Nipping Behaviors in Corgi Puppies
Nipping and general ‘mouthing’ is a normal behavior in most puppies, but it can be an especially prevalent behavior in Corgi puppies.
Since Corgis are herding bred dogs, their genetics likely play a significant role in their excessive ‘mouthiness’.
Unfortunately, for new puppy parents, Corgi puppies have a mouth full of razor-sharp puppy teeth.
Their sharp puppy teeth, combined with their frequent desire to nip at passing hands, arms, and ankles can leave many puppy parents feeling like a walking chew toy.
Which begs the question:
“How do I get my Corgi puppy to stop nipping me?”
It’s a logical question to ask, and if you find yourself asking this question, you are not alone.
Many Corgi puppy parents struggle to get their puppy’s nipping tendencies under control.
It’s important to know that changing a behavior always begins with understanding the reasoning behind the behavior.
So why, exactly, is your Corgi nipping?
Reasons Why Corgis Nip
Corgi Puppies Nipping When Tired
Most puppies, regardless of breed, get especially mouthy when they are tired.
Puppies need a lot of sleep — anywhere from 16-20 hours each day.
Similar to human children, puppies get fussy and cranky when they are sleep deprived.
It’s important to give your puppy scheduled rest periods (quiet time) throughout the day.
- Give your puppy a place in your home where they can rest and won’t be disturbed. Make sure that place (be it a crate, exercise pen, or puppy-proofed room) is in a low-traffic area where they won’t be frequently woken up.
Corgi Puppies Nipping When Herding (Overstimulated)
In an exciting environment, where people or other animals are moving around quickly, it’s very easy for puppies to become overly aroused.
Since the Pembroke Welsh Corgi and Cardigan Welsh Corgis were originally bred as herding dogs, they have the instinctual desire to nip at the heels of moving animals, children, etc.
Herding is a behavior that was intentionally bred into the breed, with hundreds of years of genetics ingrained into the dog. Because of this, Corgis are generally not a good breed for families with small children due to their herding instincts.
With these genetics at play, herding can be an especially difficult behavior to curb in Corgi puppies.
- If a Corgi puppy begins herding/nipping you as you are walking or running, the first thing you want to do is stop moving. You are essentially turning off the stimulant for the puppy. There is no longer a game for them to play.
- Next, you’ll want to redirect your puppy’s herding behavior by giving them something they CAN herd. People commonly use things like Herding Balls and Flirt Poles as an outlet for their puppy’s herding drive.
Corgi Puppies Nipping While Teething
Teething is a natural process all puppies go through when their existing baby teeth fall out as their adult teeth erupt through the gums.
The process of teething is very painful for puppies.
In an attempt to soothe their tender mouth/gums, puppies will often seek out things to chew and gnaw on.
This often leads to chewed shoes, clothes, and rugs.
Unfortunately, human skin just so happens to be the perfect amount of soft and ‘chewy’.
This is why teething Corgi puppies LOVE chewing on fingers and hands. You truly are the perfect chew toy!
- If your puppy is teething, the best thing you can do is offer more appealing toys to chew on! I recommend owners figure out what teething toy their puppy likes best, and offering that toy to them whenever the puppy starts to chew or mouth on you.
The Big Picture: How To Stop Nipping in Corgi Puppies
Look for a catalyst!
What exactly sets off this nipping behavior?
Is it children or other animals running around or playing in the backyard?
Do they seem to get mouthy at the end of a long day?
Or are they teething and just looking to sink their teeth into anything they can fit into their mouths?
Does your Corgi display any distinct body language cues (i.e. crouching, intense stare) before the nipping begins?
To figure this out, watch your pup until you can identify the exact triggers of his/her desire to nip.
All of these details play an important role in helping you identify the cause of your dog’s nipping tendencies, and will ultimately help you redirect their behavior.
Intervene and Redirect
Practice makes perfect.
The more your puppy practices nipping behaviors, the more they will nip.
You want to interrupt and redirect your Corgi’s nipping as quickly and as frequently as possible to prevent bad habits from developing.
For example, replace your hand with a desirable toy, withdrawing the human body part before any nipping can occur.
Redirection will take patience and time, but is very popular training technique among behaviorist.
- If your puppy is trying to mouth you, redirect their attention by offering an alternative item to chew on.
- If your puppy is trying to herd children or other animals, redirect them by making yourself the most interesting thing around them! (not by running, but instead try to provide a stimulating toy, game, or training exercise for them to engage with instead)
When you are redirecting your puppy, you want to make it clear that there is something else they can do instead that is even MORE exciting and engaging than what they are doing.
The phrase to remember is: “Don’t do that, do this instead. It’s more fun.”
Bite Inhibition Training
Bite inhibition training, also sometimes called ‘soft mouth training’, refers to a dog’s ability to control his or her bite pressure (or to avoid human skin entirely).
Imagine two very young puppies in the same litter playing, too young to have been separated yet.
One puppy accidentally clamps down on the other a little too hard with those tiny ‘needle teeth’, and the bite victim utters a tiny yelp before scurrying away.
