Puppies are adorable and a great addition to the family. Aside from the positives, it is well-known that puppies bite, and their sharp, little teeth hurt! Many dog owners wonder, why does my puppy bite me, as well as how to train a puppy not to bite.
It is within most puppies’ natural instincts, especially for herding breed dogs (such as Australian shepherds, border collies, etc.) who are genetically wired to nip and bite in order to herd other animals. Retrievers and Labradors also tend to be predisposed to genetic puppy biting because they like to use their mouths to identify and learn about everything they come across. These breeds are known to chew on everything around them, including their owners’ hands and feet!
In addition to their natural instincts, puppies bite because:
- They go through a 3-4 month teething phase and biting is a way for them to relieve their pain.
- Puppies use their mouths to learn about the world around them.
- They learn to play and bite with their other puppy siblings and sometimes from their own dog parents.
- Puppies learn that they can bite each other with little to no harm. Humans have more sensitive skin than dogs so it is important to teach them the difference.
- Adult dogs often use their mouths to hold their offspring by the scruff (the loose part of skin at the base of the dog’s necks).
Have no fear, puppy biting is extremely common. If you catch the habit quickly and consistently train your puppy, you will find it fairly easy to curb this behavior and end up with a loving companion.
So then the question stands, how do you train a puppy not to bite?
How To Train A Puppy Not To Bite
There are multiple ways to train a puppy not to bite. All puppies are different and some of them react better to certain methods than others. The end goal is to stop your puppy from biting altogether but there are important steps you need to take to get to this point.
Follow these steps to easily train your puppy not to bite:
- Start by teaching your dog to use a gentle mouth or bite instead of a hard mouth or bite. (This is an important step to teach your dog so they know that they can play with you but not by biting hard.)
- When your dog is biting your hand, allow them to nip at it gently. As soon as the dog starts to bite hard, you need to yelp or cry as a response that the bite is too hard. If your dog stops in response to your cry, praise them and/or give them a treat. Continue to repeat this step until your puppy is aware that they can only bite or mouth gently.
- If the yelping or crying method does not work you can alternatively ignore them for 20-25 seconds in response to the hard bites.
- If simply ignoring them also does not work, you can resort to a more physical time-out in a safe room, in their kennel, or behind a dog gate.
The next step is to teach the puppy not to bite or put their mouth on human skin at all:
- The best way to achieve this is to respond to a puppy’s bite by immediately giving them a toy or bone to chew on instead. Keep many toys around the house to keep your puppy occupied. A bored puppy is typically a naughty puppy.
- Distract your dog from chewing on your one hand by using the other hand to distract them with small treats or flashy toys. Once they stop biting, give them their reward.
- If these tips do not work, you can always resort to the ignoring method. When the dog bites you, instantly look away, allow your hand or foot to go limp, and ignore them completely for 20-25 seconds. If the ignoring method is still not enough, you can use a timeout spot for a more physical time-out in a safe room, kennel, or behind a dog gate.
Most important take-a-ways:
- Consistency is absolutely key, the puppy needs to have this training over and over until they learn to not bite.
- The puppy will learn that biting does not receive attention, therefore it will not satisfy them, and they will ultimately stop.
- Stopping your puppy from biting you will ultimately allow the puppy independence by turning their attention to their toys, instead of relying on the owner for attention.
Quick Tips To Remember To Keep Your Puppy From Biting
- Give your dog a place to relax when they need to be calm and settle down.
- Make sure your dog is well-fed, they might be biting you as a reminder that they are hungry.
- Train your puppy with a calm and quiet demeanor, they will eventually learn that they should follow in your footsteps.
- Give your dog several toys meant for teething, such as rubber, bones, or even a frozen water bottle or ice.
Things To Avoid Doing As An Owner When Trying To Get Your Puppy To Stop Biting
Many people understand that they need to train their puppies but the reality is the humans need to be trained on what to do, and what not to do to correctly train their pups.
These are common instances that you should avoid doing as an owner:
- Do not play rough with your puppy. It is important to play with your dog but you need to play with them gently and encourage them to bite their toys and not your body.
- Do not move your hands or feet quickly around them, this will encourage the puppy that you are being playful and they will strike at your fingers and toes.
- Do not pull your hand away quickly from the bite, this will encourage your puppy to strike at your limbs because they think you are playing with them. When your puppy bites you, let your arm or leg go limp and try to ignore the dog altogether until they calm down.
- Do not hurt your puppy in any way. Hurting them will encourage them to hurt you back or they might be scared of you which will cause problems with future training and your relationship with them.
Examples of common bad recommendations that you should never do in response to your puppies bite:
- Do not pin them on their back.
- Do not muzzle them.
- Do not snap their mouth shut.
- Do not display any physical punishment of any kind. Your dog is not expressing dominance over you. They simply do not understand they are hurting you, therefore they need to be taught in the correct manner.
There are several things that you should not do in response to your puppy biting, but it is important to know what you should do instead.
Signs That You Need To See a Vet For Your Puppy Biting
You may need to consult your vet if your puppy is displaying any of these behaviors:
- Resource Guarding (growling, biting, or snarling over a toy, food, or area of the house).
- Aggressively bites by stiffening the body and then rapidly biting.
- Growls, bites, or nips when new people or pets visit the house.
- Growls, bites, or nips children or other animals.
- Breaks skin consistently.
- Please visit a licensed veterinarian or a proper dog trainer if you have tried training them to stop biting to the best of your ability, and your dog is not improving. A puppy biting is not fun, but a full adult dog biting is much worse.
Continue The Training Throughout The Puppy’s Life
One of the most important points to remember about training your puppy is to maintain consistency in the way that you train. Once you start to see results with your puppy training, continue to train them the exact same way until they stop biting 100% of the time. If your dog is around other family members or friends, ensure that they are aware of your training method and encourage them to participate in the training as well. Puppies and dogs tend to test people and if people are inconsistent with training the puppy, the training can backtrack and you will have to start over. Remember, your puppy wants to please you, not hurt you. Teaching them how to be a proper dog will be beneficial for you both.
Let us know if the information in this article was helpful in training your puppy not to bite, or provide suggestions on how we can improve our training articles for the future. We wish you the best of luck in your puppy training journey!
Additional Training Sources
Puppy biting is a pretty common problem to tackle, but there are a lot of other steps involved in raising a puppy or bringing home a new dog. Refer to these articles to learn more about dog training and how your dog can become more well-behaved. Let us know in the comments below if there is another topic that you would like us to cover in the realm of dog training.