As a new puppy owner, one of your first challenges is addressing the natural behavior of puppy biting. Puppies bite, and puppy bites can be painful, especially with those sharp little teeth.
Puppy biting is normal behavior because it is a natural way for puppies to explore the world and learn about their environment, much like human babies. Additionally, biting plays an important role in a puppy’s socialization and communication with other dogs.
It’s important to address puppy biting for several reasons. First and foremost, biting can be painful and potentially dangerous, especially as puppies grow and their adult teeth come in. Additionally, if left unchecked, biting can become a bad habit and may escalate into more aggressive behavior in the future as an adult dog (and especially with larger breeds!)
It’s also important to teach puppies what is and isn’t acceptable behavior, both for their own safety and for the safety of others. Finally, addressing puppy biting can help strengthen the bond between the puppy and their owner, as it establishes a foundation of trust and communication.
But the good news is that with the right approach and a few simple steps, you can train your puppy to stop biting and promote good behavior.
Shoes… make sure you puppyproof really well and don’t leave shoes laying around
Step 1: Understand Your Puppy’s Behavior
Understanding that puppy biting is a normal behavior, much like human babies exploring their environment, helps put things into perspective.
Puppies bite for various reasons, such as teething, exploring their new home, attempting to play or engaging in rough play with other puppies.
However, we must train puppy a few things
We don’t bite human skin
We bite appropriate things (such as toys and chews)
We don’t bite other dogs too hard
it’s essential to teach your puppy that biting human skin or body parts is not appropriate play.
So how do you know the difference between ‘aggressive’ and playful?
Normal puppy play behaviors often involves other characteristics that may be perceived as aggressive. Barking, growling, snapping, and biting are all behaviors that puppies may exhibit during normal play. playful puppies will have relaxed body language, wagging tails, and will not show any signs of fear or anxiety.
The main obvious differences between aggressive and playful is how direct puppy is being. If puppy is being very direct, the intent is to injure, however, the bouncier and more indirect they are, the more ineffective they will be and consequently this is play.
However, familiarising yourself with the ladder of aggression will help.
giving appropriate outlets is a huge huge part of focusing puppy biting onto the correct place!
Step 2: Provide Appropriate Toys and Encourage Gentle Play
The first step in training your puppy not to bite is through positive reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement, essentially means, that we praise and reward the behavior we’re seeing, this can be with a simple further engagement of play, and encouragement, or it can be verbal praise and allowing them to continue chewing what they’re chewing.
Remember, as much as possible redirect and encourage them to use the redirected thing in preferences, so sometimes that means we have to bring the toys to life.
Safe Chew Toys
Puppy Teething Rings
Kongs (with things like peanut butter)
It’s a very good idea to make sure that as opposed to people’s hands, we must make sure that the safe chew toy or soft toy or tuggy goes into your dog’s mouth and consistently intercepts any attempt to bite you, and if a play session is not going well, then it might be time for a nap…
For The Skin BiterFluff & Tuff Edsel ElephantCheck PriceEdsel is a little pricey – but Edsel is the only toy that’s lasted 5 years in my home with 3 large dogs. I don’t let them sit and chomp on him like he’s a bone, but we do play tug and fetch all the time.He’s the perfect intermediary for a puppy who’s learning what to bite if that puppy likes human skin.This toy also doesn’t have an obnoxious squeaker! It’s got a squeaker with a much better tone. For The Clothes TuggerTug-E-Nuff Pocket FauxtasticCheck PriceIf your puppy is going for your sofa or blankets, and just wants to tug your trouser leg, grab this instead, and get a good play session going. These toys are durable and fluffy and fun. They’re bungee’d in the cord, so they really take all that impact out.For The Chair Leg ChomperChew RootCheck PriceThese are root chunks from some heavy duty trees, and they crumble as opposed to splinter, so totally safe to ingest – which is awesome if you have a little pup who just can’t leave the wooden furniture alone.Redirect puppy to this, and you’ll see puppy focus on the permitted chew, as opposed to the illegal chew, and it’ll give pup the texture they’re craving!
Step 3: Ensure Appropriate Sleep & Stimulation
If your puppy is giving particularly hard bites, seems unable to focus generally and might be struggling with their bite inhibition, it’s probably a pattern (you may notice it happens at a similar time every night. Ask yourself “How long have they been awake?”.
Young pups need a surprisingly large amount of sleep (even more than adult dogs), at 18-20 hours per day of sleep. So, when that wildness kicks in, and their pupils blow, and they look like a possessed little demon? It’s likely they’re due (or over due) a nap.
Try settling them down for a sleep, and if it is a pattern and this happens around the same time every day? Look at adjusting your schedule or routine.
Conversely, we want to make sure that pup get sufficient mental stimulation and physical exercise.
beds can be a problem too, but this is definitely a thing you can manage and mitigate.
Step 4: Redirect, Manage & Be Consistent
During play sessions, encourage gentle play and discourage aggressive behavior. If your puppy starts to bite or exhibit a hard bite, redirect their attention to an appropriate toy. This makes the toy the most rewarding part of puppy’s life!
Management is also a great idea, from a crate to baby gates. These can help you to give puppy the appropriate down time, so you can maximise good behaviour!
Remember, we absolutely need to be consistent.
Consistency is also critical when training a puppy not to bite for several reasons – it helps establish clear boundaries and expectations for your puppy. When you do, your puppy learns what is and isn’t appropriate behavior and it avoids confusion for your puppy.
If you are inconsistent with your training, your furry friend may become perplexed about what is expected of them, which can lead to frustration and make it more challenging for them to learn.
