Puppies are magnificent! Sadly they come equipped with milk-teeth, which are not. Adding to the situation, pups explore their world with their mouths. They will quite literally bite and chew on anything they can get even just partially into their mouths. This includes your hair, fingers, and the claw foot of the hundred-year-old table in your dining room.
I’ll start with mitigating puppy nipping, one of the biggest things you can do is to avoid making this a game by playfully squealing and pulling away rapidly (our normal sound and reaction). There are a few things you can do. One is a high-pitched puppy like squeal, one like your puppy does when he doesn’t like something or when something startles him, or he finds something uncomfortable. Additionally, you can make your fingers less attractive to chew on with these strategies. Keep a puppy Nyla bone handy with you always (you will need several of these, and the presence of mind to keep one or two with you). As soon a pup starts chewing on you, trade out your finger or toe with the Nyla bone, and praise as soon as pup transitions. This little redirect is subtle and works quite well. I’m a big fan of the puppy Nyla bone they work quite well since they put tons of flavor a smell in them, they don’t get nasty so keeping one on the arm of the sofa isn’t off-putting in sight or smell, and they offer an appropriate level of softness; to not hurt pup’s teeth and gums. The downside is an adult dog will gobble one of these babies down in seconds. You can also use this “swap” technique when pup is chewing the leg of your antique table or whatever else they are diligently working on e.g. your drywall, expensive hiking boot, etc.
Okay, so you have been caught without something to redirect with and/or pup is being very feisty. This is where you make your finger less desirable. This isn’t exactly nice, but done with some care you will not hurt pup, but your fingers will lose their magical allure. Start off with the puppy “pain squeak”, and if pup persists, instead of withdrawing your finger simply move it on in, and gently gag him. Yep, it’s not nice, but it works. Sometimes once is all you need. If you don’t like that, while pup is gnawing on you use you other fingers or hand to get his lip/jowl flesh between you and his teeth. He will then have to bite himself on the way to biting you – this also has a way of cooling off the party.
Puppies and young dogs are going to chew, Drents tend to not be destructive and if yours is odds are you aren’t exercising him enough. But they are dogs and they will chew. Antlers can be good for some chewers, as raw bones and a myriad of commercially available products can be good as well. However, when pup has loose teeth and sore gums a well-trained chewer can suddenly stop chewing on approved items and move to things on the unapproved list; wooden table and chair legs seem to be go to items. Why is this? Well, their mouths are tender, and the items they were used to chewing on are probably too hard. Fortunately, solving this can be done on the cheap! Take an old sock or two, tie a knot in them, wet thoroughly, place individually in zip lock baggies and freeze. The sock(s) will thaw and be soft enough, but offer some satisfying chewing and being frozen it will also be soothing to their gums. You can also freeze carrots, they can provide for great chewing and soothing comfort.
I use both JASA collars and e-collars, but only after a very deliberate introduction. I'm using the JASA collar more and more these days, since the dog controls the pressure, I am better able to focus on my timing and posture. The e-collar works well as a reinforcing agent, but only after I know the dogs knows the command, and failed to observe the correct response by choice versus a judicious use of enforcing commands from the start. A great example of this is to watch George Hickox use an e-collar for teaching a dog to kennel. This is NOT a good example of productive training technique for a Drent, for 99 of 100 people training 98 of 100 Drents. That method is way too much pressure for a Drent, even for a Pro like George. A Drent is not a remote control car so training him like one, or to be one doesn’t suit the breed or its character.
Drents are great all-rounders, and I am confident there isn't much you can't train one to do, so as long as you have patience and a willingness to turn work into play odds are you will be successful. That is what they do – so when in Rome…
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