“How to stop a puppy from biting” is easily one of the most common questions for new Puppy Owners. Those little baby teeth are razor sharp! And, you want to find solutions as soon as possible, especially if there are young children in the house.
While puppy nipping and biting is normal, it should be dealt with as soon as possible. Luckily, with some consistent training, your pup should get the picture before the behaviour becomes a habit. With these training solutions, you can be sure that your adorable little pupper stops biting you, your houseguests, and their friendly Pet Sitter.
Why do puppies bite?
As a new Puppy Owner, it can feel like your puppy’s biting habits are uniquely bad. They’re biting your hands, your sleeves, your ankles, and whatever else they can get those teeth on. Surely, other little doggos are better behaved than yours!
In reality, all puppies go through a teething phase. And as they start to lose their baby teeth, puppies, like babies, will try to soothe the discomfort by chewing.
Biting is also the way that puppies learn to play with one another. But, just like you might not want to give a human child a baseball bat before they know how to use it, your puppy needs to learn how to use their teeth safely. This can be especially tricky given how thin-skinned we humans are compared to their littermates.
Though these two reasons are the most common explanation for puppy biting, there are some special circumstances to consider. One, if your puppy is part of a herding breed, these nipping behaviours may be even more pronounced. And, they’ll take some special training to quash.
And two, if your puppy is biting out of aggression, you may be dealing with another problem, altogether. This kind of biting may occur when your dog is feeling threatened, cornered, or scared, and will require a different training approach.
So, how can you know what the root cause of your puppy’s biting behaviour is? Here are a few indications:
- Biting to relieve teething: This behaviour is most pronounced when your dog isn’t overly excited. If you’re curled up on the couch, a teething pup might try chewing on the couch cushions, your hands, anything in reach. This is sometimes called mouthing.
- Play biting: This type of nipping and biting will be most prominent when your dog is playing or having a burst of energy. They may bite to grab your attention or try to get you to play. Often, mouthing behaviour will escalate into play biting.
- Herding nipping. This type of biting also tends to come out during playtime or when you take your energetic puppy for walks. Herding dogs are instinctively fascinated by movement and feet, since those tracking skills help them keep an eye on the flock.
- Aggressive biting. This type of biting may occur if you get too close to their food bowl while your puppy is eating or try to handle them in a way they don’t like. Aggressive biting is usually accompanied by other signals, like snarling and growling.
Once you know what kind of biting you’re dealing with, it will be much easier to create a training plan to stop it!
How to stop a puppy from biting while teething
The key to stopping this behaviour is to lean into it. That’s right! You want your puppy to chew—just not on your hands!
To help alleviate the teething discomfort, provide your puppy with a range of chewing options. This could include chew toys, puzzle toys, tennis balls, you name it. Make sure that these toys are always within reach; you’re going to need them for the next step.
When your puppy goes to start nibbling on your hand or shirt sleeve, give them a stern, calm “no biting,” and offer them the chew toy instead. As soon as they show interest in the chew toy, give them plenty of praise. You’ll need to do this every time your puppy tries to bite your hand.
There are two things that will make this training method more effective. One, try not to yank your hand away from your puppy when they do bite you. It’s an understandable response given how surprisingly sharp those little chompers are, but the sudden movement will only entice your puppy more.
And two, whenever your puppy gives you a gentle touch, such as a lick or nudge, offer praise or a treat. You can also introduce a word, like “gentle,” so that when your puppy does start nibbling, you can tell them what kind of behaviour you want instead.
How to stop a puppy from biting while playing
Play is a necessary daily activity for your puppy, and doing it the right way will allow the two of you to build a strong, loving bond. But, how can you make sure that their energy is focused on the ball or tug toy and not your hands and legs?
As we mentioned, the behaviour stems from excitement and curiosity about social interactions. Your puppy bites you playfully, you push them away, they take it as a challenge to play more roughly, and then you’re not sure how to stop the toothy monster.
Instead, what you want to do is remove the element of excitement altogether. To do so, you can offer a stern “no biting,” and then stand up tall without giving your puppy any of your attention. Don’t move, just stay still until they release your pant leg.
The moment that your puppy stops biting, you can give them positive praise and continue playing. Like with the teething redirection, you may need to try this multiple times before your dog realises that biting gives them a predictably boring response.
