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Puppies are arguably the most adorable creatures to ever roam the earth. When you have a new puppy, it seems like everything they do—from tripping over their own paws, to snuggling at your feet, to letting out their little puppy barks—is just the cutest thing ever.
Everything, that is, except biting.
Puppies sure are cute, but they sure can bite. And those little teeth? They can feel like little razors, which is why you need to teach your puppy that biting is a no-no.
But how, exactly, do you do that? Let’s take a deep dive into how to get your new dog to cool it with the chomping:
Why Puppies Bite
Before we jump into answering the question “How do I stop my puppy from biting?” let’s talk about why your puppy is doing all that biting in the first place.
Puppies have a natural instinct to “nip.” When they play with other puppies, they’ll playfully mouth the other dog. If a puppy nips too hard, the other dog will yelp in pain, which will make the puppy back off (and teach them that biting with that kind of force isn’t ok).
Your puppy is basically doing the same thing when they nip at or bite you. Puppies use their mouths as a way to explore their environment and test their boundaries. It’s a way for them to learn what’s ok to bite (like a chew toy) and what’s not ok to bite (like your hand or another dog).
Your puppy might also be biting as a part of the teething process. When puppies are three to four months old, they start losing their razor sharp puppy teeth so they can start growing their adult teeth. Just like babies, the teething process is extremely uncomfortable for puppies, and as a way to soothe sore gums, they’ll look for anything they can to chew on (including your fingers and toes).
Bottom line—your pup isn’t trying to hurt you when they chomp down on your finger. Puppy biting is a completely normal behavior, but you also don’t want to act as a human teething ring for the first year of your puppy’s life.
How To Stop Your Puppy From Biting
So, now that you know why puppies bite, let’s talk about how to nip that nipping problem in the bud.
Teach Your Puppy To Be Gentle With Their Teeth
As mentioned, mouthing is an instinctual behavior in puppies. So the key isn’t to get your puppy to stop mouthing, it’s to be gentle with their teeth.
Training your puppy to control the force of their bite is called bite inhibition, and it’s an important skill to teach your pup. Not only will it protect your fingers and toes from a too-hard bite when you’re playing with your pup, but it will also deter your puppy from biting in other, less playful situations (for example, if they’re scared).
So, how do you teach your puppy to be gentle with their teeth? It all starts with play.
When you’re playing with your new puppy, let them mouth your hand. If they bite down too hard, immediately make a loud yelping or “ouch!” sound and let your hand go limp. Once they release your hand, ignore them for a short period of time (anywhere between 15 and 30 seconds works). Then, resume play. You can repeat this process two to three times per play session.
If your puppy doesn’t catch on and continues to bite down hard after a few training sessions, you can up the ante by physically leaving their immediate area after making the yelping or “ouch” sound. There’s no need to stay away too long—typically, 30 seconds to a minute is enough to show your dog the biting behavior is unacceptable.
If you’re consistent with your feedback, your puppy will eventually learn how hard is too hard to bite, and you won’t have to worry about any chomper-related injuries to your fingers or toes.
Give Them Something Else To Bite on
Teaching your puppy bite inhibition is important. But so is teaching them that biting humans (fingers, toes, hands, or otherwise) just isn’t an appropriate behavior. And the best way to do that? Give them something else to bite on.
If your puppy tries to bite you, remove your hand (or ankle, or toe, or whatever else they’re biting), and ignore them until they stop biting. Then, once they’ve stopped, praise them and then redirect their biting to something more bite appropriate—like a dog toy or chew.
Use A Taste Deterrent
If you’ve tried everything (like training your dog on bite inhibition, praising them when they stop biting, and replacing your hand/fingers/toes with more bite appropriate toys and chews) but your puppy is still biting you, you may also want to try a taste deterrent.
There are plenty of taste deterrents on the market that taste bitter to dogs. Spray your hands, feet, clothes, or whatever else your puppy is biting with the spray deterrent. When they bite you, they’ll get a bitter, unpleasant taste in their mouth and will likely let go. When they do let go, make sure to lay on the praise and reward them with a treat.
Eventually, your puppy will associate biting you with the bitter taste, and not biting you with a treat or reward. This can help curb all the biting behavior when other, less extreme training methods fail.
What Not To Do When Teaching Your Puppy To Stop Biting
Now that you know what to do to get your puppy to stop biting you, let’s talk about what not to do.
- Never physically punish your puppy for biting. Don’t hit, slap, or otherwise physically punish your puppy when they bite you. Physical punishment can make your puppy afraid of you, which will not only make the training process harder, but can damage your relationship with your new family member.
- Don’t try to pull away when your puppy bites you. If your puppy bites down hard, you might be tempted to jerk your hand away, but don’t. Your puppy might interpret this behavior as a game, which can make them more excited and cause them bite down harder.
- Get help if you need it. Puppy biting is a natural behavior and is typically not a cause for concern. But if your puppy isn’t responding to training, or is still biting long after their puppy days are behind them, you might want to work with a professional trainer to get the behavior under control.
Say Buh-Bye To Puppy Biting
Puppy biting can feel like a real nuisance, but now that you have some training solutions, those pesky little nips will soon be a thing of the past.