The Norman Transcript

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April 17, 2014

Biting protocol for puppies

NORMAN — Dear Dr. Fox: My puppy really likes to chew on my hand when I pet him. I am afraid he might get more aggressive when he gets older. His sharp teeth hurt, and sometimes he runs at me and jumps up to paw me. I push him away, but he comes back to jump on me again.

What do you advise?

— R.L., Houston

Dear R.L.: Take your puppy to a puppy playgroup or to the dog park and see how the dogs interact with one another. You need to learn about dog body language, which you can read about in my e-book “Understanding Your Dog,” available on my website, DrFoxVet.com.

Your puppy wants to play with you, and you need to learn how to play like a puppy. Many pups are punished for wanting to play because too many people do not know anything about canine behavior and communication.

This can ruin dogs for the rest of their lives, making some aggressive and others emotionally unstable, shy and unpredictable. The opposite is overindulgence and not setting any boundaries with an animal (or child), which can result in a delinquent, socially maladjusted narcissist.

Puppies learn quickly to bite gently and to respect when you do not want to play. But playtime is important for social bonding, and you must learn to enjoy this activity with your dog. Those who play together stay together.

Their sharp milk teeth can hurt, but by six months, the not-so-sharp permanent teeth will replace them. In the interim, provide safe chew toys to help with teething.

Dear Dr. Fox: Why does one of my cats lie down and pull like mad on each of his claws? He does this regularly, and I worry he has a nail infection or an allergy, maybe from his litter box material.

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