How to stop a puppy from biting if they’re from a herding breed or aren’t responding to other tactics
Puppies who are committed to play biting can be a bit harder to deal with. Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Kelpies and other hard-working herders are likely to need more than the cold shoulder to change their ways. Even doggos in other breeds may have a stubborn streak that requires a different approach.
Here are a couple of tactics to try:
- Intervention commands. Thanks to the demanding lifestyle of their ancestors, herding dogs tend to be pretty smart pups! And, you may be able to interrupt their toothy games by having them perform a trick they already know how to do. A simple “sit” command, for instance, can give them the chance to focus on something else. And, it’s a great way to reinforce self-control when your pup’s excitement levels are getting out of hand.
- Time out. As soon as your puppy starts to bite or tug at your clothes, give them a stern “no biting” and then remove them to a time out area. Ideally this will be a puppy-safe room, and they will only stay for a few minutes at a time. The benefit of timeouts is that they give your puppy the space to calm down if they’re overstimulated, while also teaching that their biting behaviour results in an end to all play.
- Professional training. It’s not uncommon for professional dog trainers to hear, “We’ve tried everything, and nothing works!” But, the pros have quite a few tricks up their sleeves about how to stop a puppy from biting. With the help of an expert, you’ll have the support and guidance that can get you through these tricky puppy months.
How to stop a puppy from biting out of aggression
Aggressive biting is very different behaviour than mouthing, play biting, or herding. While the previous behaviours stem from excitement and curiosity, aggressive biting is generally rooted in fear and anxiety.
If you feel that your puppy is biting aggressively, these tips may help:
- Learn more about what’s causing the aggression. Are there other dogs in the house that are being rough with the puppy or stealing their food? If so, you might address the aggression with some socialisation sessions and boundaries. Similarly, a puppy that came from a stressful setting might be more likely to show food anxiety or territorial aggression.
- Socialise with treats. Punishing a dog that is showing aggression may solidify their fears and anxieties that the world is unsafe. Instead, it can be helpful to rebuild their confidence with treats, praise, play and other bonding activities. If your puppy is showing signs of toy guarding, for instance, you might give them treats when they have the toy. Slowly, this will teach them that a person approaching them when they have their toy will bring good things.
- Rule out any medical conditions. A puppy suffering from a medical issue may lash out as a way of protecting themselves. Don’t hesitate to get into touch with a vet to rule out any underlying conditions that could be triggering anxiety. And, don’t forget to get your puppy on a reliable pet coverage plan to help with any medical costs!
- Call in an aggression specialist. Some dog trainers specialise in aggression and territorial behaviour and will be able to help your puppy. Aggression can be a scary thing for Pet Owners to deal with, and a pro can restore hope in your relationship with your puppy!
Other tips for those sharp chompers
While you go through the process of learning how to stop a puppy from biting, there are a few final words of advice for these mouthy few months:
- Give your puppy plenty of stimulation. Daily playtime, walks, and training sessions are all great ways for your dog to burn off some of that biting energy. You’ll be amazed at the difference a bit of extra mental stimulation goes in calming those chompers. Just remember not to overdo it! It is possible to exercise a puppy too much.
- And attention! While puppies do need some alone time to rest and recharge, they shouldn’t be left alone for hours on end. If you’re not able to be with them for most of the day, make sure to leave them in the care of a Pet Sitter.
- Don’t yelp. In the search for how to stop a puppy from biting, you might have come across some doggy blogs suggesting that you yelp or pretend to be hurt when your puppy bites you. The idea is that, like littermates will warn each other when the play has gone too far, your yelp will let your puppy know to stop biting. While it may work for some puppers, this method also has the potential to rev your dog up instead.
- Keep those chompers healthy. Throughout the puppy phase and beyond, doggy dental health is important! Keep those chompers clean and healthy with regular brushing and high quality dog food. And make sure that Fido is on a pet insurance plan that covers dental!
Your life will be bite-free before you know it!
The puppy biting phase can feel endless. But once you know the methods of how to stop a puppy from biting, it’ll be over before you know it.
Don’t worry, your little doggo has more surprises in store for you. For now though, you can enjoy your time with the toothy little rascal!