How To Stop Puppy Biting

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Nipping may be a painful rite of passage in puppyhood, but it is a normal behavior for growing dogs. Puppies explore the world with their mouths, and they need guidance to learn where they can and can’t use their teeth. Although it might feel like your little canine will never stop biting you, rest assured that the following tips can help curb the puppy biting behavior.

While you might think that puppy biting is a bad behavior, it is extremely important to allow puppies to explore human skin with gentle nibbles during their early developmental stages. This step allows puppies to learn to gauge the strength of their jaws, and also discover just how delicate human skin is.

Playtime Is Learning Time

Allowing your puppy to socialize with other vaccinated, well-mannered puppies and tolerant adult dogs will help her use her mouth more carefully. Although humans can help a puppy to learn bite inhibition, it is best taught by other canines. A well-run puppy class can be an excellent resource for puppy play. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior recommends that a puppy can start classes as soon as eight weeks of age, as long as she has had her first set of vaccinations seven days prior to the start of class and has been given her first deworming.  

Teach your puppy bite inhibition. 

Learning how to moderate the force of a bite is very important for all dogs. There may come a time when they’re in pain or fearful, and they put their mouth on you or someone else. But if they’ve learned bite inhibition, they understand that they shouldn’t bite down hard. Puppies naturally nip at each other while playing. If they bite too hard on their mother or littermates, the other dog will likely make a loud yelp sound, warning the puppy, “Puppy  , that hurts!”

Depending on the dog, you can teach this, as well, by making a  high-pitched “ow!” sound if they bite you. Beware though, because, for some puppies, this actually gets them even more worked up and likely to bite. In this case, it is better to turn quietly around, walk away, or gently put the pup into their crate for a few minutes to calm down. If they do back off, be sure to reward your dog with a treat and some verbal praise.

Stop Puppy Biting: Teaching the “Ouch” Technique

 Puppies start learning about the force of their bites when interacting with their littermates. If a puppy nips a sibling too hard, the other puppy will react with a squeal and move away from the play. The rough puppy soon learns that painful nips make the game stop, and adjusts bite pressure accordingly. We can employ the same concept in training with the “ouch” technique.

It’s vital to let your puppy gently mouth your hand, but when mouthing shifts from exploratory to uncomfortable, mark the painful bite with a dramatic “ouch!” and then withdraw your attention from your puppy. Resume contact after about ten seconds. If your puppy comes back at you with a piranha mouth again, say “ouch” to mark the bite, and this time, get up and walk away from your dog. (The “ouch” should be loud and dramatic – be a good actor!) This type of social isolation is a powerful punisher, because puppies want nothing more than to be close to their new families. Return to your puppy after about thirty seconds and continue playing. It will take many consistent, well-timed repetitions in various scenarios before your puppy starts to realize that the biting is the reason that you’re leaving.

Some puppies like to jump and bite as their person retreats, which means that the reason for the punishment might be lost in the chase. If your pup is a “bum biter” try interacting with her while she’s on a tether. Put your puppy’s leash on him then attach it to a heavy piece of furniture. That way you can quickly move out of your puppy’s strike zone when he decides to use his chompers.

Once your puppy has stopped biting with hard pressure begin “ouching” even the gentle nibbles. This will help your puppy eventually understand that dog teeth don’t belong on human skin.

Outdated Suggestions to Stop Puppy Biting 

Old-school advice suggested that you should clamp your puppy’s mouth shut, flick his nose or bop him under the chin to stop puppy biting. These pain-based techniques are combative and unkind. Your puppy doesn’t understand that his bites are uncomfortable—he’s just doing what comes naturally. Many puppies bite back even harder after being slapped or clamped, thus creating a cycle of pain and frustration for both parties. As always, gentle dog-friendly techniques are the best way to teach the “no nipping” lesson.

Give your puppy an alternative item to chew.

It’s a good idea to keep a puppy chew toy at hand at all times, so you can anticipate biting behavior and substitute the toy for your hand or furniture. Doing so will let pups know what is okay to bite or chew. If they start nibbling at your fingers or toes while you’re playing, offer a toy instead.

Again, if they continue to nip, stop the play session immediately. If you’ve been training your puppy to sit, you might also redirect them by asking them to sit and rewarding with a toy.

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Put them in a time-out.

Gently put your puppy in their crate to give them a chance to calm down and prevent them from biting. It’s very important to make sure that they don’t learn to associate the crate with punishment, so be calm. Once the pup calms down, you can let them out.

Offer quiet time or a potty break.

Sometimes a biting puppy is really an over-tired puppy, and they need to be put in a quiet space or crate to take a nap. Other times, they may need a potty break, or may just be hungry or thirsty.

Help use up some energy.

When the puppy keeps biting, even after you substitute a toy several times, he may just need to burn up some physical or mental energy. Take them in the yard and watch them run around.

Reinforce behaviors you desire.

We sometimes forget that when our puppy is calm and quiet, we should reinforce that with a “good dog” or a piece of kibble or a pat. You’ll help them learn what behaviors you’re looking for through positive reinforcement.

Never hit your dog

Never, ever hit or otherwise physically punish your dog. If your puppy seems to be biting out aggression, speak to a veterinarian or dog trainer about ways to manage that behavior.