For The Clothes TuggerTug-E-Nuff Pocket FauxtasticCheck PriceIf your puppy is going for your sofa or blankets, and just wants to tug your trouser leg, grab this instead, and get a good play session going. These toys are durable and fluffy and fun. They’re bungee’d in the cord, so they really take all that impact out.For The Skin BiterFluff & Tuff Edsel ElephantCheck PriceEdsel is a little pricey – but Edsel is the only toy that’s lasted 5 years in my home with 3 large dogs. I don’t let them sit and chomp on him like he’s a bone, but we do play tug and fetch all the time.He’s the perfect intermediary for a puppy who’s learning what to bite if that puppy likes human skin.This toy also doesn’t have an obnoxious squeaker! It’s got a squeaker with a much better tone. For the ZoomersChuckIt BallsCheck PriceHonestly, don’t even buy a different kind of ball, they’re not worth it. These are super bouncy, super durable and don’t get soggy in your pocket when it rains.They do get drooly? But they make great, long lasting chews too, ironically!
Step 5: Seek Professional Help and Socialization
If you have a puppy and an older dog, as pet parents you might be thinking this is enough socialization, trust me, it’s not. You’ll need to help balance play between your new puppy and old puppy. That needs to be done by you, and if it’s getting too much for one or the other then it’s important to bring puppy back to you.
Enrolling your puppy in a puppy class or seeking the help of a professional dog trainer can provide additional support and puppy training tips. Puppy training classes can also help with socialization, exposing your puppy to new places, people, and breeds of dog.
Puppy play dates with other well-behaved puppies or adult dogs can also help teach your puppy good dog manners and dog bite inhibition. Older dogs can serve as role models, demonstrating appropriate behavior.
always attract puppy to toys! They’re so much better than almost anything else because you can engage so easily with them.
Dog Owners Need To Get Dog Biting Under Control
Dog bite statistic only seem to be going up. So, aside from teaching how best to manage natural puppy behavior, we need to remind ourselves that the best thing is learning great ways to engage our dog and how to understand them, meet their needs and show them how to live in our world.
In all, these things should. get the majority of your puppy nipping problem fixed relatively quickly…. However, I suppose I should probably discuss a few myths that exist in case you hear them and get tempted to try.
Things Not To Do
Physical punishment: You should never hit or physically punish your puppy for biting. This can cause fear and anxiety, and it may also lead to aggressive behavior, which can have the opposite effect. We don’t need to use negative punishment or positive punishment! Just management, consistency and positive reinforcement.
“No!”: No isn’t a good idea and won’t make puppy stop the bad behavior, primarily because your dog doesn’t know what no means, they do, however, know that you’re being scary, and that doesn’t lead to good things.
Yelling: Yelling at your puppy can also be counterproductive. It may scare them and make them anxious, which can cause them to bite more.
Holding Puppy’s tongue: Putting your thumb into puppy’s mouth and pressing down on their tongue until they yelp is seriously not okay, yes they have sharp teeth but your biting puppy doesn’t know better and needs guidance, not punishment.
Ignoring: Ignoring your puppy when they bite may not be the best approach either. This may lead to frustration and confusion, making it harder for them to learn what is expected of them.
Over exciting Puppy: I’ll never say don’t play with your pup, however, I want to stress that if you start seeing the wildness coming? Put a little break in the play and let things calm down just a smidge before re-engaging in that play that puppy really wants. At this age? Pup will really struggle to self regulate his or her emotions, so we want to show puppy how to do that for themselves and there is no time like the presence.
Squeaking or yelping: Some trainers recommend squeaking or making a yelping sound like a hurt puppy when your puppy bites you. However, this method doesn’t work for all puppies, particularly any puppy that is of a breed with a prey drive (which… is most breeds) and some may become more excited or confused by the noise.
Muzzle: Muzzles are not typically recommended as a solution for puppy biting. Muzzles should not be used to punish dogs or teach them a lesson, and they are not effective for other behavioral problems like chewing,
How Long Does It Take Puppy To Learn Not To Bite People?
Typically a week can do the bulk of the work and save your hands and feet from lots of injuries, and trust me when I say, no matter how tempting it is to try a whole bunch of things, just do this, do it consistently, and you’ll see the change.
The duration it takes to teach a puppy not to bite varies depending on the dog’s breed, age, and temperament and the consistency and effectiveness of the training techniques used. Puppies can learn the bulk of appropriate biting vs inappropriate biting in as little as two weeks, but it may take a long time (several months) for them to fully understand that biting is unacceptable behavior. It is essential to start early on the training, to be patient, consistent, and positive, and to use a variety of training techniques to find what works best for your puppy.
sometimes our pups are just overstimulated and they don’t yet know how to self regulate.
Quick Note About Teething
As your puppy grows and their baby teeth are replaced by adult teeth, it’s crucial to maintain consistent training sessions and positive reinforcement. Remember that patience and persistence are key to success when training your puppy.
This typically happens at around 4 months of age – it’s quite obvious when it happens as your pup will be actively dropping teeth.
Brush up on what teething involves, but in an ideal world, you should finish your biting training before teething occurs.
In the long run, investing time and effort into teaching your puppy not to bite can significantly reduce the risk of dog bites and unacceptable behavior in adult dogs. By following these guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to raising a well-behaved, good dog that is a joy to have around.
Though… it does take a lot of patience! As puppy owners you will absolutely get exhausted, but try to learn from these things, and do better next time.
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Author, Ali Smith
Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.
Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021 & 2022 worlds’ best pet blog!
Thanks to depositphotos.com for the images!