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How To Stop Puppy Biting Behavior

How To Stop Puppy Biting Behavior

Puppies’ mouths are filled with about 28 teeny-tiny sharp teeth ... and they all seem to be attracted to your fingers and toes. “Play biting” might be cute when your puppy is seven weeks old — but as your little pal grows, their puppy biting behavior will likely become less endearing. This guide gives you helpful tips for how to stop puppy biting — so you can save your fingers, clothes, furniture, etc. from your puppy’s little chompers. 

Before we get started, we should mention that biting is a completely normal part of a puppy’s development. For one thing, your puppy might be teething. Puppies are also naturally playful and curious — for them, investigating new objects often includes chewing on them. That being said, don’t worry — it’s a habit you can help them break. Read on to learn how to train a puppy not to bite.

Why Do Dogs Chew Things? 

Dogs and puppies commonly use their mouths to play and explore the world around them. This is called “mouthing.”  They’re extra likely to mouth when they’re teething, which usually lasts until they’re about 7 months old. 

Problem is, when your puppy starts mouthing you and your things, it can get a little ... well, troublesome. They could destroy your stuff, hurt you (or someone else) by accident, or chew on something that could be dangerous for them.

Of course, your innocent little puppy doesn’t understand that they’re doing anything wrong — all they know is that it feels great to chew on anything and everything in sight. And because they like how chewing feels for them, it can become comforting behavior when they’re stressed, bored, or lonely. To help stop puppy biting behavior, try the following techniques.

Teach Your Puppy Bite Inhibition

It’s extremely important for all dogs to know how to moderate the force of their bite. Your puppy may put their mouth on you, another dog, or someone else — but if they’ve learned bite inhibition, they’ll understand that they should be gentle, and shouldn’t bite down hard. 

Your pup’s introduction to bite inhibition starts when they’re still with their mom and littermates. Puppies naturally nip at each other when playing — but if they bite their mother or sibling too hard, the other dog will yelp, warning the puppy, “Hey, that hurts!” You may be able to help teach your puppy bite inhibition in the same way — if they bite you, try making a high-pitched “Ow!” to let them know that they took things too far.

Note that this technique only works on certain puppies — for others, it may actually get them even more worked up and ready to bite. If this is the case for your puppy, it’s actually better to turn around and quietly walk away, or gently put them into their crate for a few minutes to calm down. 

If your puppy backs off after you’ve verbally warned them to stop biting, be sure to reward them with a treat and praise — they’re learning to control their biting, and that’s great!

Teach Your Puppy That Biting Means “Game Over”

Another strategy to help stop puppy biting is to teach them that if they bite you while playing, playtime is over. No exceptions.

If your puppy gets too rough with you, we suggest turning around and tucking your hands into your armpits. This is actually a calming signal for them, and shows them that you will withdraw your attention if they bite you.

It may sound strange, but angrily yelling at your puppy can actually have the opposite effect. It teaches them that biting elicits some kind of response from you — and for some dogs, this attention can be viewed as a reward. Punishing them in this way could also make them fearful and less trusting of people. It’s better to teach them that biting you will get them nothing in return.

Just as your puppy should respect your boundaries, it’s also important that you respect theirs. Be careful not to roughhouse with them in ways that encourage your puppy to bite you — it goes both ways. 

Give Your Puppy an Alternative Item to Chew

If you’re wondering how to stop puppy biting, chew toys can work wonders. Keep chew toys on hand at all times, so your puppy has something else to bite besides your hands or the furniture (some dog owners also use a bitter spray on the objects they don’t want their puppy to bite or chew).

If your pup starts nibbling at your fingers or toes while playing, try offering them a chew toy instead. If you’ve been training your puppy to follow basic commands, you might even ask them to “Sit” before rewarding them with the toy.

Again, if your puppy continues to bite you after you’ve given them a chew toy, stop the play session immediately. This signals to your puppy that biting you won’t get them anywhere.

Prevent the Pounce

Pouncing on your legs or feet as you walk is a common, playful puppy behavior. While cute at first, it can admittedly get a little annoying. Try holding one of your puppy’s favorite treats next to your leg as you walk to help them learn to walk nicely beside you (pro tip: this can also be used to help teach your puppy how to walk on a leash).

Put Them in a Time-Out

Time outs work for human toddlers, and they can help with puppy biting, too. If your puppy gets too worked up and bites you, gently put them in their crate and give them a moment to cool down. It’s very important that they don’t associate their crate with punishment, so try to be calm when doing this. Once your pup chills out, you can let them out and go on with your day.

Offer Quiet Time or a Potty Break

Sometimes, puppy biting behavior can signal that your little buddy needs something else. They may just be overtired, and need to be in a quiet space or their crate to take a nap. Other times, they may need a potty break, or might be hungry or thirsty. Pay attention to your pup’s schedule and triggers to help you decode their behavior.

Help Burn Off Some Energy

When it comes to how to stop puppy biting, your puppy may simply need to burn off excess physical or mental energy. Puppies are incredibly energetic and playful — they require constant stimulation, and if they don’t get it, they may turn to destructive behaviors. Try letting your puppy into your yard to explore and run around, or take them for a walk in the park. You could also get them a puzzle toy to challenge their mind and keep them engaged (and therefore, not biting you or your things) — just be sure to supervise them while they’re playing.

Reinforce Good Behavior

We sometimes forget that when our puppy is calm and well-behaved, we should reinforce that behavior with verbal praise and a training treat. You can help your puppy learn which behaviors are acceptable (and which ones aren’t) through positive reinforcement — so don’t forget to reward your pal when they deserve it. Just make sure the reward comes immediately after their good behavior (like, within a few seconds), so your pup is clear on why they’re being rewarded. 

Never Hit Your Dog

The most important thing: no matter how frustrating puppy biting behavior might be, never, ever hit or physically punish your dog. If your puppy seems to be biting out of aggression — not just puppy-like tendencies — speak with a vet or dog trainer. They can help you figure out ways to manage that behavior.

Enroll in a Puppy Class

Enrolling your little biter in a puppy training class will give them the chance to socialize with other dogs, and learn how to interact and play respectfully. Remember, when it comes to training your puppy, patience and consistency are key. Some puppies may stop biting in one play session, then come at you teeth-first the next. 

Don’t give up — with consistent effort and our tips for how to stop puppy biting, your puppy’s chewing and biting behavior should improve over time.

When and Where to Get Help

If you suspect that your puppy’s biting fits the description of aggressive or fearful behavior, please seek consultation with a qualified professional, like a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB) or a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behavior (Dip ACVB). They can help you determine whether or not your puppy’s mouthing is normal, and can guide you through an effective treatment plan. 

If you can’t find a behaviorist in your area, seek help from a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT). Just make sure that they have the professional training and experience necessary to treat fear and aggression problems in dogs (this expertise isn’t required for CPDT certification).

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