When you bring a puppy home, it’s all sunshine and roses. They’re ready to play, to cuddle, to roll over in your lap and beg for affection. With their cute faces and soft fur, it’s hard to imagine they’re anything but a pleasure to have around.
Until you hand-feed them a treat and they try to take your fingers with it. Or when your child wants to ruffle them up and the puppy is too excited, resulting in a nasty nibble and plenty of tears.
How to train a puppy not to bite is an important part of raising a dog.
You don’t want to hurt them, but you don’t want to be too soft, as they may not learn the lesson well enough.
It’s natural, sure, but instincts or not, biting is never allowed in a dog – and definitely not when directed at humans.
While your sweet ball of fur may not mean any harm, biting you or your children like they might bite other dogs is painful – and a bad habit which will grow into a severe issue as they get older.
Controlling their jaw strength and teeth in a delicate manner, and being highly cautious when human skin is involved, are all key things for your dog to understand.
Before teaching bite inhibition, you need to understand the basics.
Why Do Puppies Bite?
There are lots of reasons why puppies bite.
Puppies play, chase, race, and wrestle with each other for fun – and this usually involves teeth.
Although your dog will never have to fight for survival with you, this play-fighting as puppies is a way of training their defensive and offensive skills so they can survive in the wild.
Unfortunately, this leads them to practise with you. Dogs don’t understand that they cannot chew their owners like they do other puppies or their mother.
Dogs communicate through contact and body language. Biting or chewing is a way of showing their anger, aggression, or unhappiness over how they are being treated.
Puppies use their mouths to explore their environment and better understanding objects, like a human baby might with their hands. They are used to nipping things that are new – and you are new.
Plus, puppies teethe just like human babies do, and they want to relieve some of the irritation by gnawing on things – such as your shoes, or you.
How to Train a Puppy Not to Bite
Training a puppy not to bite is not as challenging as it might sound: you just need to do it properly and do it regularly.
Here are few techniques to teach them how to control their bite strength and adopt bite inhibition, as well as other mouth manners.
- First, teach your dog that they won’t ever get a treat by biting your hand. To do this, place a treat in your palm and call your dog. No matter how much the dog tries to grab or bite your hand, don’t let the treat go. Once the dog faces away or his nose moves from your hand, give him the treat as a reward. It will help you make the dog understand that biting won’t help gain them anything.
- Since dogs still need their teeth to pick up objects, teaching them never to use teeth isn’t a viable option. Instead, train your puppy to bite gently rather than not biting at all. This will take some time, becoming a trick they master with age, but in the training process, avoid playing too rough with the puppy – as they tend to get excited and bite. Don’t wrestle in a way that might hurt them, as hard bites will be a natural reaction.
- Don’t use your hands or feet as toys for the puppy. Most pet owners make the mistake of encouraging small puppies to bite their fingers or toes while playing – because it’s painless and cute! This tends to become a habit and, even after growing up, dogs continue chewing and biting out of fun. The only difference is these bites do not remain playful, as grown-up dogs have sharp teeth and strong jaws. Use games like tug-of-war with a toy, where you are in control.
- Give reactions to the dog when they hurt you with their teeth. You do not need to scare the dog, but a sharp reprimand and a painful expression is enough. These words or expressions can act like “stop codes,” signaling the dog to quit their behavior.
- While playing, stop the game when the puppy bites too hard, and walk away. They will understand that the fun was over due to biting and will avoid biting hard the next time. They need to understand the threshold of what is acceptable to their owners and what causes pain.
If you’re more of a visual learner, take a look at this video on how to train a dog not to bite:
While training, make sure you train the dog with respect.
Never threaten your puppy or hurt them to create fear, but instead reward them when they show good behavior, show love when they are gentle, and encourage them.
This will make them happy to exchange their jaw power in future for your affection.
That’s everything you need to know about how to train a puppy not to bite.