move your hands or feet
- Use the right toy and hold it for them!
We consistently used these three steps over and over again. And, eventually, our cockapoo learnt that he shouldn’t bite and nip at humans! This proved a god send when cutting our Cockapoo’s nails!
But, as I’ve said in other posts, patience and positivity are key with dog training.
Even more so with breeds like Cockapoos who are so human orientated they can often suffer with separation anxiety.
Performing the steps I’ve gone through won’t lead to a change overnight, but it will mean a change over a couple of weeks. Remember, too, that cockapoos do calm down eventually!