Play stops; the game is over.
Of course, the biter didn’t mean to hurt his playmate! Puppies, in general, have no desire to hurt their family members.
Moreover, the puppy didn’t want the game to stop at all and they soon learn that the fun will continue if they don’t bite too the hard next time they are playing.
Throughout this process, puppies learn to control their bite pressure, at least at this minor level.
- Teach your Corgi that biting down hard on you means the game is over!
Mimic Puppy Behavior
Let’s say you’re playing a game of ’tug’ with a rope toy, and your pup accidentally clamps down on your skin.
Simply utter a mild ‘yelp’, as if you’re injured (even if you barely felt it), and immediately stop playing.
The game is over for now.
It won’t take long before your pup learns to avoid your skin entirely!
After all, he doesn’t want to hurt you and, most importantly, he doesn’t want the play to stop.
Bite inhibition training, at this stage, is easily accomplished by mimicking natural puppy behavior.
This type of training can also work wonders when it comes to ‘mouthing’!
Just be considerate of your reaction to a bite or nip.
Do not overreact or scream as this can also contribute to fear or anxiety.
Just verbally communicate through a small ‘yelp’ or ‘ouch’ and completely stop all play.
Work on Impulse Control
Commands like ‘sit’, ‘wait’ and ‘leave it’ come in handy here!
When training these commands, offer a reward for successful completion.
Give your Corgi a reason to want to obey you.
If that reason (treat reward) is more desirable than the urge to nip, your commands are more likely to be successful.
Remember, treats and praise is your dog’s paycheck for a job well-done.
Work on Socialization
Socialization is immensely important to the dog’s psychological development!
This is perhaps the single greatest skill you’ll ever work on with your Corgi, or any dog breed.
Begin socializing your pet with other dogs, neighbors, children, and even strangers you might pass on your walks at an early age.
You can begin social work as soon as you bring your pup home, but the sweet spot you absolutely don’t want to miss is between 12-16 weeks.
Provide Plenty of Exercise and Enrichment Activities
Enrichment activities allow dogs to engage in behaviors innate to them (not nipping in this case).
For example, socialization at a dog park or tracking related training would be enriching.
Even games you play together at home are enrichment activities!
Sometimes, simply burning off excess energy will help curb those unwanted behaviors, like nipping.
Try to Avoid Punishment Training
Puppy owners are often desperate to stop this very painful habit and will use ‘sharp’ corrections in an attempt to discourage their puppy from biting them.
However, at this early stage in a puppy’s life, any sort of negative training can be ‘frightening’ toward the puppy and even be a scarring event, damaging psychological development.
Using things like a soda can full of pennies, squirt bottles, hitting, flicking, or any other kind of negative reinforcement is not recommended.
While punishments may work well in the short term, these techniques only act like a ‘bandage’ to cover the real problem and can lead to psychological harm.
Punishments teach the dog that if they do a certain action, they will be hurt, where redirection addresses the source of behavior and teaches the dog that there is a better way to behave.
More Than Just a ‘Nip’
Coping with Resource Guarding
A seemingly vicious, snarling dog may seem frightening, but it is actually very natural for a dog to feel the need to protect resources like food or toys.
The instinct is genetically ingrained to a point, because at one time a wolf’s survival depended on it.
If your Corgi behaves this way around food or toys, it means they see you as a potential threat and think you might try to take these things away.
Obviously, that is the last thing you want to do because it will only reinforce the resource guarding behavior.
Show your dog you aren’t a threat, but your presence means good things!
If you must be around these things, offer your dog treats, food rewards, or toys that are more valuable than the object of aggression. Eventually, instead of fearing your presence, your Corgi will want you around!
***Resource guarding is a very complicated behavior. If this behavior becomes overwhelming or concerning, you should always consult a licensed behaviorist in your area for help with dealing with this behavior.***
If your pup isn’t just nipping, but actually biting with an intent to harm, you have a larger problem at work.
Outside of resource guarding (i.e. food aggression), this isn’t ‘usually’ normal behavior and may require attention from an accredited behaviorist.
There are many reasons why a dog may feel the need to bite, and not all of them are the dog’s ‘fault’.
Make sure you can make the distinction between nipping and biting.
***If you have questions or concerns regarding aggression or aggressive biting, always consult a licensed dog behaviorist before trying to correct the behavior on your own!***
Corgis are natural born herders. They are mouthy dogs and tend to nip rather frequently, especially when they are puppies.
That being said, there are several ways to approach curbing this potentially painful behavior.
No matter what training technique(s) you plan to implement, the first thing you must do is identify the source of the behavior.
Once you have identified the source, you can then start taking the necessary steps to curb the behavior.
Be patient and understand that you are battling a natural behavior for most dogs.
Remember to keep it positive. Avoid punishment and negative reinforcement.
The best thing you can do for both yourself and your dog is to make this exercise fun and beneficial. Turn this training into a game. Convince your dog that the behavior you want is in the dog’s best interest.