Puppies are adorable, loving, and amazing but they can bite hard and have razor-sharp teeth. It’s vital to understand that it’s natural and healthy for puppies to bite, nip, gnaw, air snap, and explore the world around them with their mouths.
Puppies learn to socialize, play, and function with their mouths and it’s a parent’s job to teach a puppy gently, kindly, lovingly, and compassionately what IS and what is NOT acceptable to chew and bite.
To get a puppy to stop biting we first must understand why a puppy bites in the first place. Once we understand why a puppy bites, then I can answer how to stop a puppy from biting. If we don’t know the causes of a puppy biting, we can’t accurately diagnose or treat a puppy.
There are many reasons why puppies bite; here are some of the most common reasons.
Also, puppies that don’t learn bite inhibition from littermates and their bitch or that are taken too early from their litter, may have a stronger bite force and have to be taught bite inhibition by a parent.
For more reasons why dogs bite and for information on dog aggression please see this article.
Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between a full-blown temper tantrum and aggressive puppy play. If your puppy is overly aroused or overtired, they might become irritable and cranky. Sometimes providing a safe, quiet Zen area where your puppy loves, will soothe and calm your puppy down. Utilize canine classical music, lavender, chamomile, dog appeasing pheromone (DAP), dog beds, crates, and supplements associated with calm and relaxation.
As mentioned earlier, puppies will start biting and become mouthy when they are overtired as well as under-exercised and under-enriched. So you have to try and find a nice balance then learn about your puppy and his behavior to understand when he may be overtired as opposed to just under enriched or bored.
Puppy management and training go hand in hand. If you just take away whatever a puppy is biting or chewing, your puppy will chew something else they’re not supposed to.
Your puppy needs to learn what it can and what it can’t bite. We don’t teach by yelling NO when the puppy chews something we don’t want them to. We train puppies to bite and chew what we want them to through high-value food rewards and puppy toys. Kong toys, stuffed chew toys, food extracting toys, and all rewards are managed by you. Enrich and structure your puppy’s environment so that they only have access to what they are allowed to bite and chew. Always set a dog up for success.
When Should You Start Puppy Training?
You should start training your puppy the day you get them. Do not wait. It is natural for puppies (and all dogs) to bite, they are not being mean, aggressive, or spiteful. It is never too early to teach a puppy training and behavior. Do not delay or puppy biting may only get more engrained after your dog has taught themselves, practiced, and learned inappropriate behaviors.
Disregard the advice you may have heard about how to stop puppy biting that mentions a dog’s teeth should never touch the skin of a person. This is ridiculous and unreasonable. There is a difference between a dog bite and a dog touching their teeth to a person’s skin. There are many situations where a puppy’s teeth touching our skin are mandatory and appropriate such as:
This is not an exhaustive list nor are they examples of a dog biting. However, this should give you an idea of all the times it is important and mandatory to have puppy’s teeth touch a person’s skin. What we don’t want is for a puppy to clamp down hard with intentions to injure. Luckily the overwhelming majority of puppies do not bite this way even if it feels as if they do sometimes.
It’s OK and healthy to allow your puppy to explore the world and you with their mouths in a gentle way. A puppy has to learn what’s appropriate to chew and what’s not. Puppies also have to learn that a person is delicate and that a hard puppy bite will injure a person and remove a reward.
Social isolation is a powerful consequence of puppy biting because puppies are gregarious social beings. They rely on people to live and for everything, hence when we contingently remove ourselves from a puppy, as a consequence of a puppy biting too hard, it is a powerful punisher and learning experience. The puppy now understands that hard puppy biting removes a strong reward and reinforcer (people).
First, a few things never to do to stop a puppy from biting.
Equally important, contemporary trainers, behaviorists, and veterinarians understand the scientific evidence that far more dogs die from behavior problems than any other cause! The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), suggest socializing your puppy in safe puppy socialization classes 7 days after their first set of vaccines and deworming! Get your puppy to a puppy socialization and training class ASAP.
Follow these instructions to stop a puppy from biting.
If you remove your dog to give him a time out. Don’t use his crate for this as you don’t want to negatively associate the crate. Use a boring empty room, such as a closet or bathroom, or any room that is prepped beforehand to be boring where he won’t get into trouble or entertain himself in. He shouldn’t have toys or anything to do in this room. Just a boring room for 30 seconds. Then let him out and do one of the activities mentioned above.
Remember toys don’t entertain puppies, people do! If your dog doesn’t like toys read this article. Make sure to animate the stick, palm frond, etc. Move it around, run with your puppy, play tug, etc.
Pro Tip 1: Don’t rough house or tease a puppy with your fingers or hands or any part of your body that you don’t want your puppy to bite. This is confusing to your puppy because erratic fast movement encourages a puppy to pounce, play, bite, chase, and pull. If you rile up your puppy make sure you can calm them down just as easily.
Pro Tip 2: Don’t tug on things you want back from your dog. Tugging or pulling an object quickly away from your puppy will encourage your puppy to lunge after it or want to pull back. Instead, if you want a puppy to drop something from their mouth, try placing a high-value food treat in front of your puppy’s nose instead and watch how fast he opens his mouth!
How to get a puppy to stop biting? You stop puppy biting with puppy teething toys, appropriate dog bite toys and your active participation!
Puppy teething typically begins when a puppy is around 2 months old when permanent teeth begin to appear and commences when a puppy is about 6 months old when all of a puppy’s permanent adult teeth are in place.
The best way to keep a puppy from biting is to give them something they prefer (and you want) them to chew instead of biting you.
Also, make sure to read my article that will prepare you for a new puppy or dog. This outlines all of the essential items we use and recommend to purchase before getting a new puppy or dog.
If your puppy’s biting hard and you can’t get him to stop, you might benefit from calling a certified dog behaviorist and trainer. Additionally, if you notice your puppy is fearful, hyper-vigilant, or has general anxiety, it would be a great investment to hire a certified professional to help ASAP.
We work with puppy biting, aggression, fear, and anxiety cases here in Los Angeles and all over the world with our Phone/Video Consultations. If you are having puppy biting issues or want professional help for any problems or questions you have about your pets please fill out this short form for an expert certified dog behaviorist and trainer to help you with your puppy training and behavior problems today!
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