You’ve got a puppy, a tiny baby dog! While they’re cute and silly and fun to play with, keep in mind that they do a lot of growing and learning during this period of their lives.
How you interact with them will set them up for future behaviors and behavioral problems.
Similar to how a parent to a child might feign being hurt when the child hits them, you need to teach your puppy that biting and mouthing needs to be done gently by giving both a verbal and physical reaction to being bitten.
What Causes Puppy Biting?
If you have a puppy without any of their siblings, you’re going to have to play the role of their playmate to teach them their social skills whether you like it or not.
Puppies together will play around in ways that include, but are not limited to, biting at each other.
At this stage, their bites won’t be too harmful since they lack jaw power and larger teeth, but the reaction to the puppy’s playmate at a bite too hard will often be a yelp or another show of pain.
For you, some of these playful bites might not exactly hurt you, but by not reacting, you’re teaching your dog that that level of bite is alright.
This will result in their inability to learn pressure control in their bites as they grow and their jaws become more powerful.
How to Stop a Puppy From Biting
How do you stop your puppy from biting? Isn’t it a very normal thing for developing puppies? Absolutely.
The goal isn’t to stop your puppy from biting – it’s a very natural way for them to play!
The training is centered around two concepts: controlling the strength of their bites and learning that people are not for biting.
This, however, is centered around teaching puppies when and how biting is appropriate, and isn’t advice on training your dog out of aggressive or fear-based behavior.
Training your puppy to bite softly is key, especially if you know the dog will interact with children in the future.
Play with your puppy and let them bite you. Once they’ve bitten too hard, make a high pitched noise or yelp and allow your hand to go limp. This will be a show of pain to the puppy.
Be sure not to pull away your hand as they will take it as a continuation of play. If they stop or lick at your hand, praise them and then turn away for a small period, anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds, as a small time-out before you return back to play.
Continue this until they no longer bite at that level and then continue to lower the threshold until their bites are harmless.
This will require a lot of consistency and time to establish the behavior, but puppies are worth the work!
How To Stop Puppy Biting
Now that they know their strength, you might wonder how to stop a puppy from biting.
Puppies are going to need to bite or chew on something, but you can train them to understand what is and isn’t okay to bite.
Puppies like to think everything is play and tend to go for your toes, those fun little wiggly beans on your feet. Depending on the size of your puppy, it might be the closest thing to their level they can latch their mouth on.
Say you’re walking and your puppy attacks your feet: stop. Show them it’s not play by refusing to move or react to their desire to play with a part of you that is not appropriate.
Carry with you or keep within reach a toy they can play with, and give it to your puppy after you’ve remained still for a while. This will let them learn what is and isn’t meant for them.
In order to keep this behavior consistent, don’t ever use your feet to play with your dog (such as letting them mouth on them while you lay down, or having them chase your feet).
The video below goes into more detail on puppy biting training.
What to Avoid
Do not use treats or physical punishment during your training. Excessive use of force in physical punishment may cause your puppy to develop an aggressive personality to protect themselves and, in turn, cause your training to do the opposite.
A light bop on the head if they bite you hard enough to actually hurt is alright, but only on rare occasions.
Treats should be reserved for certain behaviors, but keep in mind that the dogs might link those behaviors to a treat-based reward instead of praise.
If you reward them with a treat after they stop playing post-bite, they may continue to bite, knowing that they’ll get a treat if they immediately stop.
Altogether, the most important method is consistency and patience. Once they’ve learned the lesson, you’ll have a well behaved dog for years.
Do you have any tips on puppy biting?